By Sister Maxine Pohlman
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform’s goal of ecological education holds a special place in the lives of School Sisters of Notre Dame as we strive to be a Laudato Si’ congregation. In the prologue to You Are Sent, our SSND Constitution, we are reminded that from the beginning our congregation has been about “educating with a world vision.” The prologue also reminds us that “our ministry directed toward education” is an important part of our mission as School Sisters.
However, the world vision of Mother Theresa’s era was vastly different from ours. Our current global awareness of the climate and biodiversity crises which are threatening our world holds a new call for educators. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes clear what ecological education asks of us. “It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology and helping people through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.” (LS 210)
This kind of education is more than scientific information and consciousness-raising, for it critiques a modern mindset based on “individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market.” (LS 210) It does this by instilling good habits, cultivating sound virtues, creating changes in lifestyle and caring for creation through little daily actions. (LS 211) These habits, virtues, changes, and actions are ways to counter a utilitarian ecology, replacing it with a reverential ecology, for according to Laudato Si’, ecological education “helps us make the leap toward the transcendent,” giving it deep meaning.
Lest we conclude that individual self-improvement is the sum total of what ecological education asks of us. Pope Francis warns us that this is not enough in light of the extremely complicated situation facing us today; instead, our problems “must be addressed by community networks,” (LS 154) which brings us back to our participation in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This program networks people all over the world as families, parishes, dioceses, organizations, educational institutions, and congregations like ours.
Ecological education asks us to continue our mission as School Sisters of Notre Dame, educating with a world vision that embraces all beings on our rare, precious and threatened planet Earth.