Mary Moritz – NE Florida Chapter,
Southeast Co-Regional Coordinator
On May 7, the Northeast Florida Maryknoll Affiliates, in collaboration with the Society’s mission education efforts, were happy to host a day of reflection on the encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. Maryknoll Mission Educator Matt Rousso led the day of reflection. He and his wife, Janet, long-time Maryknoll Affiliates, traveled from New Orleans for this special program.
At dinner the night before, where Matt and Janet informally met with our Chapter members, we discussed practical ways to be better stewards of the earth and its resources, including steps as simple as using real plates vs. paper ones (we used real!). Matt and Janet shared how they had invested in solar power for their home as a result of their concern for the environment.
Sixteen of us, both Affiliates and guests from the local community, gathered for the Saturday program. We invited our guests to consider joining us for a future Affiliate meeting and have heard from three of them that they plan to do so.
Fr. Ed Shellito, MM, introduced Matt and his important topic, and Matt began by talking about how Laudato Si differs from other encyclicals. He noted that the Pope used everyday (vs. “Churchified”) language. Also, the encyclical is addressed to every person living on this planet, whereas the first encyclical of Pope Francis had been addressed to all the members of the Church. Matt pointed out that Pope Francis was only the latest Pope to speak about the need to take care of our planet—we can hope that the message is finally being heard more widely.
One important point is the harmful effect that climate change has on the poor. For example, the poor are much more likely to lack clean water than are people of means. Matt said his mission trips to Guatemala have shown him firsthand that many people there lack clean water. Closer to home, the water challenges in the city of Flint, Michigan, came up in our discussion.
We watched the video, “The Gospel of Creation” and a short video on Pope Francis’s February Prayer Intention. The Pope reminded us that the earth is our common heritage and that we should become free of “the slavery of consumerism.” The Pope made a special prayer request: “That we may take good care of creation, cultivating and protecting it for future generations.”
As an older person and a grandmother, a compelling question for me was, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” In our discussion, one person said he felt the need to re-dedicate himself to ecological educational efforts, and another shared her desire to become free of an excessive need to shop.
We were left with much to ponder about the conversion to which God is calling us. We are very grateful to Matt, who was God’s instrument and enriched us by his willingness to share his understanding of Laudato Si with us.