By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Desiring a bright and abundant future for her grandchildren and all humanity, Jean Simpson prayed, listened to God and found guidance in “Laudato Si’” (subtitled “On Care for Our Common Home), an encyclical by Pope Francis. The Holy Father called for restoring relationships between people and God, people and each other and all of God’s creation.
Her prayer, study and reflection led Simpson, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, to action, she told participants during a Lunch and Learn webinar Oct. 6. This month’s webinar of the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Office focused on the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a Vatican initiative inspired by the Holy Father’s encyclical (https://tinyurl.com/ 46h8zznf). Social Action Director Deacon Kent Ferris observed that Laudato Si’ and its focus on care for all of creation connects with Respect Life Month this October. The diocese launched its Laudato Si’ Action Plan Oct. 4 (www.davenportdiocese.org/
Simpson participated in a virtual Laudato Si’ National Conference at Creighton University in July 2021, which emphasized an urgency to honor God’s creation, she said. Her participation led her to see the connection, for example, between climate change and other challenges. “I was struck by how climate change was creating problems with homelessness and migration,” she said.
Deacon Frank Agnoli, who serves on the parish’s Social Justice Committee with Simpson, led parishioners on an ecological Way of the Cross service in 2022, which preceded a Lenten “Less is Blessed” project. Parishioners picked up cards printed with suggestions for practicing “less is blessed.” Among the ideas: picking up litter or participating in a clean-up party; planting vegetables, a tree, or a garden; recycling, reusing clothes, technology and household goods.
Simpson, meanwhile, participated in international training to be a Laudato Si’ Animator to help lead her community in action. Her capstone project, titled “Grand Adventure,” was an intergenerational initiative matching young people and older loved ones to care for creation through eco-spirituality, lifestyle and advocacy. Prayer grounded all activities, she said.
Her journey is one that “literally any individual could initiate in their parish,” she added, encouraging others to participate in Laudato Si’ Animator training, offered for free online in the spring and fall. “I would love to see a Laudato Si’ Animator in every Davenport Diocese Deanery (six regions). It would be great to have an annual gathering of all the amazing parishioners and parishes
to share and celebrate our Care for Creation activities. She also recommended viewing “The Letter,” a riveting documentary about Laudato Si’.
Other parishes have responded in various ways to Laudato Si’ and care for creation. Lunch and Learn participant JoAnn Snodgrass of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton shared her enthusiasm for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform with her parish’s Justice and Peace Commission. The platform, she said, “gives hope for lasting change.”
Her parish has adopted measures such as purchase of Green Paper Products’ biodegradable dinnerware (greenpaperproducts.com). Replacing styrofoam cups remains a challenge because local businesses provide free cups, imprinted with their business logo. Prince of Peace is converting lighting in church offices, restrooms and parking lot to LED lighting with the assistance of an Alliant Energy grant, which covers one-third of the project’s cost. The parish anticipates reducing kilowatt usage by 71%, she said.
Snodgrass said the Clinton Franciscans, “who are way ahead of us all” regarding Laudato Si’, have spoken to juniors and seniors at the parish’s Catholic school. She hopes the sisters will also talk with youths in religious education and adult education.
Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine has converted to environmentally friendly lightbulbs in the 100-year-old church. Father Ron Hodges, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax and parishioners are opting to plant trees and flowers in place of purchasing bouquets for funerals and other events.
St. Thomas More Parish is composting garbage and using washable plates, cups and cutlery, among other environmentally friendly practices. Parishioner Jay Gilchrist said the parish looks forward to its future church expansion being LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), with solar power and more. The project will include water bottle-filling stations and screens to project songs and prayers for liturgy.
He and fellow parishioner Evalee Mickey said the parish also offers educational opportunities, such as a two-part series (Oct. 11 and 18 from 7-9 p.m.) on “Possible and Necessary: A World Without Nuclear Weapons.” Concern about a nuclear disaster is real because of the threats that Russian’s president has made in the war against Ukraine. “We’re trying to save the planet as best we can,” Mickey said, “but just one of these nuclear weapons set off would do so much damage it would change how our world would be.”
Deacon Ferris introduced the diocese’s Laudato Si’ intern, Samantha Sancern, a junior at St. Ambrose University in Davenport majoring in political science and theology. Her training and
networking on the national level helps broaden her perspective and gives voice to young adults, she believes. Her other internship, with Quad Cities Interfaith, complements the ecumenical approach of Laudato Si’, Deacon Ferris said.
Diocesan Social Action volunteer Glenn Leach reminded participants that Laudato Si’ addresses the environmental crisis because of humanity’s broken relationships with God and all of creation. “We must be listening to the cry of the poor as much as the cry of the earth.”