How to read Laudato Si: intention, structure, form and content

Catholics who do not embrace the spirit of Evangelii gaudium will likely be confused by Laudato Si

            In my previous article I already pointed out the 3 salient aspects of Laudato Si: its prophetic style, invitation to conversion and Trinitarian theology. I was going to technically discuss climate change in Laudato si’ vis-à-vis the latest policy and science on the issue. But before I do that, now I find a more urgent need to explain the way one should read Laudato si’, given the amount of perplexed and negative responses (mostly by Catholics) in the media.

I find many of these reactions quite embarrassing for so many who call themselves ‘sons and daughters of the Church’; not primarily because they dissent from the Pope, but because of the (poor) reasons they give for doing so. There are many non-Christians who are able to read and interpret Laduato si’ in a much more open, nuanced and sophisticated way, in the same spirit in which it was written.

My central thesis in this article is that, for Catholics, embracing the spirit of evangelization as expressed in Evangelii gaudium is a prerequisite for understanding Laudato si’. Most Catholics who oppose Ladudato si’ do so because they have a very limited idea what it means to evangelize.

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Why Are We Ecologists? by Pablo Martinez de Anguita

The last two posts addressed the problem of “nature deficit disorder” and how participation in outdoor education and nature activities can facilitate an interest and appreciation for God’s creation. A next step from that appreciation is to develop a stewards contemplation for action often called being an “ecologist”.  Here is where our faith can provide the meaning and impetus for understanding the mystery of creation and why we have a role in it.

An infinite attraction

Fighting to preserve an ecosystem is hard. Cold, rain, little pay, isolation….Nevertheless, most of the ecologists continue to be attached to the beauty they find in preserving nature. Many of us seem to be attached to this “life” and in somehow have the intuition that there is a deep meaning in the things we do, a meaning that is not just provided by the utility of things or by nature as a provider of goods and services. There is something else, an attraction for beauty and order that we are not able to explain but to admire and wonder…

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An Atheist’s take on “spiritual but not religious”

Tom Shakespeare has an interesting article on the BBC, where as the atheist that he is, he proposes a critique of “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) and humanism. For Tom, the informal beliefs and creeds of SBNR are even more impossible to embrace than those of organized religion. Humanism (no organized religion nor belief in anything) is even more empty. Since Tom’s self acknowledged scientism (“But I don’t want to be required to have faith in a supreme being or miracles or reincarnation, or any entity for which there is no scientific evidence”) does not permit him to believe in God, he proposes being religious but not spiritual. Religion offers community and connection, something deeply missed in modern life. Tom would like to have the benefits of religion but not really believe what unites everyone there in the first place.

While intellectually honest, this proposal does seem quite disingenuous at a deeper existential level. At the end of the day, can you truly build deep relationships with people who actually congregate there because of their belief in God?  Continue reading

“The Poor” according to Francis

Much has been said by Pope Francis around the world, from secular media all the way to the inner workings of the Church. Lately, he was featured on the “Rolling Stone” magazine cover, accompanied by Bob Dylan lyrics “The Times they are a-changin”. As a friend of mine from the Vatican commented, this is probably the first and only celibate person to ever be granted the honor.

In what concerns the environment much has been said about Francis too (here, here and here for example), but his central theme seems to be poverty and mercy. Within the concept of poverty, there are important connections to the environment, especially on the oft repeated critique of the “culture of waste”, as well as the calling to reach the peripheries (in the theology of reconciliation the environment can be considered as peripheral) and of course even the Franciscan connection between poverty and love of nature.

Recently, Pope Francis has delivered messages that help us understand exactly what he, following the teachings of Jesus, understands poverty. There is clearly a material dimension to poverty,  but it is much more than that within a Christian understanding of the term. Below a few key statements:

1. Catechesis on Evangelization, June 18: I posted about this passage before here, where the Pope explained what he means by poor and a preferred term oh his: “existential peripheries”. The poor certainly include the materially poor, but also the materially rich who are spiritually poor:

“The Gospel is for all! Going out toward the poor doesn’t mean that we must become paupers or some sort of ‘spiritual bums’! No, that’s not what it means! It means that we must go towards the flesh of the suffering Jesus but Jesus’ flesh also suffers in those who don’t know it, with their studies, their intelligence, their culture. We must go there! That’s why I like to use the expression ‘go to the outskirts’, the existential peripheries. Everyone, all of them, [who suffer] from physical and real poverty to intellectual poverty, which is also real. All the outskirts, all the intersections of paths: go there. And there sow the seed of the Gospel by word and by witness.”

2. Message for Lent 2014: Here the Pope shows how Jesus lived and understood poverty, and the difference between destitution and poverty. The greatest destitution is to be without faith, hope and love – without God:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth… What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today? First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil2:7; Heb 4:15)… It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. 

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual.Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness….

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ…. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

On the point of spiritual destitution we also are reminded of Card. Ratzingers words about evangelization and poverty on a message to catechists:

Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path.

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.

3. Message for the 29th World Youth Day 2014: In this message the Pope reflected on the beatitudes (Mt 5), especially “Blessed be the poor in spirit…”, and defines “poor in spirit” in the same way, as a voluntary divesting of glory, of giving to others, quoting Philippians 2,7 again. He also offers 3 concrete ways of making this spirit of poverty a way of life: being free from material wealth, seeing the poor differently and lastly, which I will quote in full, learning from the poor. Finally, the important relationship between evangelization and poverty, and it’s fruit: joy.

Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination. The Greek adjective ptochós (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means “a beggar”, and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, “God’s poor”. It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on him.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labré, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God… 

There is a close connection between poverty and evangelization… The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelizes the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food” (Mt 10:9-10). Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelization in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.

Faith and Environment in Assisi

Below are some of the highlights of the Popes messages from his visit to Assisi, in honor of the patron saint of creation, St. Francis.

1. Respect Creation –  human ecology: First is the Pope’s Homily in Assisi where the Pope remember’s Franci’s love for Creation. And in full continuity with his predecessors, he also affirms the love for mankind, and the centrality of human beings in creation.

Francis began the Canticle of the Creatures with these words: “Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world. We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation!

2. The Incarnation – “God loves matter”: The Pope affirms an important aspect of the Christian approach to reality, which loves matter and creation. It expresses the ability to see the physical and spiritual as related, and not divided. I have spoken of this before here and here.

When a cloistered nun consecrates her entire life to the Lord, a transformation happens beyond our understanding. It would be natural to think that this nun becomes isolated, alone with the Absolute, alone with God: it is an ascetic and penitent life. But this is not the path neither of a Catholic nor a Christian cloistered nun. The path always leads to Jesus Christ, always! Jesus Christ is at the centre of your life, your penitence, your community life, your prayer and also of the universality of prayer. And on this path the opposite of what one might think, happens to an ascetic cloistered nun. When she takes this path of contemplating Jesus Christ, of prayer and penitence with Jesus Christ, she becomes extremely human. Cloistered nuns are called to have a great humanity, a humanity like that of the Mother Church; human, to understand everything about life, to be people who know how to understand human problems, how to forgive, how to supplicate the Lord on behalf of others. Your humanity. Your humanity takes this road, the Incarnation of the Word, the path of Jesus Christ. And what is the mark of such a human nun? Joy, joy, when there is joy! I am sad when I find nuns who are not joyful. Perhaps they smile, but with the smile of a flight attendant….because that nun, like the Church, is on the path of being an expert in humanity. And this is your path: not too spiritual! When paths are too spiritual… I think for example of the foundress of the monasteries of your competition St Teresa. When a nun came to her, oh, with these things… she said to the cook: “Get her a steak!”. Always with Jesus Christ always. The humanity of Jesus Christ! Because the Word became flesh, God became flesh for us and this gives you human sanctity that is great, beautiful, mature, the sanctity of a mother. … Remember the story of St Teresa’s steak! It is important.

3. A culture of acceptance, not waste: The Pope insists on the theme of changing our culture of waste when he spoke to the sick and disabled children. He has connected this before to the environment. To be better environmentalists, we need to be good people first, loving, forgiving, giving…

Unfortunately, society has been polluted by the culture of “waste”, which is opposed to the culture of acceptance. And the victims of this culture of waste are precisely persons who are the weakest, the most fragile. In this home, however, I see a culture of acceptance in action. Of course, not everything can be perfect here either, but you are working together for a dignified life for those people in grave difficulty. Thank you for this sign of love that you offer us: this is a sign of true citizenship, human and Christian! Put the most disadvantaged people at the centre of social and political attention! At times instead families find themselves alone in taking care of them. What should we do? In this place real love can be seen, I say to everyone: let us multiply our work in the culture of acceptance, works primarily enlivened by a deep Christian love, love for the Crucified Christ, for the flesh of Christ, works which join together professionality, skilled work properly compensated with volunteer work, a precious treasure.

Serving with love and tenderness those who are in great need helps us to grow in humanity because they are true resources of humanity. St Francis was a rich young man, he had ideals of glory but Jesus, in the person of a leper, spoke to him in silence and he changed him, he made him understand what truly mattered in life: not wealth, nor power of weapons, nor earthly glory, but humility, mercy and forgiveness.

4. Know your dogs: This is less serious, but the Pope urged parish priests to know not only the name of their parishioners but also of their dogs. He connected it to the very Christian experience of walking, or pilgrimage as a people of God.

Here I think once more of you priests, and let me place myself in your company. What could be more beautiful for us than walking with our people? It is beautiful! When I think of the parish priests who knew the names of their parishioners, who went to visit them; even as one of them told me: “I know the name of each family’s dog”. They even knew the dog’s name! How nice it was! What could be more beautiful than this? I repeat it often: walking with our people, sometimes in front, sometimes behind and sometimes in the middle, and sometimes behind : in front in order to guide the community, in the middle in order to encourage and support; and at the back in order to keep it united and so that no one lags too, too far behind, to keep them united. There is another reason too: because the people have a “nose”! The people scent out, discover, new ways to walk, it has the “sensus fidei,” as theologians call it. What could be more beautiful than this?

Stewardship of Creation and Stewardship of the Body Lifestyle to Promote the Reconciliation with God, Ourselves, with Others and Creation.

We want to present you another post extracted from the Creatio Conference in the WYD in Rio de Janeiro this year.

Thank you  to Dr. Thomas R. Collingwood for his amazing presentation.



The underlying priority of all efforts for environmental integrity, energy justice and care for creation is a concern for the dignity and well being of the human person

The challenge in addressing the need for economic development, environmental protection, over consumerism and over utilization of energy resources while maintaining respect for the needs and dignity of human persons is complicated.. Nevetheless in this confllict  we do not forget that  the underlying priority of all efforts for environmental integrity, energy justice and care for creation is a concern for the dignity and well being of the human person following the mentioned by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.


Nowadays, as never before, it is require  the practice of a stewardship ethic and lifestyle  that can be an “end”, meeting the needs of God‘s creation (the environment). In the same way, the process of developing and practicing a stewardship ethic and lifestyle is also a “means”, for meeting the needs of the human person. Unfortunately, with modern day “psycho babble”, many human needs and problems can get inappropriately defined as “disorders”. However, there can be a role for the use of such terminology and, in terms of environmental and personal health issues, I have found two “deficit disorders” whose realities have implications for stewardship and caring for creation. In turn, those “deficit disorders” are reflective of the disconnection consequences from the ruptures of sin in the world explored within reconciliation theology.


The first reality is that many youth suffer from nature deficit disorder. This term, made popular by Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, refers to the fact that many of us (but especially youth) are disconnected and alienated from nature. As a consequence many do not know, understand or appreciate God’s creation with the resultant effect of not caring about the environment, being afraid of nature.


The second reality is that of youth and adults suffering from exercise deficit disorder.It refers to the fact that there is a corresponding disconnection and alienation from physical activity. The result is a lack of energy and the development of many health related problems such as obesity.

The consequences of this is that we see, for many youth, lifestyle habits that lead to an unconcern for creation, an epidemic of obesity and inactivity, and lack of exercise. Inactive individuals are not going to be involved in nature activities.


As John Paul II stated: “…society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at lifestyle.”


I have defined a model with five phases to overcome nature deficit disorder. To proceed from Step 1 through step 5, individuals must develop:


  1. FAMILIARITY with creation through experiences with the natural world.
  2. APPRECIATION for the natural world which can be accomplished by reflecting on experiences with creation.
  3. AWARENESS that there is more to know of nature, environmental problems and an ethic for how we should respond to those problems.
  4. CONCERN for the environment. This precedes taking action and provides motivation for the final step.
  5. STEWARDSHIP lifestyle to act to respond to environmental issues.


Those five phases can be viewed as objectives for developing a stewardship lifestyle. In turn, there are three steps to meeting those objectives which provide the framework for leading one through those five phases: Encountering, Exploring and Engaging.


  • ENCOUNTERING God’s creation and nature. The process of encountering is to awaken enthusiasm for nature to have a familiarity and appreciation with creation.
  • EXPLORING environmental issues and ethics.  This involves becoming aware of the major environmental issues, the human role in them, and a Catholic based ethic for addressing them. In addition, it can involve a process for examining personal lifestyle and community needs.
  • ENGAGING creation. This is the action element where concern motivates stewardship actions individually and collectively.


A quote from John Paul II illustrates this: “It is the duty of Christians and all who look to God the Creator to protect the environment by restoring a sense of reverence for the whole of God’s creation. It is the Creator’s will that man should treat nature not as ruthless exploiter but as an intelligent and responsible administrator.”


The experience of providing outdoor education and exercise programs has led to the conclusion that stewardship of the environment can be favorably affected by individuals becoming more active and physically fit. The human body is a self-regulating energy producer and user. Governments, especially of developed nations and educational institutions, are encouraged to promote individual physical activity and consequent physical fitness to develop more efficient energy systems within their bodies. In turn, the use of self-movement modalities such as walking and cycling can decrease the reliance on fossil fuel based transportation. At another level, a fit and active individual has the energy and discipline to be more actively involved in environmental stewardship actions – individually and collectively.


Physical activity can be a powerful vehicle for developing a stewardship ethic through activities that connect with nature. While the focus here is on exercise and fitness within the context of stewardship, facilitating a fit and active lifestyle is also, by itself, a positive force for one’s physical and mental health. In summary, by caring for your body, you care for creation. A parallel five-phase process can be developed:


  1. FAMILIARITY with one’s body by having experiences with movement and activity.
  2. APPRECIATION for the body’s capability to give us energy, strength and physical prowess. This can be accomplished by reflecting on the body’s response to being stressed through exercise.
  3. Developing an AWARENESS to seek to know more of the physical, mental and spiritual ethic for why we need to train our body.
  4. CONCERN for the body and physical fitness. This precedes taking action and provides motivation for the final step.
  5. A STEWARDSHIP lifestyle to act to respond to the nutritional and exercise needs of the body.


The same three steps to meeting these objectives can be operationalized for stewardship of the body:


  • ENCOUNTERING the body by experiencing and observing its reactions to physical activity.
  • EXPLORING health and fitness issues and ethics.  This involves becoming aware of one’s level of physical activity and fitness and a Catholic based ethic for being fit.
  • ENGAGING your body. This is the action element where concern motivates practicing an exercise and nutritional lifestyle to develop energy and dynamic health.


Physical activity, while directly confronting exercise deficit disorder, also serves as a nature connection process to overcome nature deficit disorder. Taking walks and hikes in public lands, doing simple yard work to being involved in a variety of environmental preservation, conservation and restoration endeavors can all be vehicles to increase physical activity and interact with nature. In turn, the process of developing fitness provides the energy needed to perform environmental stewardship activities.


Finally, the development of a stewardship of creation and stewardship of the body lifestyle can provide a means to confront nature deficit and exercise deficit disorders. Likewise, it provides a process to develop a stewardship ethic that translates to a concern and commitment to care for God’s creation. At another level a stewardship lifestyle serves as concrete actions to facilitate the need for reconciliation with God, ourselves, with others and creation.


Pope Francis: Ecology and Waste

Pope Francis continues to make the environment an important aspect of his messages and homilies. In a recent address to workers  he talked about the importance of creation (a) and in the impromptu version which he spoke “from the heart” talked about the culture of waste, a continuous theme which he often relates to the environment, even when he was a Cardinal. Here the highlights of the speech:

a) Work must be combined with the preservation of creation so that this may be responsibly safeguarded for future generations. Creation is not a good to be exploited but a gift to look after. Ecological commitment itself affords an opportunity for new concern in the sectors linked to it, such as energy, and the prevention and removal of different forms of pollution, being alert to forest fires in the wooded land that is your patrimony, and so forth. May caring for creation, and looking after man through dignified work be a common task! Ecology… and also “human ecology”!

b) Work means dignity, work means taking food home, work means loving! To defend this idolatrous economic system the “culture of waste” has become established; grandparents are thrown away and young people are thrown away. And we must say “no” to this “culture of waste”. We must say “we want a just system! A system that enables everyone to get on”. We must say: “we don’t want this globalized economic system which does us so much harm!”. Men and women must be at the centre as God desires, and not money!

In another speech for the Italian Social Week he spoke about human ecology and the importance of the family, citing Pope Benedict XVI who also often talked about this subject:

These reflections do not only concern believers but all people of good will, all those who have at heart the common good of the country, as is the case for problems of environmental ecology that can greatly help us to understand those of “an ecology of man” (cf. ibid., Address to the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany, 22 September 2011). The family is the privileged school for learning generosity, sharing, responsibility, a school that teaches how to overcome a certain individualistic mind-set which has worked its way into our societies. Sustaining and promoting families, making the most of their fundamental and central role means working for a just and supportive development.

Adventure in the Flood

The John Paul II Adventure Institute lived up to its name last week, full of adventure and faith. The Institute, inspired in its teachings by the Sodalit spirituality and the theology of reconciliation promoted by Creatio, was holding environmental education programs for almost 50 students near Estes Park when the Colorado floods began. The rest is history… they made national news here on CNA.  Below some highlights of the article.

The group left Denver on Wednesday when the rain was steady but light. This is the first year the seventh-graders took the leadership retreat. A group of eighth-graders were at the camp earlier in the week and left before the storm.

On Wednesday evening, Sarah Tartell said some of her classmates felt a special connection to God when they were praying.

“It started to pour rain and it was so pretty,” she recalled. “The girls were singing their hearts out.”

But the next morning the group awoke to high water around the cabins and an issue about power at the camp. Grams and the other adults agreed with the option to carpool the group to higher ground at the Highland Presbyterian Camp in nearby Allenspark, which the Red Cross has used previously for shelters in times of crisis. The camp became a makeshift shelter but Red Cross officials could not get there because of washed out roads.

Tartell said the chaperones drove the students to the new location with music playing on the car radios because they didn’t want to alarm the students. But once the adults were alone they tuned the radio to KOA and understood the severity of the situation.

“Everyone was very nice at the camp and the locals knew which roads were passable and which roads were not,” she said. “The teachers kept the students busy with new activities.”

The adults were able to keep the students positive and in good spirits, despite a challenging situation. An older group of visitors already staying at the camp were quilters and taught some of the students how to quilt. The students also played a game they dubbed, “Survivor: The Flood” based on the Biblical characters of Noah, David and Jonah. They hiked, sang songs, and recited the rosary.

“We read through James Chapter I on trials, perseverance, and the rewards of enduring challenges in order to grow in faith,” Grams wrote in an email to parents.

Several area residents evacuated to the camp engaged the students in conversations.

“Many of them already knew their homes were destroyed but they were so thrilled they just got out with their dogs and other animals,” Lynn Tartell said. “Our kids really understand that kind of loss now.”

The students said the experience brought them closer together as a class.

“When we first got there, there were three groups of girls visiting together,” Sarah said. “But when we all ended up sleeping in the dining room together, we stayed up most of the night talking and learning a lot more about each other.”

Early Friday, when the heavy rain finally subsided, the group went outside and sat together in quiet prayer.

“We finally could see the mountains,” Lynn Tartell said. “We all listened and talked to God.”
The group knew they needed to leave when the buses were available Friday evening because another storm was being predicted, which could have further delayed their return and compromised safe travel. They arrived home to teary-eyed parents, clapping siblings and the ultimate celebration meal: pizza.


Creatio Conference – Rio WYD 2013

There are many different media sources which show the Creatio Conference “Jesus and Nature: Catholic Perspectives on Environmental Issues”, presented in Rio from July 22-24 for WYD. Thanks to all who participated and supported the event.

1. The Catholic News Agency featured an article here, and below is an excerpt:

Respect for the environment is a matter of justice, connected to respect for human life and founded upon our relationship with God and his creation, said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

“The concern for the earth must go in tandem – side-by-side – with concern for human life itself,” he said.

The cardinal, who heads the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, spoke last week to a group of pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He delivered the keynote address at a conference hosted by Creatio, a group that seeks to address environmental problems by promoting reconciliation between humans and creation.

“I think it’s very providential that we’re gathered here in Rio,” he said, noting that the city has hosted prominent United Nations environmental meetings, dealing with sustainability and solidarity with past and future generations…

2. Here is the video about Creatio prepared for the WYD Conference:


3. On facebook, Sophie Caldecott published many photos and summaries of the activities during the event.

4. Here is a press release  and video summary made for Spanish speakers about the Conference:

Enjoy! Soon each of the speakers presentations will be posted on the website, along with an institutional video about the WYD conference. On Sept 1st the papers will be published too.