Notre Dame to celebrate environment at Feast of Saint Francis

by Rachel Novick

Feast of Saint Francis

The University of Notre Dame community will celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment, on Monday (Oct. 4), with festivities, thought-provoking discussion, and opportunities to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis, who was known for his love for nature and the poor.

Mass will be celebrated at 5:15 p.m. by Rev. William Lies, C.S.C., at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart. At 8 p.m., Dan DiLeo of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change will present “A Catholic Approach to Climate Change” in the Geddes Coffeehouse, followed by discussion and a reception.

The Coalition’s St. Francis Pledge brings together families, parishes, schools and communities around the country in a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and advocate on behalf of Creation and the poor.

Dinner at North and South Dining Halls will feature a nature-themed dessert buffet in honor of the Feast Day, and tables where students can sign pledges to better care for nature and the poor through service opportunities and simple everyday choices. The program is co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Center for Social Concerns, the Department of Theology and Campus Ministry.

This year’s Feast of Saint Francis comes at a time when the sustainability movement stands at a crossroads. Following international failure to reach a climate agreement through the United Nations Conference of Parties in Copenhagen last December, and domestic failure to pass comprehensive clean energy security legislation, both the United States and the international community have been unable to adequately respond to what Pope Benedict XVI has called “matters of grave concern for the entire human family.”

In response, Notre Dame has strived to call attention to the moral and spiritual dimensions of carbon pollution. The Feast of Saint Francis also marks the one-year anniversary of the first national conference on sustainability and Catholic higher education, held at Notre Dame in October 2009. Titled “Renewing the Campus”, the landmark conference brought together representatives from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as faculty, staff and students from more than 40 Catholic colleges and universities across the country.

“Father Hesburgh has given us a vision of Notre Dame as a university that serves as both a lighthouse and a crossroads,” said Notre Dame junior Patrick McCormick, one of the organizers of “Renewing the Campus” and the Feast of Saint Francis program. “On the Feast of Saint Francis, we recall the words of a saint who told us to ‘preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, to use words.’ The true celebration of the legacy of Saint Francis will be in the actions that we take in a world that all too often loses sight of the fact that a commitment to ecological justice is inseparable from a commitment to the dignity of the human person.”