About

What is the Cataldo Project?

The name of this initiative is inspired by the Jesuit founder of Gonzaga, Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J. (1837-1928). The goal of the Cataldo Project is to provide Gonzaga graduates with a fundamental awareness and understanding of the importance of the natural environment to life, how all human activities affect the environment, and an ethic for responsible stewardship of the planet. To achieve this goal, the Cataldo Project conducts workshops, seminars, and other programs to develop and augment the environmental knowledge and skills of Gonzaga faculty, as well as to assist them in revising their courses to include sustainability concepts. In this way, students will receive broad, continuing and repeated exposure to sustainability concepts throughout their academic experience. The Project will facilitate the process of faculty development by providing financial and intellectual support, as well as access to resources, information, and environmental experts.

The work of the Cataldo Project amplifies and enriches the revised Core Curriculum by facilitating inclusion of environmental and sustainability issues in First Year Seminars, Social Justice designated classes, and Core Integration Seminars. Further, the Cataldo Project supports several other strategic initiatives of the University, including Gonzaga’s Climate Action Plan, and the Lilly Endowment funded Theology Institute for High School Youth “Stewardship, Sustainability, and Moral Decision Making.” 

Sustainability and our Jesuit Mission 

True to its Jesuit, Catholic, humanist heritage, Gonzaga University educates students for lives of leadership and service for the common good by intentionally developing the whole person—intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Part of the Jesuit mission, as emphasized by General Congregation 35, is to respond to ecological challenges, “to appreciate more deeply our covenant with creation” (D 3, 36). Jesuit institutions of higher education have been encouraged to “[r]oot university teaching, research, and service activities in social and environmental justice issues.” Thus, Graduating men and women for others who respect and “care for the planet” is of central importance to Gonzaga’s mission, the Jesuit charism, and the world.

Universities cannot hope to meet their obligation to educate thoughtful environmental stewards through a single course or program. While it is vital that students with a passion for addressing environmental issues have a rigorous course of study such as that offered through Gonzaga’s Environmental Studies major and minor, this is not enough. Universities such as Gonzaga must develop ways to incorporate concepts concerning the value, wonder, and complexity of the natural world across its curricula. It is our future nurses and business managers, teachers and engineers who need to understand and appreciate the delicate balance of nature and the human place within it. As Pope Francis noted in his 2015 encyclical, “Environmental education . . . needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care” (154).

Sustainability in the Classroom, Beyond Solar Panels and Windmills

In recent years Gonzaga has increased the visibility and the extent of its commitment to environmental sustainability. From the creation of Sustainable Purchasing and Design Policies and the building of LEED certified “green” buildings, to the approval of a university Climate Action Plan that aims to reduce Gonzaga’s carbon footprint by half within the next twenty years and the hiring of a Director of Sustainability, the Gonzaga community is challenging itself to take very real steps to reduce the ecological impact of our operations (see more here). We all are implicated in and need to contribute to this work. As important as the sustainability of our facilities is, the learning that takes place in those facilities is even more important.

According to the US Department of Education, around 1.8 million students graduate with a baccalaureate each year in the United States. These women and men will quickly become the leaders of our world. While it is vital that students with a passion for addressing environmental issues have a rigorous course of study such as that offered through the Environmental Studies major and minor, this is not enough. Universities such as Gonzaga must also develop a way to incorporate concepts concerning the value, wonder, and complexity of the natural world across its curricula. Our future nurses and business managers, teachers and engineers also need to understand and respect the delicate balance of nature and the human place within it. What is needed is a way forward that begins to embed sustainability and stewardship concepts across our curricula.

While it would seem that the most efficient way to achieve these aims would be to require a sustainability course as part of the core, even if this were possible (which it is not!), it may not be desirable. Curricular changes based on mandating changes to faculty are ultimately doomed to fail. The only viable route is to slowly, incrementally, and respectfully change our academic culture. To adapt Milton’s beautiful phrase, true curricular revision only takes place “hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow.” The Cataldo Project: Sustainability Across the Curriculum Initiative is one part of a “slow way forward” toward developing a more ecologically minded curriculum. As the great cultural historian and Catholic priest Thomas Berry put it in his book The Great Work:
Universities must decide whether they will continue training persons for temporary survival in the declining Cenozoic Era or whether they will begin educating students for the emerging Ecozoic. … We have such vast understanding of the universe and how it functions, and yet we manifest such inability to use this knowledge beneficially either for ourselves or for any other mode of earthly being. While this is not the time for continued denial by the universities or for attributing blame to the universities, it is the time for universities to rethink themselves and what they are doing.