Recognizing that we humans are a part of the whole created universe, we accept the challenge to promote an “integral ecology.” (Pope Francis)
As we foster the human, social and environmental connectedness of God’s creation, we become more authentic signs of God’s loving Providence.Sisters of Providence, Constitutions and Rules 2018, No. 28
Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’, chapter 4, describes integral ecology as the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, political, social, cultural and ethical issues – all areas that intersect with our ministries as Sisters of Providence.
For 40 years, scientists, researchers and scholars around the world have been warning that we are treating the natural world irresponsibly – polluting air, water and soil; threatening biodiversity; and altering the climate – which is causing serious harm to nature and people living on the margins.
Because everything is connected, the Pope tells us we must take a holistic approach to what is both an environmental and human crisis: “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (Laudato si’ No. 139)
“If everything is related, then the health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life. Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment. In this sense, social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society, from the primary social group – the family – and spreading to the wider local, national and international communities.” (Laudato si’ No. 142.) In order to practice integral ecology we must embrace an “ecological conversion,” transforming our personal lifestyles and our national and international practices to address the cry of the poor as well as the cry of the earth. This requires changing our heads, hearts and habits – how we think, feel and act in the world.
The Sisters of Providence have refocused their earth ministry in support of integral ecology and the goals Laudato si’ set for Ecological Conversion:
- Response to the cry of the earth: work toward carbon neutrality through greater use of clean renewable energy and reduced fossil fuel use; support efforts to protect and promote biodiversity and guarantee water access for all.
- Response to the cry of the poor: defend human life from conception to death and all forms of life on earth, while giving special attention to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, migrants and children at risk of trafficking and slavery.
- Ecological economics: support sustainable production, fair trade, ethical consumption and investments, support for renewable energy, divestment from fossil fuels and limiting any economic activity harmful to the planet or people.
- Adoption of simple lifestyles: reduce use of energy and resources, avoid single-use plastics, adopt a more plant-based diet, reduce meat consumption and increase use of public transportation over polluting alternatives.
- Ecological education: redesign curricula around integral ecology, create ecological awareness and action, promote ecological vocations with young people and teachers.
- Ecological spirituality: recover a religious vision of God’s creation, promote creation-centered liturgical celebrations, develop ecological catechesis and prayers, and encourage more time in nature.
- Emphasis on community involvement and participatory action around creation care at all levels of society by promoting advocacy and grassroots campaigns.
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