Incorporating Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, into the curriculum this school year will be one of the challenges educators face. CNS photo/Theresa Laurence

Laudato Si’ a challenge for Catholic schools

  • August 29, 2015

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - John Kostoff sees Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home as a calling for Catholic educators to foster a sense of environmental responsibility rooted in religion.

“This is really a challenge that Pope Francis is presenting,” said Kostoff, director of education for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

“The encyclical reminds the Catholic community and the rest of the world that part of our religious vision has to be concerned with the environment. What schools have to do is merge secular concerns around taking care of the Earth with seeing it as what we have as a religious expectation.”

In the encyclical, which was made public on June 18, Francis says all who believe in God are inherently obligated to take steps towards curbing climate change. To lack respect for nature is to lack respect for God, said the Pope.

Kostoff said the challenge for the new school year will be to create “a curriculum that takes this vision and embeds that into our programs so that our students are developing those very Christian attitudes about taking care of the world and being responsible for the world.”

Fortunately for Dufferin-Peel’s Catholic teachers a number of environmental programs, such as the Eco-Schools Certificate program, are already in place, said Kostoff. Now it will simply be a matter of reminding students that the Earth is a sacred place which they must care for.

“We have to look at how we are teaching that sense of stewardship and that sense of appropriate use of resources,” said Kostoff.

Some ways this could be achieved include increasing the number of field trips to conservation areas, holding more retreats that focus on the environment and having students play a hands-on role in keeping school grounds clean and green.

To reinforce this, staff too will have to “make our actions align with what we believe,” for to lead by example is to mimic Christ, said Kostoff.

“We have to be concerned with, as Pope Francis said, more than just the immediate,” said Kostoff.

It wouldn’t surprise Kostoff to see the encyclical have this kind of influence on both the Catholic and public school curriculum.

“You will see curriculum over the next little while, especially in the Catholic system, being influenced by this,” he said. “Fifteen years ago we didn’t teach very much about ecology or taking care of the world or looking after resources. Now that will become very much part of what we want to pass on to our children in our schools.”

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