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Lineage of the New Story: Thomas Berry, Laudato Si and Beyond

Lineage of the New Story: Thomas Berry, Laudato Si and Beyond

Lineage of the New Story:  Laudato Si, Thomas Berry and Beyond

Voices for the Earth

The Passionist Family of Holy Cross Province met from June 14-16, 2016 for their annual province assembly in Detroit at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center. The provincial and council set the agenda, asking the group to reflect on Laudato Si’, the recent encyclical by Pope Francis, and its implication for our personal and communal lives.

Over 100 participants were fortunate to have engaged two of the most prominent people in the field of religion and ecology to facilitate our meeting. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grimm are both senior lecturers at Yale University as well as the Divinity School, co-directors of the forum on religion and ecology, leading experts in the role of faith-based organizations in global efforts to care for the Earth, and students of Thomas Berry when they did graduate studies with him at Fordham University. Mary Evelyn served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee from 1997-2000 and was a member of the Earth Charter International Council until 2012. John is President of the American Teilhard Association.

Mary Evelyn and John brought a breadth of knowledge and experience and helped us engage the message of Laudato Si’. In the weeks before the assembly, participants were asked to prepare with some readings and videos to form a good basis for the meaningful conversations we had about some of the major issues facing our human family at this time.

The “assignments” were divided in four parts, and questions:      

Part 1 - What does Laudato Si’ say? The encyclical is a worldwide wake up call to help humanity understand the destruction that is afflicting our planet and the suffering it brings to the most vulnerable. In order to engage in a significant conversation at the assembly, it’s important to read the document and reflect on it. 

Part 2 - What is religious ecology? Until recently, we had no sense that caring for the Earth was a moral issue. No significant academic field of ecology and religion existed until after 1995. Today, more than 260 scholars in the U.S. and a network of 8,000 people around the world are examining these converging perspectives. We can learn more about the state of the issue by examining the work Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim have been doing as leaders in the religion and ecology dialogue.

Part 3 - What is integral ecology? A key concept in Laudato Si’ is Pope Francis’ new worldview that includes integral ecology – a care for our common home which embraces both concern for the poor and care for the Earth. It flows from his understanding that “everything is closely related” and that “today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis.” We’ll have an opportunity to explore this new worldview.

Part 4 - What is Thomas Berry’s contribution? Thomas Berry, C.P., PhD (1914 – 2009), is considered one of the most eminent cultural historians of our time. He was among of the first religious leaders to suggest that Earth’s ecological crisis was primarily a spiritual crisis. Thomas laid out a plan on how humans can move from being a disrupting force on the Earth to being a blessing. This transition is what he called the Great Work of our time. Understanding his insights and exploring the principles of the Great Work can enrich our conversation.

We offer these background materials for everyone who might want to further engage these issues in their own small groups or communities.  The links will open PDF files with additional links to take you directly to the resources.