Nurturing 'ecological conversion' in Minnesota, a Response to Ladauto Si

September 18, 2015
Dr. Christopher Thompson, Academic Dean, speaking at the Human and Natural Ecology Conference, June 2015

On September 9th, the Minnesota Catholic Conference welcomed more than 350 Minnesotans, including faith, political, and community leaders, to engage in a conversation about “Natural and Human Ecology: a panel discussion on Laudato Si’” at the University of St. Thomas. This event represented one of many conversations that continue to respond to Pope Francis’ recently released encyclical Laudato Si. The encyclical is calling us to engage with creation in a new way. A way that demonstrates a respect for the environment and the people that depend on its health to sustain life for all people.

Panel discussion participants included Cecilia Calvo, Project Coordinator for the Environmental Justice Program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who affirmed the U.S. bishops’ support of the bipartisan Nonprofit Energy-Effeciency Act, S.600, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND). She was joined by academic experts Dr. Daniel Finn, Clemens Professor in Economics and Liberal Arts and professor of theology at St. John’s University, and Dr. Christopher Thompson, Academic Dean of The Saint Paul Seminary School of divinity at the University of St. Thomas, who specializes in Creation Stewardship. Other panelists were Fred Callens, of Callens Honey Farm, a 35-acre family farm in southwest Minnesota, and Fr. Joseph Backowski, pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Breckenridge and St. Thomas parish in Kent.

Rounding out the event participants were nationally-recognized meteorologist and entrepreneur Paul Douglas, who appeared in a pre-taped interview talking about the importance of raising awareness about climate change and conservation, and Bishop Paul Sirba, Bishop of Duluth, who provided closing remarks.

Dr. Christopher Thompson, Academic Dean of the School of Divinity, believes that “Laudato Si is the charter for Christendom in the third millennium. It was an honor to be a part of its promotion and deeper understanding.” Dr. Thompson has partnered on two previous occasions to host conferences on the care of creation last November, and on human and natural ecology in June. He is currently teaching the course Stewardship and Sustainability. The course provides an opportunity to consider the complex issue of “environmental stewardship” through understanding of the meaning of creation and the status of the human person within it.