St. Mary’s commits to Pope Francis’ ecological efforts

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University is first in Texas to join the seven-year journey to “care for our common home”

A student at St. Mary's volunteers in a community garden during Continuing the Heritage.
A St. Mary’s student volunteers in a community garden during Continuing the Heritage.

St. Mary’s University is the first university in Texas among a global cohort of more than 100 universities to join Pope Francis’ seven-year action plan to implement environmental sustainability measures. 

The international effort, known as the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, launched on Nov. 14. It builds on Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” by calling for actions to address global warming. 

“We need a new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world, our styles of life, our relationship with the resources of the Earth and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and of living life,” Francis said in a video message translated by the Catholic News Agency. 

The action plan lists seven goals: respond to the cry of the Earth, respond to the cry of the poor, foster ecological economics, adopt a sustainable lifestyle, offer ecological education, develop ecological spirituality and support local communities. 

“We understand that as a Laudato Si’ University, we will chart our own course through the journey, with the assistance of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform,” said St. Mary’s University President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D. “Over this next year, we will gather a group of faculty, students, administrators, staff and neighbors to develop a Laudato Si’ Action Plan for our University that will integrally and boldly advance each of the seven goals.” 

Since 2008, St. Mary’s has intentionally engaged in environmental education and sustainability efforts. Alicia Cordoba Tait, D.M.A., Beirne Director of the Center for Catholic Studies and Professor of Oboe, will help guide the development of the University’s path forward along with others. 

“Integrity of creation is part of our University’s mission statement,” Tait said. “Environmental sustainability is, therefore, at the core of who we are as an institution. Committing our institution to the goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Plan is a critical step in living up to our mission.” 

St. Mary’s has already begun a suite of steps in line with the action plan, such as replacing lighting fixtures with those requiring less energy, reducing heating and cooling systems on weekends, recycling, promoting the concept of fair-trade goods by hosting a fair-trade sale on campus, installing a rain recapture system and encouraging volunteering in community gardens. 

Academic pursuits already include options for an Environmental Science major and minor; hosting environmentally themed lectures; and facilitating students’ Environmental, Conservation, Outreach Club. 

“This is a great time for St. Mary’s to participate in this Catholic initiative,” said Evelynn Mitchell, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Science. “We, as a university, have a lot of potential to work positively toward a sustainable world for our students. Students today are concerned about the environment. An action plan demonstrates our institutional commitment to working together to make the world a more sustainable place.” 



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