Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A toolkit for mission integration

From The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, August 29, 2011
by Dan Misleh, danmisleh@catholicsandclimatechange.org, (301) 322-1180

As Catholic colleges and universities across the country begin a new school year, eight
national Catholic organizations are publishing and promoting an exciting new
resource, Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission
Integration. This new resource will help schools strengthen ongoing commitments to
live out Catholic mission and "cultivate and care for" (Genesis 2:15) God's good gift of
Creation through mission-based sustainability.

The Toolkit is being co-sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, the
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges
and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, the Lasallian
Association of College and University Presidents, Catholic Relief Services College, the
Catholic Campus Ministry Association and the National Catholic Student Coalition.

The sponsoring organizations believe that while many Catholic schools have
successfully taken steps to integrate sustainability into their institutions, more can to
be done to ensure that these efforts are grounded in Catholic mission and identity. As
articulated by Pope Benedict XVI and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
sustainability is not simply "going green" but recognizes and faithfully responds to the
reality that ecological degradation and climate change are moral issues and that, "At
its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor
about partisan advantage or interest Conference of Catholic Bishops, sustainability is
not simply "going green" but recognizes and faithfully responds to the reality that
ecological degradation and climate change are moral issues and that, "At its core,
global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about
partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God's
creation and the one human family," (US. Catholic Bishops, 2001).

Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane, Honorary Chairman
of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and Past President, U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops said, "I welcome this excellent new resource and hope that our
Catholic colleges and universities will find it a practical and effective tool for capturing
and directing the energy of so many of our young people--the Church's future--on the
environment. As we know, care for the gifts of God's Creation is not a new component
of Catholic identity, but rather, it is as old as Genesis. In this age of serious
environmental threats, this Toolkit is more important than ever. It offers a way for
Catholic higher education to be beacons of hope in the spirit of St. Francis, the patron
saint of ecology."

The Toolkit is organized around the five components of the St. Francis Pledge to Care
for Creation and the Poor (http://catholicclimatecovenant.org): PRAY, LEARN, ASSESS,
ACT and ADVOCATE. For each component, the Toolkit offers practical suggestions
about how to identify campus leaders, as well as implementation suggestions for
living each component on the campus and in the larger community.

Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, said, "This
Toolkit, over a year in the making, is an excellent roadmap to help Catholic higher
education strengthen their Catholic identity. For the Catholic higher education, indeed
for the whole Catholic community, environmental concern has to be more than an
Earth Day slogan. Our contribution should include saving polar bears but must go
beyond. It has to put humankind at the center of environmental efforts, especially the
poor and vulnerable, who have contributed the least to the problem of climate change
but are now and will continue to suffer its worst impacts."

The co-sponsoring organizations all support the Toolkit as they each recognize that
the issue of environmental responsibility is intimately related to all other aspects of
Catholic tradition; as Blessed Pope John Paul II said in his 1990 World Day of Peace
Message, "[W]e cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due
attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the
well-being of future generations" (No. 6, emphasis in original).

Additional statements by co-sponsors of the Toolkit:

Most Reverend William S. Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane, Honorary Chairman
of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and Past President, U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops: "Since environmental sustainability is an issue of human life and
dignity, justice and stewardship, it is my sincere hope that using this Toolkit and
becoming a Catholic Climate Covenant Partner will help Catholic colleges and
universities to strengthen their commitments to
Catholic mission."

Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., President/CEO, Association of Catholic Colleges and
Universities: "We are honored to co-sponsor this collaborative effort to help Catholic
colleges and universities more fully integrate Catholic mission and the Christian
vocation to cultivate and care for God's good gift of Creation."

Reverend Gregory F. Lucey, S.J., President, Association of Jesuit Colleges and
Universities: "Ignatian spirituality seeks to find God in all things, including the natural
world. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities recognizes that
environmental stewardship is an integral part of both our Catholic mission and Jesuit
spirituality. This will help us build on our efforts toward mission-based sustainability."

Kevin Godfrey, Ph.D., Executive Director, Association of Franciscan Colleges and
Universities: "St. Francis understood deeply the connections between the environment
and human life and dignity- especially the poor and vulnerable. We fully support this
Toolkit as a way to faithfully carry Francis' ethic forward into the modern world."

Brother James Gaffney, FSC, President, Lasallian Association of College and University
Presidents: "A concern for education and the poor has always been integral to the
Lasallian charism. Since environmental degradation disproportionately harms the 'least
among us,' and because education can help us better care for both Creation and the
poor, we are excited to support this Toolkit in the spirit of St. John Baptist de La
Salle."

Ken Hackett, President, Catholic Relief Services: "People living in poverty--both at
home and abroad--contribute least to climate change and environmental degradation,
but they suffer its worst consequences as they have few resources to adapt and
respond. This Toolkit will help schools live their Catholic commitments to care for the
poor & seek justice in the world."

Reverend Martin Moran, Executive Director, Catholic Campus Ministry Association: "We
at CCMA appreciate the reality that, as Pope Benedict XVI observes, 'The way
humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.'
This Toolkit will help students combine their passion for the environment with a more
holistic faith which respects and cares for both the human environment and the
natural environment."

Joe Ewing, National Chairperson, National Catholic Student Coalition: "This Toolkit will
help students strengthen their Catholic identity by further developing an integrated
faith in which authentic Church teaching animates and inspires all of their decisions
and choices."

For more information, contact:

Dan Misleh, Executive Director, Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
301-322-1180
danmisleh@catholicsandclimatechange.org

Dan DiLeo, Project Manager, Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
314-580-3369
dandileo@catholicsandclimatechange.org