What makes you uniquely qualified for this role – what is your background?
My journey towards integral ecology started when I was 13-years-old and participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, helping clean up trash along the roadways. That inspiration led to an education filled with earth science and civil and environmental engineering at Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, both in the United States.
The last 40+ years, I have worked on thousands of projects all over the world, encompassing the investigation and cleanup of hundreds of industrial sites, rivers, and lakes that had been previously affected by industrialization.
When Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ was published in 2015, I was a member of a group that formed the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ Creation Care Commission, and we had been working on making our diocese and parishes more environmentally aware.
We completed one of the first sustainability programs that did an audit of several Catholic churches and a high school, helping them develop action plans related to their energy use, their water and waste management, and their environmental spiritual formation.
We were active in climate action demonstrations as well as at the policy level within our state, encouraging the Catholic Church to become more vocal in its stand on environmental issues.
Prior to becoming director, what was your involvement with the Laudato Si’ Action Platform?
In 2015, a month after Laudato Si’ was published, I attended a Vatican meeting to discuss how to plant and nourish the fruits of the encyclical around the world. One of the ideas that were brought to the table was the development of a digital platform that could track the Churches’ progress on sustainability while encouraging the development of action plans.
A few years ago, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development began to push the idea further, and that led to the formation of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform Steering Committee and Working Groups for the various sectors.
What is the mission of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform?
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform’s mission is to promote on a global scale ecologically-related actions that lead to total sustainability.
We want to engage as many people as possible and support and empower individuals, families, communities, and institutions as they put their plans into action by listening and responding to the cry of the Earth, the cry of the poor, and the cries of our children and future generations.
How does the Laudato Si’ Action Platform’s mission intersect with Pope Francis’ call for integral ecology?
As Pope Francis so aptly articulated in Laudato Si’, “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature.” (LS 139). We can’t solve our ecological crisis by thinking in terms of isolating one particular problem without thinking about how it impacts everything else—for good or not so good.
Aligned with Pope Francis’ affirmation throughout Laudato Si’ that everything is interconnected, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform supports action on seven Laudato Si’ Goals that cover a broad range of areas.
“The Laudato Si’ Action Platform supports action on seven Laudato Si’ Goals that cover a broad range of areas.”
The comprehensive nature of this is what is really important: We have to start with ourselves, with our ecological education and spiritual formation that leads to the kind of actions that make a difference—from lifestyle changes to structural changes in our economy to the way we live together as a society.
How is the Laudato Si’ Action Platform helping participants care for our common home?
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform helps institutions, communities, families, and individuals create their goals to care for our common home by supporting the development of action plans. It also provides for the continual assessment of progress on those plans to help participants achieve their concrete goals.
Action and progress happen within a community that holds each of us accountable and understands we are in this together, and we will solve it together.
Why is it so urgent and necessary to take action now on this journey towards full sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology?
It’s clear from the observed climate-related events happening all over the world that we don’t have much time left to have a real chance at preventing some pretty catastrophic things from happening.
The Church’s engagement with Pope Francis’ message, although we see encouraging actions, is still not enough. We need to exert real leadership in the world to make it happen – the united strength of 1.3 billion Catholics, led by its Dioceses, parishes, and institutions.
What is one thing a group or organization can do today to begin their journey toward integral ecology?
Our journey can start with a personal examination of conscience by asking ourselves: How does my life reflect my own care for creation as articulated by my faith?
Part of our ecological conversion is to counter the mainstream culture that is encouraging consumption and business as the substitute for happiness and meaning. The journey we are encouraging is one that, when lived in thought and in action, brings real happiness and real meaning back into our lives.
“The journey we are encouraging is one that, when lived in thought and in action, brings real happiness and real meaning back into our lives.”
Laudato Si’ is a radical call for everyone to ecological conversion that brings us and our daily lives closer to God and to all of God’s creation.
We hope and we pray that, through the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, we are able to put into action all those things that will ultimately bring about the vision Pope Francis describes in his beautiful but urgent encyclical.
Creating and uploading a Plan to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform helps make us accountable as we help each other reach our goals.