SSND and Laudato Si’

In response to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, School Sisters of Notre Dame are working toward a better future for our Earth in many large and small ways. Here are just a handful:

In Sierra Leone, Sister Sarah Tanjo and Sister Vera Owoh are engaging their students in ecological education and action inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’. At the secondary school where Sister Sarah teaches, students take part in a reading club created to increase awareness about what is happening around climate change. They are also monitoring littering and use of plastic bags on school grounds and have planted a coconut tree to contribute to caring for our common home. At the pre-school led by Sister Vera, students learned about the importance of planting trees to help combat climate change and participated in the planting of an avocado tree on the school compound.


A teacher at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, Florida, Sister Cathy Bonfield believes that ecological education needs to start at an early age. She uses Laudato Si’ to educate her students and herself about the importance of ecology. After studying the encyclical together, each student made a commitment to do something to live out the call of Laudato Si’. Linking Laudato Si’ and the work of Beyond Borders Haiti, Sister Cathy explained the importance of clean water to the Pre K-3 and PreK-4 classes, helping them imagine what it would be like to have to find and carry water over long distances. The students’ teachers helped the children create Christmas ornaments, which they sold to purchase water catchments for families in Haiti. In addition, Sister Cathy took her classes of sixth graders to tour ECHO Global Farms in North Fort Myers, Florida. There, students learned how farms around the world are created to produce sustainable food crops and how people make tools using the resources they have.


Sisters living in The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Missouri, have taken the responsibility of being a Laudato Si’ community to heart. Each Wednesday, Sister Lorraine Soukup turns her bedroom into a recycling office. Sisters and lay people are encouraged to put their paper and cardboard in bags on their doors for a 9:30am pick up by team members. The items are brought to Sister Lorraine’s “office” where they are sorted and bagged. Sister Betty Meyers delivers the items to a center for recycling.


Sister Francine Koehler is working with her fellow Peace and Justice Committee members Jim LaVictoire and Pam Brown to plan a showing of “The Letter” at St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles, Missouri. The film features an exclusive dialogue between Pope Francis and five people from around the world, all of whom have experienced the ecological crisis and are working to solve it.


Sisters Rose Rita Huelsmann and Jane Wand harvest the gifts of the earth in the garden they tend at Sancta Maria in Ripa, St. Louis. The beautiful Yukon Gold potatoes pictured here are just one of the crops they tend. “One can’t help but marvel at the way the Creator engages us humans in everything that he/she makes for us,” said Sister Rose.


After replacing her worn out sneakers, Sister Carole Shinnick began a search for a way to recycle her old pair. A little online research led her to a helpful resource called Sneaker Impact. There she learned that 87% of sneakers purchased in the U.S. end up in landfills, both in the United States and in impoverished countries that the U.S. pays to take in its garbage. Sister Carole requested a bag to collect sneakers and the company sent her a prepaid Fed Ex bag that held six or seven pairs. She invited friends and neighbors to contribute and sent back the collection of shoes. Sneaker Impact then sorted, broke down, and repurposed the shoes’ material composites and refurbished the gently used sneakers for persons who need footwear

Sister Catherine Bertrand in which she describes her commitment to greater consciousness of the cry of the Earth.
“Every day, wherever I am, I walk in the morning! Walking in nature each day has become a contemplative practice for me. I take at least one photo each morning as I walk. This has trained me to be attentive to great beauty but also to smaller touches of beauty which are equally significant.” The photos below are just a few examples of the remarkable splendor Sister Catherine has captured on her morning walks.