The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is being launched Feb. 12 and aims to enlist parishes and dioceses in a seven-year process of transforming their relationship with the environment. Photo by Michael Swan

Laudato Si’ action plan set to launch

  • January 28, 2022

Laudato Si’ was groundbreaking in 2015, but now the Canadian Church on Feb. 12 will break ground on a new effort to take up Pope Francis’ challenge to care for the planet we all share.

Hosted by the Archdiocese of Regina, the national online event will begin with prayers offered by Mackenzie-Fort Smith Bishop Jon Hansen.

“I was very quick to say yes, I would like to help,” the bishop from northern Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories said. “I’ve seen the effects of global warming — infrastructure, buildings sinking into the permafrost, houses having to be relocated because shorelines are disappearing.”

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform was launched internationally from Rome on the Feast of St. Francis, Oct. 4, last year. The Canadian launch will promote the now fully multilingual international platform and offer help from the Green Churches Network to parishes, Catholic universities, schools, hospitals, dioceses and families who volunteer to take on the seven-year process of decarbonizing, simplifying and transforming their relationship with the environment.

The practical, detailed and self-guided process is a first in the history of papal encyclicals.

“That document (Laudato Si’) really speaks to me personally and I think it should speak to the Church,” said Hansen. “Often documents, they come and we read them and then they go on the shelf. This is one that I think we really need to keep in front of ourselves.”

“This is practically the first time there is a how-to guide, bringing it from the books to the reality of everyday practice,” said Green Churches Network co-founder Norman Lévesque, who volunteered as Canada’s representative on the international working group organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in Rome.

Lévesque predicts parishes that take on the platform will see an immediate change in parishioner engagement.

“It’s very interesting to see the new types of volunteers that actually get involved,” he said. “The one profile, the one type of person that pops up in so many churches — I’ve seen this with the Green Churches Network — is the retired engineer.”

The engineers in parishes are often dismayed by out-of-date boilers, ancient lighting systems, poor insulation they see in their church.

“They’re in the pews and it kind of bugs them from year to year, month to month. They’re dreaming of better, but there wasn’t an official door open, an official mechanism for them to get involved,” Lévesque said.

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform will build hope in Catholic institutions from parishes to nursing homes to schools because it’s practical and hands on. People will have the sense that they’re doing and not just talking, said Laudato Si’ Movement Canada co-ordinator Agnes Richard.

“There are groups who are beginning to mobilize to help Catholics at all levels to engage, both in the platform and in the conversations we need to have in this country — to bring a faith-based response to our social and environmental crises,” Richard said.

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform seeks to engage seven sectors — families, parishes and dioceses, schools and universities, health care, Catholic organizations, businesses and religious orders — in taking on seven goals: the cry of the earth; the cry of the poor; economic challenge; simplifying lifestyles; educating the faithful about ecology; ecological spirituality; and getting people involved in community and political action.

Difficult and contentious measures, including selling off institutional investments in oil, gas and coal, aren’t the starting point. But having a plan with a seven-year timeline brings Laudato Si’ out of the clouds of ambition and rhetoric, said Hansen.

“We’re not just talking,” the bishop said. “There are groups that are taking this encyclical to heart and making sure that it stays relevant and that people continue to hear about it. That does give me hope… I think Catholics, maybe we’re quick to say we’ll pray about it. But we also need to do concrete things. I’m very glad to see that this action platform is taking place.”

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