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Priests and Deacons in New Mexico Respond to Laudato Si’

Last weekend, 21 priests and 20 deacons gathered in Las Cruces New Mexico for our second Pastoral Training Program on “Laudato Si’ in the Parish: Preaching, Practice, and Pastoral Strategies on Caring for Creation.” Earlier in the month, the program launched in Iowa and we have two other upcoming trainings scheduled for December in the dioceses of San Diego and Atlanta.

When one of our board members recently traveled to Rome and told Pope Francis about the Pastoral Training Program, he responded with a large smile and with the words “avanti, avanti,” which means “go forth!” With these words of encouragement from the Holy Father, we are excited about bringing the training on Laudato Si’ to priests and deacons throughout the country.

The Pastoral Training Program is a joint project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Climate Covenant. It was designed to help equip priests and deacons to respond to Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology in their role as pastors. The training includes presentations on the Church’s teaching on ecology, how to include care for creation in the homily, and also on the many resources that CCC and the Bishops Conference offer to priests and parishes to help them implement the message of Laudato Si’. There is also time for conversation and reflection on local environmental concerns.

In New Mexico, we were blessed to have Bishop Cantú attend the trainings. He welcomed the pastors, spoke about the importance of Laudato Si’, and prayed for all who had gathered. Jame Schaefer Ph.D., a professor of theology from Marquette University, spoke about the important themes in Laudato Si’, including the understanding that all creation is connected and that each and every creature has an inherent value. She also talked about the principle of subsidiarity and how that calls us to take appropriate action on climate change at the local, state, national, and international levels. The priests and deacons also shared with her and with each other the particular ecological issues each community is facing and discussed ways they can respond to these problems at the parish level.

After discussing how Laudato Si’ can help inform local responses to environmental degradation, Rev. Michael E. Connors C.S.C., Th.D., a homiletics professor from the University of Notre Dame, gave a presentation on how to incorporate care for creation into homilies. The priests and deacons actively engaged with the presentation and shared their own ideas and experiences preaching on caring for creation and the poor. The priests and deacons who attended remarked afterwards that they felt better equipped to talk about ecology with their parishioners, including how to engage parishioners that might be skeptical that caring for the earth is a “leftist” issue only.

The third and final presentation was from our Executive Director, Dan Misleh, and Ricardo Simmonds, Environmental Policy Advisor for the USCCB. Dan and Ricardo walked the priests and deacons through each of the many resources that are available to help them put the message of Laudato Si’ into practice, including weekly homily helps, creation care teams, the Feast of Saint Francis Program, and many more.

Overall, it was an incredibly successful training. The priests and deacons left with a fresh understanding of the encyclical and new or renewed energy to act on its message. The evaluations from the priests and deacons were overwhelmingly positive and the staff at both Catholic Climate Covenant and the USCCB left New Mexico even more convinced that the Pastoral Training Program is going to have a real and lasting impact by encouraging and equipping priests to share the message of Laudato Si’.

 If you are interested in bringing the Pastoral Training Program to your diocese, please contact Jose Aguto.

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