It was in the 1980s that the term ecology (coined by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel in 1873 to focus on the relationship between species and where they lived) moved into everyday language through the research of Rachel Carson in Silent Spring. In 2009, Ken Wilber introduced integral ecology into the broadening field of ecology to include interrelationships at all levels of life. Since 2015, Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ and, in 2023, Laudate Deum has consolidated the teachings of all popes since Vatican II to firmly plant integral ecology into Catholic thought and belief. As School Sisters of Notre Dame, we have committed ourselves to living in integral ecology through the Laudato Si’ Action Plan. “…we recognize our obligation and opportunities to develop a world vision and a sense of global responsibility…we are challenged to witness to unity in a divided world.” (YAS C26).
Call to Prayer
We praise you, O God, Creator of all things, whose mystery unfolds in “a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.” Jesus, your Son, taught us to wonder as he made his way throughout the land, contemplating the beauty of creation. We pray, O God, that you may stir in us a reverent awareness of our invisible link with the entire created world. (This prayer is inspired by Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, offered by USCCB.)
When I returned home to Minnesota after resigning from the General Council, I wasn’t sure what my life focus would be. After settling into retirement, I felt called to continue educating and advocating for our Earth. Soon after, I received a call from a friend to join the Care for Creation Team serving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His invitation resonated with my passion for Earth. We function under the auspices of the Center for Mission in a non-hierarchical manner. We are not part of the diocesan structure, nor does the Archdiocese fund us. We use a synodal listening model to shape our care for our common home.
Twenty-some volunteers bring Laudato Si to parishes and schools. We navigate through Church and political issues, climate crisis, war, displacement of people, racism, colonialism, white supremacy, and devastation of our lands and waters. Our goal is to listen to stories of marginalized people, especially rural communities, young adults, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals and communities. We offer education and hope. Within a working group of these communities, we are creating a Laudato Si’ Action Plan for the Archdiocese. We meet monthly to pray, listen, and learn. Together, we then decide the next steps as we listen, advocate, educate, and create materials for reflection.
Even though I have been missioned to care for creation in many ways and places over the years as a School Sister of Notre Dame, this gathering of people from all walks of life and differing passions has touched me and changed me. No longer is care for creation something I do, but something I am. My heart has grown larger as I learn from others how the climate crisis and the many levels of interaction with culture, politics, and the Church affect our lives in everyday ways. Every action affects every decision, whether we are aware of it or not.
Integral Ecology depends on the interrelationship and interaction between the environmental, cultural, social and economic spheres of life. It calls us into a new paradigm where no aspect of life functions without being informed by the others. Catholic Social Teaching and Scripture point out the same reality—Everything is interconnected. Divine wisdom created life this way.
How does integral ecology play out in your life? How has your heart been moved? Changed? These reflection points may confirm or give you a way forward:
- Show concern for the environment and a desire for harmony with creation. LS 225
- See the Creator who lives among us. Praise God. LS 84
- Have concern for the poor and work for the common good. LS 10
- Live daily and life decisions that break with violence, exploitation, and selfishness. LS 230
- Treat one another and all other organisms with compassion, care, and respect. LS 11
- Understand that actions and decisions have an intergenerational impact. LS 159
We pray for humility—
to remember that we, too, are created and are not creation’s masters.
We pray for compassion—
for open eyes and hearts to welcome those forced to flee from their homes due to rising sea levels and drought.
We pray for repentance—
so that our thirst for power and domination may be transformed into service.
We pray for simplicity—
and the will to turn from our greed, which impacts vulnerable people everywhere.
We pray for cultural conversion—
that we may simplify our lifestyles, reduce pollution and waste, and exercise prudence in our decision making.
We pray for policy changes—
that as a nation and world, we may work together to reverse the course of climate change.
Our hearts ache as we ponder:
“The world sings of an infinite Love: how can we fail to care for it?”
We praise you, O God, confident that you work in our hearts and through our actions so that we may better care for our common home.
(Continuation of the opening prayer inspired by Laudate Deum, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on care for creation.)
Prepared by Kathleen Storms, SSND Central Pacific Province, for the International Shalom Network.
Graphic taken from the Directional Statement, 24th General Chapter. Design: Congregational Communications Office.