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Panel discusses implications of “Laudato si’”

| Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In response to Pope Francis’s most recent encyclical about the environment, “Laudato si’,” Saint Mary’s held a panel discussion Tuesday night.

Religious studies professor Phyllis Kaminski began the conversation by explaining the encyclical’s relevance to college students. She said Pope Francis calls for a deep ecological conversion that all people of good will can achieve if they acknowledge environmental issues.

“He broadens Catholic social teaching,” Kaminski said. “He draws on the lived experience of those most affected by ecological devastation: the poor.”

Associate professor of biology Cassie Majetic also said the poor are the most affected by the degradation of the environment.

“It’s become really apparent that these issues have disproportionate effects on the planet,” Majetic said. “There is no real debate that these things are happening.”

According to Majetic, “Laudato si’” encouraged her to continue discussion of environmental issues in her curriculum.

“It was fun to read and was very affirming because these are some of the things I teach in the classroom,” Majetic said. “I feel called to think about my own research. It’s very hard to turn a critical eye to oneself, but I think that’s what Pope Francis is asking us to do in this document.”

Senior Deirdre O’Leary said she read “Laudato si’” with curiosity from the perspective of a student, which helped her generate ways in which Saint Mary’s can improve from an ecological standpoint. She said even something as simple as providing a recycle bin in every dorm room would contribute to a stronger sense of unity on campus.

“All throughout the encyclical, there’s a common theme of interconnectedness,” O’Leary said. “When we’re able to be compassionate to the person sitting next to us, that’s not unrelated to the environment.”

O’Leary said students’ love for others can translate into love for creation, which makes it easier to appreciate nature.

“We have, as Pope Francis said, an obligation to care for the environment,” O’Leary said. “This doesn’t have to be a mundane task. We can do it with joy. As we’re walking to class on this beautiful campus, we should appreciate God in the beauty of nature.”

Director of Campus Ministry Regina Wilson said she and Majetic collaborated with English and environmental studies professor Christopher Cobb to organize the panel discussion.

We felt that this new encyclical offered the perfect incentive to gather and discuss Saint Mary’s commitment to protecting the environment,” Wilson said. “We thought it would be interesting to hear different members of the community speak about how “Laudato si’” speaks to their particular discipline and their personal life.”

According to Wilson, “Laudato si’” can catalyze change in the Saint Mary’s community and beyond.

“The earth is our mother and our common home,” Wilson said “Saint Mary’s students and all people should keep reflecting on this reality.”

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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