Jesuit, Catholic Views on Care of the Earth

line drawing of a cross on blue background

April 23, 2019
Father Tom Colgan, S.J.

Fr. Colgan is a Jesuit priest working among those who serve at Gonzaga University, G-Prep, Saint Aloysius Parish and SEEL (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life). Here, he shares the intent of the Society of Jesus to support the goal of building a sustainable planetary lifestyle.


Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home,” has energized and redefined what it means to be Catholic: How essential it is to work for sustainability. Several Jesuit universities have been recognized by the Princeton Review for their related work, including Gonzaga University, and in a recent address to the Council On Foreign Relations, Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, singled out Jesuit educational institutions for their extraordinary contributions.

The Catholic response to climate change places care for creation and the poor as a top priority. U.S. Catholic bishops wrote in their pastoral statement, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue Prudence and the Common Good”: “Action to mitigate global climate change must be built upon a foundation of social and economic justice.”

Jesuits advocate an action-focused care for creation by reducing greenhouse gases and harmful pollution. With Pope Francis and so many others, we need to pressure global leaders and institutions around the world to address climate change and protect our common home for current and future generations. We all have families and love our nieces and nephews and do not want to look back on our lives and see that our silence deprived them of the beautiful world we enjoy.

Besides calling others to a sustainable lifestyle, I have discovered from younger people ways I need to change my personal habits around eating, driving and my use of energy. What we do speaks much louder than what we say. The energy conversion and conservation we promote requires our individual change.

morning light filtering through pine trees 

Many of us are saddened by the loud and uninformed statements of those who deny the current damage to our air, water and land. This damage has been clearly detailed by climatologists. You have probably read the UN’s recent startling report on climate change (December 2018), warning of devastating and extreme weather, food and water scarcity, air pollution and coastal flooding.

There is a lot of political and cultural complexity and conflict around this. All Catholics and Jesuit institutions are called to move forward, even when we disagree among ourselves. Let us not withdraw in despair about necessary changes when we see the daily news of increasing worldwide damage to our Earth with its carbon, plastic particles and extinction of so many species.

The Jesuit “Principle and Foundation” requires us to protect all gifts, especially relationships with God, others and our planet. Our “Way of Proceeding” requires forgiveness and maintaining relationships with others. We can work together to save our planet and its nonhuman animals. But loving the Earth and everybody on it, and not just the few, is a primary criterion of our way of proceeding.

Let us continue to fall in love and move into action with God and all creation.

Have a question or response? 

Reconciling God, Creation and Humanity:
An Ignatian Examen

(from; PDF available here

1. I give thanks to God for creation and for being wonderfully made. Where did I feel God’s presence in creation today?

2. I ask for the grace to see creation as God does—in all its splendor and suffering. Do I see the beauty of creation and hear the cries of the earth and the poor?

3. I ask for the grace to look closely to see how my life choices impact creation and the poor and vulnerable. What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation? How can I turn away from a throwaway culture and instead stand in solidarity with creation and the poor?

4. I ask for the grace of conversion toward ecological justice and reconciliation. Where have I fallen short in caring for creation and my brothers and sisters? How do I ask for a conversion of heart?

5. I ask for the grace to reconcile my relationship with God, creation and humanity, and to stand in solidarity through my actions. How can I repair my relationship with creation and make choices consistent with my desire for reconciliation with creation?

6. I offer a closing prayer for the earth and the vulnerable in our society.


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