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9/14/2011 12:54:00 PM
Groups seek to advance Catholic colleges on to green ways
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
University of Portland students remove invasive species from a watershed.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
University of Portland students remove invasive species from a watershed.

WASHINGTON — As Catholic colleges and universities across the country begin a new school year, eight national Catholic organizations are publishing and promoting a new resource to help schools strengthen Catholic mission and care for God’s gift of creation.

"Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration" is co-sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, an association of Franciscan colleges, the Lasallian Association of College and University Presidents, Catholic Relief Services College, the Catholic Campus Ministry Association and the National Catholic Student Coalition.

These organizations hope that Catholic colleges and universities will use the kit to strengthen Catholic mission and publicly commit themselves to mission-based sustainability.

The sponsoring organizations say that while many Catholic schools have successfully taken steps to integrate sustainability into their institutions, more can to be done to ensure that these efforts are grounded in Catholic mission and identity. As articulated by Pope Benedict and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sustainability is not simply “going green” but recognizes and faithfully responds to the reality that ecological degradation and climate change are moral issues.

“At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God’s creation and the one human family,” the U.S. Catholic Bishops wrote in 2001.

“Care for the gifts of God’s creation is not a new component of Catholic identity, but rather, it is as old as Genesis," says Bishop William Skylstad, a former bishops' conference president, Bishop Emeritus of Spokane and administrator of the Diocese of Baker. "In this age of serious environmental threats, this toolkit is more important than ever. It offers a way for Catholic higher education to be beacons of hope in the spirit of St. Francis.”

Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, says that for  Catholic higher education, environmental concern has to be more than an Earth Day slogan.
"Our contribution should include saving polar bears but must go beyond," says Misleh. "It has to put humankind at the center of environmental efforts, especially the poor and vulnerable, who have contributed the least to the problem of climate change but are now and will continue to suffer its worst impacts.”

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