St. Francis of Assisi Week to celebrate patron saint of ecology, promote environmental causes
Gracie Eppler | Monday, October 4, 2021
This week, a number of events will be held around campus in honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi and to raise awareness about climate change.
While the Feast of St. Francis is usually commemorated by a special mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this year’s Mass is just the starting point. Working hand-in-hand with Notre Dame’s Forum for the 2021-2022 academic year “Care for our Common Home,” the Office of Sustainability, the Center for Social Concerns, the sustainability studies program, Notre Dame International, Campus Ministry, student government and Campus Dining have prepared for a week devoted to making our world cleaner and healthier.
Campus Ministry’s associate director of liturgy Kate Barrett said she is excited that so many different departments and organizations across campus have come together to put on these events.
“We’ve been meeting since July and are working really hard to make the next seven days possible,” Barrett said. “Our three main focuses of the week are prayer, education and action.”
These themes are all visible throughout the week’s planned events. Sunday kicked off the week with a film on St. Francis in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts and a blessing of the pets event. On Monday, sustainability and spirituality will intersect at the Mass of St. Francis, which acknowledges St. Francis’ love for the environment and calls students to participate in prayer and reflection, Barrett said.
“As Christians, we are called to recognize the special place of all living things,” Barrett said. “The Church has taught how important it is that we are all members of the community, and that this community extends beyond just humans. It’s the community of the whole earth.”
Caitlin Jacobs, a program manager in the Office of Sustainability, said she believes that this time dedicated to St. Francis offers something for everyone to take part in, not just those that are religious.
“We have a full week of activities and events,” Jacobs said. “This time is an opportunity to learn about the intersection of sustainability with other issues. We’ve really tried to set it up in a way where there’s something for everyone.”
Events during St. Francis Week are not just for those on campus, but for members of the Notre Dame community around the world who can tune in to many events via livestream. On Tuesday, a talk called “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor” will be hosted in Geddes Hall and streamed online. The talk will connect the week’s mission to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” in which he exhorts citizens of the earth to take care of their common home.
Many others agree that “Laudato Si” is vital for the message of the week, as well as for the world. Dr. Philip Sakimoto, the director of the sustainability minor, believes the encyclical can be used as an outline for sustainable living.
“In ‘Laudato Si,’ Pope Francis talks about how the issue of climate change requires a response from all levels, from the most basic unit of families and individuals to broader organizations, local governments, state and national organizations and so forth,” Sakimoto said.
The week will continue with a global day of action on Wednesday, as well as a harvest dinner at both dining halls on Thursday, featuring foods that are more environmentally friendly than usual offerings, such as bison instead of beef.
As Jacobs mentioned, this week is not just for Notre Dame students, and not just for those who are previously involved in environmentalism. Dr. Sakimoto will be hosting an open dialogue on Friday in Geddes Hall, which he emphasized is open to those of all views on climate change.
“I am specifically inviting not only students who are adamantly determined to solve climate change, but also those who are skeptical about it,” Sakimoto said. “We need to learn collectively how to have useful conversations.”