The tri-campus sustainability class seeks to place stewardship of the Earth at the center of faith practice. The course, offered each fall semester, integrates Catholic teachings into environmental studies to reflect on issues of sustainability.
John Slattery, an adjunct environmental studies professor at Saint Mary’s, said the course was developed to examine not only the topics in theory, but also how to physically implement these theories in a practical way.
“The aim of designing this course was to have an environmental studies class that is very tangible,” he said. “Therefore, we focus on questions regarding how sustainability is practiced on campus and in what ways can we do more.”
Throughout the modern Catholic Church, Slattery said, care for the Earth has been a key component in faith practice — particularly with Pope Francis’ second encyclical, “Laudato si’: On Care For Our Common Home.”
“We need to internally evaluate whether we are actually practicing environmental stewardship and sustainability,” he said. “And I think, a lot of times, the answer is we’re trying to but not quite, and there are actually a lot of things that are inconsistent with what the Church teaches that we can improve on.”
Slattery said he believes Catholic institutions should reflect and honor these teachings more concretely in how they live their lives and practice sustainability as institutions.
“I think it’s really important, mostly because it has a sound Christian, ethical and moral background,” he said. “ … It is the direction that the pope has taken and multiple bishops conferences have taken on stewardship of the Earth as a centerpiece for what it means to be Catholic.”
Saint Mary’s senior Hanna Makowski said the course provides concrete ways of addressing sustainability, specifically within the tri-campus community.
“Community is a big part of this course, as it highlights how we are all connected and motivates us to think about how we can all work together to come up with ideas and solutions that can benefit all of us,” she said.
Having an open dialogue with students from Holy Cross and Notre Dame allows for a line of communication and collaboration between the tri-campus student communities that may be lacking in an informal context, Makowski said.
“What I enjoy the most about this class is building relationships with students within the same community but from different campuses, which allows for good internal reflection from multiple perspectives,” she said.
Makowski said she enjoys working and learning with other students who are taking the course due to their genuine passion for the Earth.
“People aren’t taking this course for the credits, they’re taking it because they care,” she said. “It’s nice to have a community of people that you know are committed to the ideals of the course, which I think is cool.”
Sophomore Anna Zingalis said this course challenges her to think about her everyday actions and how it affects the world around her.
“It challenges me to really think about everything that I’m doing — when I wake up in the morning, when I’m taking my showers or when I’m eating in the dining hall — and think about how this is going to affect the future and how it is going to affect other people,” she said.
Zingalis said this is an important course being offered, and she explained that sustainability is something that affects everyone.
“I think this is a course that is useful to all students because by learning about sustainability and environmental impact, it becomes more personal once you really understand how it works, and it sort of becomes a part of you,” she said. “That’s when it’s truly eye-opening, and you start to realize how this issue matters and the effects it has on a larger scale.”
Originally published in The Observer.