The following is a reflection on the 2023-24 year of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville’s Laudato Si’ commitment. Sister Carol Curtis, social concerns coordinator, presented this at the Earth Day Prayer service held on Monday, April 22, 2024.

During our Community Days last year, we engaged the theme of Matthew 25Lord, when did we see you? And Christ responds, in those most overlooked and in need …it was Me.

During this Easter season, we are reminded again that Christ is among us as one we do not recognize: as a gardener or fellow traveler, or just a stranger on the beach watching the sunrise…

In this beautiful Easter season, we also remember Christ revealing himself, calling our name, sharing a meal; present in our gatherings (despite our uncertainty) and as we touch his wounds.

Three years ago, we began our Laudato Si’ journey with the theme: Towards an Ever Wider WE. Naming our longstanding partners in the work of peace and justice and exploring new ways to continue our ministry together has been a foundational part of our Laudato Si’ Action Plan and our own congregational planning. Our engagement with the Kentucky Waterways Alliance and familiar friend Morgan Atkinson offered the opportunity to help sponsor the documentary, This is the Ohio: Life, Death, Rebirth of the Beautiful River, which debuted in January.

Expanding our networks has acquainted us with new neighbors, such as Sacred Earth Community Garden in the West End, which trains Young Urban Gardeners [YUGS] while building community to disarm violence. Endorsed by Interfaith Paths to Peace, it is also supported by Loretto Community (in their old neighborhood!) and this year will include meditation classes by the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center; the program is also expanding its STEM curriculum in new classroom space which we are helping to sponsor.

We continue to ask: Who is my neighbor? On this 50th anniversary of the tornadoes which rampaged across Kentucky, we empathize with those who have lost their homes – and often loved ones – to natural disasters which strike with increasing intensity. Over the years, our sisters have volunteered with Water with Blessings as they work to provide water filters to hard-hit areas; this year, the organization was renamed Water By Women in recognition of the key role of the Water Women who provide clean water in their villages in developing countries. Christ’s call to St Francis: Rebuild my house which you see falling in ruins, resonates with us as we assist victims of disaster, welcome migrants and refugees, and wrestle with the critical shortage of affordable housing and spiraling cost of living.

Restoring our Common Home and preserving biodiversity, coincides with the UN Decade of Restoration of Ecosystems. Here in Louisville, we partner with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy which developed in response to the devastation of Cherokee Park by the tornado in 1974. The youthful TreesLouisville which took root across the street at Whitehall, works to restore our urban tree canopy and, with the help of students, has planted pollinator-friendly trees on our campus.

The soup kitchen, Feed Louisville, has an added dimension as its food waste is collected and converted by the U of L Compost Project (and worker worms!) to enrich the soil of our vegetable garden (10 buckets)!  Earlier this month, at the Religious Communicators Convention, Jessica Maudlin of Presbyterian Church USA acquainted us with the ecumenical counterpart of Laudato Si’, One Home/One Future, which also proposes a 7-year journey.

As we look toward the 4th year of our Laudato Si’ commitment, before strategizing, Daniel Berrigan proposes the question:  Where is the community?  From the community comes the tactic…  Who and where are we as a community? We are a diversity of communities (perhaps some we do not yet recognize)— communities within communities, nested like Matrushka dolls, yet all intertwined.

The poet Kabir writes:

I felt in need of a great pilgrimage / so I sat still for three days / and God came to me…

On this inner Camino, St Angela Merici accompanies us, confident that direction will emerge within the community. She encourages us with simple wisdom: Do as charity and the Holy Spirit will inspire you.