During its General Chapter of 2019, the Order of Saint Augustine made a commitment to promote education, reflection, and action to care for our common home.
The resolution included five tangible activities in order to “live out our commitment to work toward sustainable solutions that promote integral human development by combating hunger, poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and protecting nature.” These activities include the following:
Pray fervently and reflect assiduously on our responsibility to care for God’s creation.
Elaborate an action plan to integrate and confidently advance each of the seven Laudato Si goals in our personal, communal and institutional life.
Educate and encourage awareness among the members of our community, encouraging us to examine our consumption patterns and lifestyle to adopt behaviors more consistent with our environmental concern. For this purpose, the International Commission of Peace an Justice will prepare and distribute appropriate materials to help the local communities reflect and plan how to best adapt our lifestyles in light of the need for a more sustainable way of living.
Introduce in our community discussion and pastoral encounters the topics of sustainability, environmental justice and integral ecology as expounded in Laudato Si and in an effort to encourage as well as live an ecological conversion
Promote, in our apostolic activities (homilies, conferences, workshops, and classrooms), awareness, advocacy, and actions to reduce our carbon footprint and embrace a culture of encounter and solidarity with those at the margins and most vulnerable, as those most impacted by environmental harm.
This year the Augustinians furthered this commitment with a pledge to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a unique collaboration between the Vatican, Catholic organizations, and “all men and women of good will.” The platform is meant to be a grassroots effort that mobilizes Catholics worldwide on a seven year journey to put into action the message of integral ecology contained within Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si (Care for our Common Home).
The platform offers a way for the Augustinians and others who join to “journey together” towards a path of renewal and sustainability. Specifically the platform will offer planning guides, practical resources, and communal dialogue across its members aligned towards the seven goals of Laudato Si:
The Response to the Cry of the Earth is a call to protect our common home for the wellbeing of all. Actions could include the adoption of renewable energies and energy sufficiency measures and guaranteeing access to clean water for all.
The Response to the Cry of the Poor is a call to promote eco-justice, aware that we are called to defend human life from conception to death, and all forms of life on Earth. Actions could include projects to promote solidarity, with special attention given to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, and children at risk.
Ecological Economics acknowledges that the economy is called to prioritize people and the planet over profit. Our very religious life is called to be a social statement on an economy of exclusion, which places people and planet at the service of the economy (favoring an extremely limited privileged few) rather than promoting an economy of inclusion, at the service of growth toward abundant life for all. Actions could include sustainable production and consumption, ethical investments, divestment from fossil fuels.
The Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles is grounded in the idea of sufficiency, and promoting sobriety in the use of resources and energy. Actions could include reducing waste and recycling, adopting sustainable dietary habits (opting for a more plant-based diet and reducing meat consumption), greater use of public transport, active mobility (walking, cycling), and avoiding single use items (e.g. plastic, clothes and the like), a simpler life style, more in tune with our religious profession of voluntary poverty.
Ecological Education is about re-thinking and re-designing in the spirit of integral ecology in order to foster ecological awareness and transformative action. Actions could include ensuring equitable access to education for all and promoting human rights, fostering Laudato Si’ themes within the community. That means preaching on the Gospel imperative embodied in the principles of Catholic social thought, assuring their inclusion in all the courses taught in our own institutions and promoted wherever we minister. This is where we could promote articles and blogs in mass media on the Augustinian perspective on the environment, utilize our branded communications to give witness to our commitment, encourage symposia and provide formation content on Integral Ecology.
Ecological Spirituality recovers a religious vision of God’s creation in a spirit of wonder, praise, joy and gratitude. Actions could include promoting creation-centered liturgical celebrations, developing ecological catechesis, retreats and formation programs, and praying in nature. This is where our Augustinian perspective can be brought to bear, in and through our devotions, prayer life, vigils and such.
Actions could include promoting advocacy and developing people’s campaigns, engagement with decision-makers, and encouraging rootedness and a sense of belonging in local communities and neighborhood ecosystems.
Most recently the Augustinian North American Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova made its own commitment to work these goals within its province and is in the process of developing a province-specific proposal. The goal is not to add on another ministry, but to commit current Augustinian ministries and lifestyles to fit within the context of Integral Ecology.