We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
Prayer of Reflection
God of all creation, your goodness and glory shine forth through everything you have made. Through the light of faith, help us to see this world, our common home, not as a resource to dominate and exploit, but as a gift to be cherished by all generations. Prompted by your Spirit, we ask this in the name of Jesus, through whom all creation was made.
Read from the Bible
- 1 In the beginning, …God created the heavens and the earth… 11 Then God said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. And so it happened… 25 God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. 27 God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth…31 God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good…
- 15 The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.
- 1 …The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it. 2 For he founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers.
Read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
- “The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. 195 Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. 196” (CCC, no. 2415)
- “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.” Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment.” (CCC, no. 339)
Read from the Letters from the Popes
- 67. We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.
- The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23).
Reflections from the Poor Handmaids and Saint Katharina Kasper
There’s seems to be something significant about smallness in the beginnings of the Poor Handmaid history. Katharina started small in 1848 when with less than two dollars in her pocket she set out to build a small dwelling in her village from which to gather others for prayer and for ministry to the needy of the area. It proved to be enough when coupled with trust in providence.
The congregation started small in 1851 when Katharina and four other young women of the Dernbach area professed vows as the first Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. They proved to be enough to draw hundreds of other candidates in a short time to their way of life.
We started small in Hessen Cassel, Indiana in 1868 when the first German Poor Handmaids arrived in America to assist German immigrants in their needs. The resources of these Sisters were small and they found only an unkempt farmhouse waiting for them, but their reliance on one another and on the Holy Spirit was enough to see them through those early pioneering days in America.
Translating smallness into “enoughness” holds a message for today’s world where in spite of our wealth and resources we live with anxiety and doubt about the future of our planet, our common home. Katharina and the Sisters of the past lived with an innate sense that the gift of creation was to be used respectfully, to be shared with equity and to be cared for with respect. All of that implies living with enoughness that allows both abundance for all and ensures the integrity of nature.
Today’s Poor Handmaids are committed to the concept of integral ecology introduced in Laudato Si’ which leads to integral thinking which results in integral living. Believing in the reality of the interdependence and interconnection of all creation moves us to trust that simple sustainable actions ripple out to affect our social, economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual environments. This implies an ecological conversion in all of our relationships with both people and the rest of creation.
Examples from the Foundation’s Work
Annually, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation has the opportunity to support or partner with nearly 100 local agencies focused on caring for the most vulnerable in our community. We regularly observe the interconnectedness of all our work and parts. There is an increased awareness of our integrated ecology. We have:
- Recognized the importance of safe housing as part of our integrated ecology and worked with the local health department to address high levels of lead poisoning among lower-income children and people living in housing built before the 1970’s
- Supported food reclamation programs that create nutritious meals to feed hungry people and reduce food waste
- Utilized previously-owned furniture in our offices instead of purchasing new, and connected our community partners with similar opportunities
- Operated an active recycle program of disposable products used within our own office and daily operations.
- How does care for creation intersect with healthcare services locally?
- How can we care for our neighbors by caring for creation?
- What is the largest threat to a healthy environment in our community?
The information above was compiled by Meg Distler, Mary Tyndall, and Mark Burkholder as a student capstone project for the Catholic Social Tradition and Philanthropy course offered by the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, and the Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA) in the Summer of 2023.