Why Laudato Si’ Circles grew 279 percent in 2020
Janet Kraus’ Laudato Si’ Circle started with a desire to be outside.
The COVID-19 pandemic had taken hold, in September 2020, and the retired high school biology teacher, along with the rest of the world, was seeking ways to spend extra time in creation.
For her final project to become a Laudato Si’ Animator, she started a Laudato Si’ Circle, a small group of people that meets regularly to deepen their relationship with God as Creator and all of creation.
“I believe we’re saved in community. I didn’t want to do this by myself, and what a blessing,” Kraus said.
She had company. In 2020, the number of Laudato Si’ Circles all over the globe grew by 279 percent.
In 2019, there were 47 Laudato Si’ Circles on six continents, and by the end of 2020, 178 Circles were meeting worldwide.
The rapid growth took place all over the globe, with Italy seeing the most growth.
The European country had one registered Laudato Si’ Circle in 2019. But now boasts 90, including 21 that have already been formed this year.
Janet Kraus’ Laudato Si’ Circle enjoys meeting in creation.
The drastic uptick of new Laudato Si’ Circles reflects our growing desire to connect with each other and grow closer to God.
The COVID-19 pandemic might have forced us to practice social distancing and stay inside at times, but as people of faith, we still found ways to pray together and create hope in our communities.
“The prayer Circle was peaceful, unifying, open, and filled with grace,” Kraus wrote after one Circle gathering.
Circles vary in nearly every way around the world.
Kraus’ Circle, for instance, consists of members of a local Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation committee and is a multi-faith Circle, as a Lutheran and Jew also participate.
Other Circles, however, consist of only Catholics.
Kraus’ Circle in New York City meets outside on a monthly basis, in Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan, although they took the harsh northeastern U.S. winter off.
This map includes Circles with an unspecified start date and those that have been created in 2021.
But some Circles meet every week and have been connecting through Zoom during the pandemic.
In India, Alice Fernandes started her Laudato Si’ Circle in 2020 after feeling a “deep sense of futility as I looked at the state of our common home and the near impossible task of setting things right.”
But then she remembered that “Pope Francis gives us courage in Laudato Si’ by concluding with a stirring message of eternal hope through God’s unfailing mercy.
“I knew I had to form a Laudato Si’ Circle,” she said.
She started her Circle by hosting a webinar. She’s promoted meetings through social media, including WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, and has hosted her Circle gatherings on Zoom.
‘Circles of people who pray, reflect, and work for creation are most suited to these times of restricted movement and socializing, and I knew they would provide me with the ideal platform to work in faith for the glory of the Father, the Son, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” she said.
The groups also differ in what they do during gatherings.
Some Circles read and reflect on the prayerful and free Laudato Si’ Resource, which is produced monthly by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
Other Circles read directly from Scripture or go on walks in creation, an activity that Kraus’ Circle particularly enjoys.
All Circles, however, unite with the same goal: to take steps on their ecological conversion journey together and grow closer to God as our Creator.
Irene D’Agostini sees her participation in a Laudato Si’ Circle in Piossasco, Italy, near Turin, as a way of being the change she wants to see in the world.
“Laudato Si’ has become so important to me. It changed my way of looking at the world because it showed me how much everything is connected and gave me a new hope for the future,” she said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a feeling thousands around the world have felt throughout 2020 and into 2021 as they’ve joined or formed Laudato Si’ Circles.
Already this year, 76 new Circles have been created. You can start your Laudato Si’ Circle today.
“Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds… The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion” (LS 219).