From praying together to testifying before lawmakers: How Laudato Si’ Circles bring about change in their communities

January 6, 2021

Robert Castagna, far right, and his Laudato Si’ Circle in the U.S.

The below story was adapted from the December Laudato Si’ Resource. The spiritual resource is produced monthly for Laudato Si’ Animators, Laudato Si’ Circles, and everyday Catholics to use and help them grow closer to our Creator.

You can find the entire resource, as well as past editions, here.

By Robert Castagna
Laudato Si’ Animator (Indiana, USA)

Following a parish forum on Laudato Si’, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Laudato Si’ Circle Environmental Ministry in Saint John, Indiana, was formed. Concerned about the world we are handing on to future generations, our team is dedicated to taking small steps, involving others, and turning small steps into a human march with our dedicated sisters and brothers globally.

Composed of various life paths, our ministry team includes backgrounds in nursing, teaching, educational administration, church ministry, government service, chemistry, local life history, public relations, and law. The richness of our backgrounds nourishes the discussions expressed around our table.

Beginning with time for prayer, our agenda is open to suggestions from all. After experiencing concerns about implementing Laudato Si’, we approached Fr. Sammie Maletta, our pastor, and he decided that he would preach and invite parishioners to take action.

The discussion between pastor and Circle focused on his love for trees. He suggested he would contact local nurseries for saplings to obtain the best price. When that exploration did not prove fruitful, the Circle members brainstormed offering trees to parishioners.

With inspiration from the Holy Spirit, the Circle members discussed using the Indiana State Forestry Department to buy seedlings in bulk and the Arbor Day Foundation’s initiative, “Time for Trees.”

The regional State Forestry office proved inspiring in terms of seedlings in bulk, but the logistics of delivery, sorting, and distributing proved to be insurmountable.

The Arbor Day Foundation, however, proved to be productive and the cost for individual participation was reasonable. For a $10 fee, a parishioner could purchase 10 trees for planting either in the nation’s forests or in a threatened rain forest.

An information page was designed for inclusion in the parish bulletin for three consecutive weekends. Laptops were available to show the foundation’s web page. Brochures were purchased in bulk, and coloring pages were made available to the excited children.

After the Masses, parishioners were enthusiastic about finding something tangible they could do to address climate change. Through our network, we shared the idea of tree-planting and found a responsive parish, which used our bulletin page as a template and embraced “Time for Trees.”

We’re thankful to the Holy Spirit for the big changes we’ve seen come about since our Circle took small steps. Another parish in our region has replicated our actions.

Concerns about public policy have led to testimony before the Indiana state legislature, and interest in advancing the implementation of Laudato Si’ has resulted in discussions about convening a statewide meeting of concerned parishes and individuals.

Led by the Holy Spirit, people of good will shall turn small steps into a global march of like-minded individuals. Deo Gratias!