Newman to begin 7-year plan as Laudato Si’ university

Nov 02, 2021

“The environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. … Bring the whole human family together … for we know that things can change.” (Laudato Si’ 10- 13).

In 2015, Pope Francis published an encyclical letter — one of the highest forms of addresses from the pope to the entire Catholic Church. Through his encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” the pope recognized the challenges that Earth and all its inhabitants face, and how sustainability plays an integral part in our future.

Newman University recently joined the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) cohort in support of a seven-year Laudato Si’ action platform to be developed and implemented on campus.

St. John Henry Newman statue
A St. John Henry Newman sculpture is located outside of Sacred Heart Hall.

Laudato Si’ Action Platform

For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, an office of the Vatican, decided that the entire world needed to engage in the pope’s message.

The dicastery will offer Laudato Si’ planning guides for communities to participate in beginning Nov. 14 — fittingly, on the World Day of Prayer for the Poor. 

“As with most things in the world, the environmental crisis affects the poor more than it does others,” Director of Mission Effectiveness Therese Wetta, ASC, explained. “Laudato Si’ emphasizes that God is the source of all creation, and what God has made we are undoing to the detriment of not only human life, but of all life.” 

Sister Therese Wetta, ASC
Sister Therese Wetta, ASC

She added, “The action platform demonstrates the importance of everybody working together to solve this big problem. No one country can fix it, and no one church can. No one government can do it —it’s going to take all of us.”

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) recently signed their commitment to move forward with Laudato Si’ plan. 

“We have two people who are taking a leadership role for the Adorers and involving all of us in our response to this platform,” Sister Therese explained. “As Pope Francis keeps saying, this is more than an economic problem. It’s also a spiritual problem because at its base, we don’t recognize the sacredness of creation.” 

Formulating an action plan

On Oct. 8, members of the Newman Board of Trustees approved of the university’s participation in the Laudato Si’ action platform. Newman University President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, signed the official document of commitment for the university to become a Laudato Si’ university on Friday, Oct. 29.

President Kathleen Jagger signs the Laudato Si' commitment on behalf of Newman University.
President Kathleen Jagger signs the Laudato Si' commitment on behalf of Newman University.
President Kathleen Jagger signs the Laudato Si’ commitment on behalf of Newman University.

The seven-year commitment to Laudato Si’ includes an initial year of planning, followed by implementation and further development. The final year is a year of “evaluation and celebration” to praise God for all that has been accomplished, Sister Therese said.

“Our hope for Newman is that somehow this whole spiritual ecological process can be a thread weaving through our strategic plan,” she said.

The Laudato Si’ action platform identifies seven goals: (1) respond to the cry of the earth, (2) respond to the cry of the poor, (3) foster ecological economics, (4) adopt a sustainable lifestyle, (5) offer ecological education, (6) develop ecological spirituality and (7) support local communities.

Over the coming year, Newman University will gather committee members who will help identify actionable steps to be taken on campus and within the community. Anyone interested in assisting with the Laudato Si’ planning process can email Sister Therese at [email protected] or university chaplain Father Adam Grelinger at [email protected]

A sculpture of Saint Maria DeMattias and a student resides outside of DeMattias Hall.
A sculpture of Saint Maria DeMattias and a student resides outside of DeMattias Hall.

Promise on campus

Two incoming classes of first-year students studied the pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si’: On the Care of Our Common Home” for their freshman reading during the Traditions and Transitions (T&T) class. Father Adam believes that by having students read the document, Newman has “prepared the soil” for the goals of Laudato Si’ to unfold on campus.

“Those students being sophomores and juniors this year, I think that’s a great place to start,” Father Adam said. “Now we can begin pursuing these goals very intentionally as part of this program.”

First-time students in 2019 took a class trip to the Sedgwick County Zoo to explore conservation after reading “Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home” by Pope Francis.

Father Adam added that he’s certain that more reading, study and prayer are all necessary steps that will need to be taken in tandem with those of the action plan, but that “we’re in a good place.”

“I’d be excited to see what our faculty and students and staff can bring to the table to pursue these goals here,” he said.

Sister Therese added, “Wherever you are in the world, you are asked to become part of this movement.”


The Laudato Si’ seven-year action plan is designed for seven sectors: families, parishes, educational institutions, health care institutions, organizations and groups, economic sectors and religious congregations alike. Explore resources for each of the following groups:

Get involved

Interested in playing a role in the Laudato Si’ action plan at Newman University? Submit your email of interest to Sister Therese Wetta, ASC.