Aquinas College Signs St. Francis Pledge

By: Sam Klee, 'l6

Published on

Woman at podium

Catholics have long understood the importance of protecting the environment. The Catholic Church teaches the idea of stewardship, treating the natural world as a divine gift to be cared for, rather than a resource to be exploited. Aquinas College is no exception. Consistent with its mission as a Catholic institution in the Dominican tradition, environmental consciousness and sustainability have long played an important role in the College community. Aquinas has one of the few Sustainable Business major-programs in the country, and the student-led "Zero Waste" initiative commits the College to diverting 90% of campus waste from a landfill/incinerator by 2014. Reflecting the spirit of this deeply held environmental commitment, Aquinas College recently signed the St. Francis Pledge and joined the Catholic Climate Covenant.

The Catholic Climate Covenant was launched in 2009, as an initiative of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. The Coalition is an association of twelve national Catholic organizations, which seeks to supplement and support Catholic environmental efforts. The Covenant, then, is a program that aims to raise awareness of the personal role all play in climate change, bringing a Catholic moral framework to a discussion often characterized by ideology and scientific data.

In his message at the 2008 World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI reinforced this idea that the Catholic community must play a more active and involved role in fostering true stewardship of natural resources:

"Today the great gift of God’s Creation is exposed to serious dangers and lifestyles which can degrade it. Environmental pollution is making particularly unsustainable the lives of the poor of the world … we must pledge ourselves to take care of creation and to share its resources in solidarity." - Pope Benedict XVI

Jessica Eimer, Aquinas’ Director of Sustainability, explained the importance of joining the Climate Covenant through the St. Francis Pledge. "The Pledge is a promise by Catholics (individuals, families, parishes, organizations, and institutions) to seriously address global climate change," said Eimer. "It is generally accepted by the scientific community that global climate change is a reality and the time to act is now. Studies are also showing that people in poverty typically are subject to a disproportionate amount of the negative effects of climate change, because of greater exposure and vulnerability ... Since people in poverty experience the most severe effects from global climate change, Catholics around the country are joining together [through the Climate Covenant] to advocate for the poor."

According to the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, signatories of the St. Francis Pledge commit to five key tenets:

  1. To pray and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation while protecting the poor and vulnerable.

  2. To learn about and educate on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.

  3. To assess how we, as individuals, families, parishes, and other affiliations contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.

  4. To act, changing our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.

  5. To advocate for Catholic principles in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact the poor and vulnerable.

A prayer service was held outside the Wege Center on October 4, 2013, the feast day of St. Francis, at which it was announced that Aquinas College had signed St. Francis Pledge and joined the Catholic Climate Covenant. This ceremony was a sign of the College's spirit of environmental stewardship, as Aquinas continues its commitment to fostering a just and sustainable world, unified by a spirit of solidarity.