St. Thomas Students Visit Parishes to Discuss Pope's Encyclical on Climate Change

University of St. Thomas students who visited Catholic parishes this fall to discuss Laudato Si, the pope’s encyclical on climate change, will talk about their experiences at a poster session that will be held from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, in Koch Commons on the university’s St. Paul campus.

The program is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.

Sixty-four students in Dr. Thomas Bushlack’s Christian Theological Tradition classes this semester studied the 184-page document. Laudato Si, Latin for “Praise Be to You,” calls for sweeping change and places most of the blame for climate change on fossil fuels and human activity.

As part of the civic-engagement segment of their class, the students – in groups of four to 10 – visited 11 parish or faith-based groups in the Twin Cities to discuss how the parishes and communities are responding to the pope’s call to care for the environment.

Each of the 11 student groups are preparing posters that describe their parish visits. The posters will be on display, and students will talk about them, during the Dec. 2 program.

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light partnered with St. Thomas on the project. Founded in 2004, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light supports the climate-justice movement and has worked with every major denomination in the state. Its programs include large- or small-group “climate conversations,” and trained facilitators from Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light joined the students on their parish visits.

In Minneapolis, the St. Thomas students visited St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Spirit of St. Stevens Catholic Community, Catholic Worker Rye House, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Basilica of St. Mary, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church and Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis; in Oakdale, Guardian Angels Catholic Church; in Falcon Heights, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church; and in St. Paul, St. Thomas Moore Catholic Community and a Theology and the Environment class at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Some of these parishes and groups are already responding to the encyclical. St. Thomas Moore, for example, has done an energy audit and is currently doing an energy retrofit. Parishioners there also have been involved with petitioning for better energy legislation and hosted a prayer circle on the day the encyclical was released. At St. Joan of Arc, they organized a busload of 50 people to travel to a tar-sand rally. And at Guardian Angels, they are studying the possibility of building a community solar project that would serve homeless and formerly homeless families.

The idea to have St. Thomas students visit parishes was first discussed at this prayer circle event at St. Thomas Moore church last June.

The idea to have St. Thomas students visit parishes was first discussed at this prayer circle event at St. Thomas Moore church last June.