Shaping future leaders through Laudato Si’

July 6, 2020

Enélida Hernández, not pictured, helped her students connect with nature earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic.

Enélida Hernández of the Canary Islands in Spain noticed that her students lacked a connection with nature.

They didn’t garden, and they rarely spent time away from their city of 50,000 people, in solitude with nature.

In fact, their knowledge about the world around them was so scarce they didn’t understand where their food came from and who produced it.

The students didn’t know cows produce milk or that potatoes come from the soil.

“Food comes from the mall,” Hernández remembers her students thinking. “They see all of the produce there . . . The students are very far away from nature.”

With Laudato Si’ in mind, she is changing that. Earlier this year, Hernández used Pope Francis’ world-changing encyclical on climate change and ecology and her Laudato Si’ Animator training to educate her students and transform her school.

Enélida Hernández

Hernández teaches Spanish, literature, and college-prep courses to about 200 students ages 12-17 in the Canary Islands. She also serves as her Catholic school’s pastoral coordinator.

To help her students gain an appreciation for nature, she strengthened the school’s project with Cáritas Diocesanas and helped a group of students nurture a quarter-acre of urban gardens.

The students planted, watered, and harvested the vegetables, including onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and potatoes. (The students will no longer wonder about the origin of the latter.)

In January and February, before the coronavirus pandemic hit Spain, 45 students spent at least two hours a week caring for the orchard and growing closer with creation.

Their commitment was so strong some opted to spend their Saturday mornings caring for the orchard rather than lying in bed.

Hernandez’s students grew closer with creation earlier this year.

In March, Hernández enrolled in the Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Laudato Si’ Animator program, where she received free, in-depth online training in her language about the tenets of Laudato Si’ and the root causes of climate change.

That training helped her truly amplify Laudato Si’s message of hope and action for creation throughout her school.

Every Laudato Si’ Animator ends the training with a final project. For hers, Hernández launched a Laudato Si’ Circle, small groups that meet regularly to deepen their relationship with God as Creator and all of creation.

She connected with her fellow teachers, who also wanted to improve their students’ relationships with creation, and the teachers met biweekly (online), uniting in solidarity for prayer and reflection.

Later on in their Circle meetings, they thought of ways to bring the teachings of Laudato Si’ into every subject the school offers.

“We felt the need to teach the children another way of life, to have respect for themselves, respect for others, and respect for nature,” she said.

For instance, in economics, they agreed to connect the teaching of globalization with how Laudato Si’ addresses the topic. In Spanish classes, teachers will start assigning and reading texts that have a connection with the themes and life-giving messages of Laudato Si’.

Class by class and student by student, Hernández is helping transform her community’s present and future.

“We are working to care for our common home,” Hernández said. “Climate change is urgent . . They understand that they need to have a solution to this problem.”