Local Parish Studies 'Laudato Si' During International Climate Discussion

December 2, 2021

Parishioners discuss pope's encyclical on climate

Ways to mitigate destructive climate change were debated earlier this month from Glasgow, Scotland by world leaders to Indianola by local parishioners.

With a copy of Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home in hand, about a dozen parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish spent the last four weeks reading, studying and debating Pope Francis’ encyclical on becoming proactive in shaping the future of the planet.

The encyclical, released in 2015, was the first to focus on the environment and its destruction in a comprehensive way. It acknowledges the urgency of environmental challenges and offers hope and encourages resolve to work for the common good.

“I think it’s our moral duty” to address the major climate issues facing human kind, said Rene Staudacher. “I want to leave the world for the next generation.”

She grew up on a farm and always appreciated God’s creation.

“I don’t feel like we have a right to destroy that,” she said. Climate change is affecting other worldwide issues including immigration, hunger and diseases.

The series of discussions piqued the interest of retired science teacher Deb Marriott.

“I’ve just been really impressed,” she said of the encyclical. “That’s really refreshing to see all the parts of Catholicism come out in such wisdom.”

The parish series, PowerPoint presentations, and reflection questions were the brainchild of Rita Bresnan, who began to take an interest in the environment about seven years ago. She went to the state Capitol to lobby for solar energy when she met an environmentalist who also lived in Indianola.

“She was instrumental in getting me excited about ways to stop global warming,” Bresnan said.

She took part in a JustFaith formation opportunity offered by the Center for Social Ministry and was encouraged to create an action that could affect change.

“One of my goals was to educate members of my parish about how we need to care for our earth,” she said.

She and her husband, Ken, gathered the group for four sessions, each one covering a chapter or two in the encyclical. They provided a summary of the content, then broke those present into small groups to discuss reflection questions.

One part of the encyclical that motivates her says: “Christians must realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”

Participants were encouraged with more coming from the pope. The Vatican is launching a new program called the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year journey of ecological conversion, Bresnan said. ”This seemed like an appropriate time to revisit the encyclical and get our parish involved.”