People from all over the Archdiocese of Cape Town gathered in the hall of St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Langa for a workshop on Laudato Si’ – Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.  Fittingly, for drought stricken Cape Town, the day of the workshop was cold and wet.

Participants looking at resource material which was avaliable at the workshop

The Laudato Si’ Committee of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, setup by Archbishop Stephen Brislin, organised the day and entitled it ‘Care for our Common Home’. The committee invited the Jesuit Institute team from Johannesburg to lead the day. The workshop was presented by Jesuit Father Russell Pollitt, director of the Jesuit Institute, and Dr Martin van Nierop, managing director of Gondwana Environmental Solutions.

The Institute and Gondwana collaborated to produce a workbook on Laudato Si’ as a resource to help small discussion groups to work through the teachings of Laudato Si’. The organisations have partnered to present workshops on the encyclical. Each participant received a copy of the workbook as part of their registration.

Dr Martin van Nierop of Gondwana Environmental Solutions addressing the participants on the effects of climate change

The archbishop opened the workshop telling the 80 participants that the drought has forced Capetonians to save water. He said that ideas, like the reuse of grey water, even after the water crisis is over, needs to be continually developed and inculcated into the way we live on a day-to-day basis. He went on to say that parishes and homes should become more aware of the imperative to care for the environment and an injunction of our Catholic faith. Brislin said that caring for the environment means that a change of lifestyle is necessary for everyone.

Cape Town’s Catholic Archbishop, Stephen Brislin, introducing the day and the guest speakers

The workshop content covered things like why it is important to care for the environment – not only from an ecological perspective, but also from a spiritual, social and cultural perspective. It looked at the environmental problems that currently face humanity. At the beginning of the workshop an introductory session looked at the Catholic Church’s concern for environmental issues since Vatican II. It highlighted how popes, since Pope John XXIII, have advocated for the environment.

At the end of the workshop participants were given the opportunity to dialogue on practical ways in which they could implement the lessons of Laudato Si’ in their own homes, communities, parishes and schools.

Some of the ideas that were raised included starting recycling centres at the parish/school, including lessons from Laudato Si’ in catechism classes (especially in Confirmation groups) and being aware of and working towards saving electricity both at home and at the parish. It was also suggested that rain water harvesting at parishes was implemented. Parishes play a very important role, participants agreed, on helping advocate for and lead the way in caring for the environment.

If you are interested or want more information about the ‘Care of our Common Home’ workbook, or want to know more about the workshop for your diocese, deanery, parish or school, please contact the Jesuit Institute: admin@jesuitinstitute.org.za SA.

Images: Bernie Crewe-Brown