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Addressing the Devastation of Climate Change?

The Dominican Sisters and Associates Have a Plan for that.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Ill., took Pope Francis up on his climate change challenge. They have just approved the first of a series of plans that they and their associates will put into action through 2023.

The plan has three goals:

  • Recognize and interrupt economic injustices that harm  Earth.
  • Live more simply and consume less.
  • Approach care for Earth through the lens of faith in a loving God.

The full plan is available here.

A committee of sisters and associates, led by Sister Sharon Zayac, are responsible for encouraging the congregation’s response to the pope’s seven-year Laudato Si’ Action Platform.

“We recognize that no single person alone, or even a well-meaning group of persons like us, can heal the trauma Earth has experienced. But unless we all do something, nothing will ever change. We are committing ourselves to be the change we wish to see. That’s what this plan is about,” Sister Sharon said.

Making Change in Solidarity with the Earth, and with the Poor

Sister Rose Marie Riley and Sister Sharon

The plan includes individual and communal components. Purchasing more hybrid vehicles or perhaps an electric vehicle are part of the plan, as is making different purchasing choices that lessen the negative impact on the environment, or on the people who are most impoverished in the world, for example.

Under the category of simple lifestyles, the sisters will participate in the Catholic Climate Covenant Cath/Cap Program to track carbon emissions from vehicles and air travel, then offset those emissions with a financial commitment to green projects in the community. “Which project or projects we support will be determined at a later date,” Sister Sharon explained. “The purpose is to make us accountable for the way we use fossil fuels.”

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Other ways the sisters plan to have a positive impact include learning the effects of our national food system on the climate, and choosing to eat less meat, purchasing more locally grown food, and reducing the amount of plastic purchased or used.
To foster a spiritual life in tune with the realities of climate change, the sisters will integrate prayers that reflect this awareness into their common times of prayer. Individuals are encouraged to reflect on creation and the holiness of nature as part of their spiritual practice.

The Springfield Dominican Sisters and associates are among hundreds of religious orders participating in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a follow-up to Pope Francis’ 2015 apostolic letter by the same name.

Laudato Si’ was published after top scientists from the United Nations issued a dire warning about the rapidly multiplying effects of climate change. The findings, published during a global climate summit known as COP26, warned that global carbon emissions have to be halved by 2030 in order to keep the warming trend in the proposed 1.5-degree range.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield have been part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers for nearly 150 years. The Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic de Guzman in the 13th Century and have preached the Gospel in word and deed for more than 800 years. Established in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1873 and relocated to Springfield in 1893, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield are among thousands of Dominican sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity who minister in more than 100 countries around the world.

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