|October 23, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 18 • Oakland, CA|
MSJ Dominicans' center offers retreats,
reflections and enrichment
When the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose opened their new home in 2016, one could not help but appreciate the Dominican Community and Wellness Center, a two-level common space adjacent to the Sisters' St. Joseph Residence. The community center's design offers views of the Fremont hillside; it seem to be a world away from city life.
One such opportunity for enrichment occurred Oct. 14, when more than 50 people gathered at the center to hear three speakers, and share ideas of their own, on Laudato Si´, two years after the publication of Pope Francis' groundbreaking encyclical.
They provided more than lip service to sustainability. The center, as well as the residence, are certified by the US Green Building Council as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified buildings. The Sisters' building project put their "care for creation" into thoughtful action.
"Laudato Si´: A Story of Right Relationships" began with prayer. Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, of the Adrian Dominicans of Michigan, was the first presenter. Sister Patricia, who is serving as prioress of her congregation, said she welcomed the opportunity to talk about the "topic of my heart's love." She is an attorney and founder of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence in Florida.
"There is an interdependence throughout creation, at every level," she said. "Pope Francis reiterates, not only from a scientific perspective, but from spirituality and relationship."
Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si´, she noted, not just to Catholics but to "all people of good will." It was published before the December 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris.
He addresses not just an ecological issue, but one of spirituality and morality.
"In every sentence, Pope Francis connects the suffering of the poor with the suffering of the Earth," she said. "They are connected."
"Laudato Si´ is filled with concern for future generations," she said. Our Children's Trust, she said, is doing creative legal work by suing on behalf of children. She spoke of Juliana v. U.S., a lawsuit on climate change filed in Oregon.
"They are saying they have a constitutional right to the expectation of a healthy future and they're being denied that," she said.
The Center for Earth Jurisprudence was asked to file a friend of the court brief, written through the framework of Laudato Si´.
The two speakers who followed spoke about putting Laudato Si´ into action. Andra Yeghoian served as director of sustainability at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland — which received LEED platinum certification — before joining the San Mateo County Office of Education as environmental education coordinator. Erica Kudyba, an environmental engineer at Stanford University, is one of four members of the "Green Team" at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in San Francisco.
Yeghoian used Bishop O'Dowd's charism, "Finding God in All Things," as the starting point as she began her work as the school's sustainability director.
At St. Teresa of Avila Parish, the "Green Team" members meet monthly by teleconference during their commute time. All are involved in sustainability in their professional lives. The parish team focuses on improving the parish's environmental performance; educating and engaging members of the parish; and providing outreach to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
In 2016, the team customized a Lenten calendar for the parish with tips based on Laudato Si´; arranged an energy assessment for the parish; took part in an archdiocesan green team event; celebrated Earth Day with inspiring music at Mass and a zero-waste coffee and doughnuts afterward; arranged for an energy audit that showed how efficiently the parish is using its utilities; and evaluated the indoor air quality. Green tips are published in the parish bulletin.
For information on retreats or other use of the community space, contact Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, motherhouse administrator, at 510-933-6334 or email@example.com.
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