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St. Ben’s signs Catholic climate change pledge

On Jan. 16, St. Ben’s signed the St. Francis Pledge, becoming the first college in Minnesota and fourth in the nation to enter into the Catholic Climate Covenant.

The St. Francis Pledge is a nationwide campaign led by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, a group comprised of the Catholic Church and 30 national Catholic organizational partners, whose goal is to connect the traditions of Catholicism to climate change.

According to the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, “The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change.”

By formally instituting the Catholic Climate Covenant within the current sustainability package, CSB pledges to pray for and protect the poor and vulnerable. Also, to learn about and educate others on climate change, and to assess its own contributions to climate change. Under this pledge, CSB will act in an effort to change its choices and behaviors leading to climate change and to advocate for Catholic practices in environmental efforts, with the intention of best serving the less fortunate.

“(The pledge) draws a very direct connection between people’s faith and sustainability, because you can approach sustainability in many different ways, and through a person’s faith is a very viable avenue for that,” CSB Sustainability Fellow Lindsay Wimmer said. “People who are really engaged in their faith will have more of a reason to connect with sustainability, think about sustainability and integrate it within their prayer life, their church community or within their youth group or youth ministry.”

To further integrate sustainability efforts with the Catholic mission, the CSB Sustainability Office recently made its first formal connection with CSB Campus Ministry. Together the CSB Sustainability Office and Campus Ministry have developed a Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar to involve students in an effort to uphold the St. Francis Pledge.

“The St. Francis Pledge represents our Benedictine values well through the value of stewardship,” said SJU junior and CSB Spirituality and Social Justice Campus Minister Carlos Dabu. “St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and that’s exactly what we at CSB signed on for. We have a job to be stewards.”

Beginning Feb. 22 through Easter Sunday, students will receive emails containing a week-by-week calendar comprised of daily challenges for students to undertake during the season of Lent. Daily challenges range from prayer and thinking about future involvement within the school or community to carpooling to class or waking up earlier in time to take the Link, instead of driving a personal vehicle.

“It’s little habits that people will be asked to change for a day, but if they’re continuing the challenges through the whole season of lent, they will hopefully start to change their habits or drastically change their lifestyle overall,” Dabu said.

CSB, however, is not alone in its efforts to integrate sustainability within the Catholic mission. A recent review of the Catholic Climate Covenant was approved by SJU President FR. Robert Koopmann. SJU is expected to sign the St. Francis Pledge sometime within the month.

“The values and goals described in the St. Francis Pledge mirror those that are so much a part of the heritage of Saint John’s,” SJU Assistant to the President Patti Epsky said.

However, CSB Director of Sustainability Judy Purman acknowledges the ability of CSB/SJU students to pledge individually.

“If a St. Johns student is interested, they don’t have to wait the University to pledge,” Purman said. “We joined as a college, but I could also go on to the website and do it personally. All of the resources are there. It’s up to the students to use what’s available.”

The three other colleges that have signed the covenant are Notre Dame (Ind.), St. Michael’s College (Vt.) and Salve Regina (R.I).

“With the national spotlight highlighting that our school has signed onto this, we’re hoping that prospective students will see this as a lifestyle change here and something that comes with living here,” Dabu said. “The pledge is a lifetime commitment about changing habits and lifestyles for the future, one person at a time.”

“Being a part of a Catholic institution, and very much part of being Benedictine, is that we care for our world.” said CSB President MaryAnnBaenninger. “The commitments are mostly things that we are already doing, because our faith says that they are the moral thing to do, to take care of the environment and pray for God’s creation, which by virtue of being a Catholic institution is happening all over our campus, all of the time.”