Diocesan News

Parish to host panel symposium on Laudato Si’

March 7 event at St. Michael in Lincoln free and open to the public

Story by Tess Wahlmeier

Lincoln (SNR) - St. Michael Parish in Lincoln will host a panel symposium on Pope Francis’s most recent encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On the Care for Our Common Home)  Monday, March 7, at 7 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

“I see Laudato Si’ as a landmark encyclical by Pope Francis,” said Father Borowiak, pastor of St. Michael Parish.  “When it was issued on May 24 of 2015, it garnered a great deal of interest and feedback, not only in the Catholic Church but also in the media and among all peoples around the world in all kinds of economic and social backgrounds.”

Father Borowiak said the idea for the symposium arose from conversations among parishioners about the encyclical. Father Borowiak decided to get multiple perspectives on the encyclical, and invited parishioners to discuss the merits of opening discussion to the wider public.

St. Michael parishioners came up with the idea of a symposium as a means of making the encyclical better known. Several well-known scholars and scientists, some St. Michael parishioners, were invited to be a part of a panel.  Among the group is Bishop James D. Conley; Father John Shea, S.J., Ph.D., a Jesuit priest and resident assistant professor of biology at Creighton University; Omar Gutiérrez, an expert in the Catholic Church’s social teaching and special assistant to Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas; Paul Black, Ph.D., and Concetta DiRusso, Ph.D., professors of biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Maureen Bausch, R.N., of pastoral care at CHI St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.

“We are very blessed to have an all-star panel of presenters,” Father Borowiak said, “and I think that they’re going to bring some very interesting perspectives to this symposium.”

These speakers will each address the encyclical with regard to their own profession in an effort to enlighten others how religious, medical, ecological, social, scientific standpoints and dimensions of the encyclical can inform people about care for the earth.

Father Borowiak said his parishioners are excited to offer this event.

“We have a local opportunity to incisively look at a major teaching of the contemporary Church in such a way that people who attend can be enriched and strengthened in their faith,” he said, “and motivated by the presenters to try to live out the practical implications of this encyclical.”

Joy Martin, chair of St. Michael’s evangelization committee, said that the symposium is an opportunity to connect one’s faith with many different areas of science, such as ecology, conservation, and economics, which is extremely important in today’s day and age.

“All of those components are not meant to be separate domains, but really they are connected,” she said.

Martin also said one wouldn’t have to read the encyclical before attending the symposium, but those who are interested can find it online at the Holy See’s web site at Vatican.va.

Laudato Si’ is a beautiful blend to help anybody at any point of their faith journey have a better understanding of the Church here on earth – literally, in this case,” she said.

The encyclical is about more than just taking care of the environment.  Father Eric Clark, assistant pastor at St. Michael, explained that many people do not recognize the separation between man and nature which exists is because of the Fall.

“In the beginning,” he said, “everything was good and there was harmony, but the Fall of man brought separation – separation between God and man, separation between human beings, separation between man and himself, and separation between man and creation.”

“With all the encyclicals throughout history of the Church, they always try to look at the breaks between three relationships: between God and man, man and man, and man with himself,” Father Clark said, “but here is finally an encyclical, as St. Pius X says, ‘to restore all things in Christ,’ even creation.”

“During the Sundays of Lent,” he continued, “Father Borowiak and I have been preaching on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Well, how do you give drink to the thirsty in Nebraska? We don’t see that many people who lack water. Water is plentiful; we’re sitting on a gold mine with the Ogallala aquifer underneath us, but we need to think about how we can conserve this treasure for future generations of Nebraskans, crops and livestock, too. 

“So to give drink to the thirsty,” he continued, “doesn’t always just mean to give drink to the thirsty here, but in thinking about the future of how can we conserve water.”

Father Clark said this is one practical aspect of Pope Francis’ encyclical.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis encourages people to develop a sense of an “integral ecology” in cultivating virtue while protecting the earth’s environmental habitats. Laudato Si’ is the medieval central-Italian phrase for “Praise Be to You” and is derived from St. Francis of Assisi’s famous Canticle of the Creatures (ca. 1225) which reads in English translation, “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.”

The subtitle of the encyclical, “On the Care for Our Common Home,” reflects the predominant themes of this papal document as Pope Francis offers spiritual and substantive suggestions for caring for the environment.

“He challenges each one of us, individually, to think about what we can do,” Martin said.  “I think it gives an opportunity for people to think about how the Church functions across the world . . .  it is  helpful to realize that he is talking about the Catholic Church from a global perspective, and that gives us a lot of things to think about,” she said.

Those who attend the panel symposium on Laudato Si’ will go home with a clearer understanding of the encyclical and a collection of perspectives on it from the panel.

“We have asked each of these speakers to address different aspects of the encyclical, so I hope they come away with an enriched view of what an encyclical is, what it’s meant to be, as well as the nature of the content so participants are left thinking about faith issues as well as human concerns,” Martin said.

The event is hosted by St. Michael Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Parish Council of Catholic Women. Please call 402-488-1313 for more information, or visit St. Michael’s website at stmichaellincoln.org.

St. Michael Parish is just south and west of the corner of 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road in southeast Lincoln.

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