24 May 2023
Challenges and Commitment

by Jennifer Kryszak, Director of Strategic Planning for the Franciscan Peace Center


Our work on the Laudato Si’ Action Plan shows us how focusing on particular issues and recognizing connections to intersecting issues can make a difference in the lives of people and the health of the Earth; however, not all of our efforts have been fruitful. As in all great movements, there have been set-backs and challenges as well as recognition that our work must continue into the future.


Considering our response to the Cry of the Earth, one of our goals is to assess our solar panels and increase their efficiency. Significantly, after transportation, energy generation is the second largest source of global warming from greenhouse gases. The Clinton Franciscans installed solar panels on The Canticle property to decrease the greenhouse gases related to their energy consumption; however, the solar panels are not performing as well as they were advertised to and their use has not decreased The Canticle’s energy cost because much of the energy bill is based on peak demand – the time when electricity is most used at The Canticle. As a committee worked on this goal, they noted that there were challenges to increasing the solar panel efficiency, especially concerning peak demand.


While the committee might feel discouraged, they also remain committed to continuing their work. In a recent conversation I had with Sojourner Lou Egging, he noted, “Our world is suffering. We can see it here in Clinton.” The derecho in Iowa and atmospheric rivers in California are just two examples of the extreme weather that demonstrates the severe effects of climate change. Taking steps to lessen the impact of our energy consumption translates to positive outcomes for the Earth. Now, the solar panel committee, on which Egging serves, will consider capacitors to store energy to use during peak demand.  As Lou Egging notes, “The Sisters are a good example for us to see how they try to improve.” While we might not see immediate results or know the exact way forward, the efforts of the Clinton Franciscans demonstrate to ourselves and others how we can make a difference and potentially inspire people to take similar steps to care for creation and all of humanity.


This desire to care for others similarly inspired our advocacy against the Iowa gun amendment. In October 2022, the Franciscan Peace Center and other area religious communities hosted a webinar “Understanding the Iowa Gun Amendment: A Faith-based Perspective” featuring Art Roche, Acting Chair for Iowans for Gun Safety; Tom Chapman, Executive Director, Iowa Catholic Conference; and Tom Brezenski, Ph.D., Public Policy and Political Science. While the amendment ultimately passed, we raised awareness of issues around gun safety and gun violence prevention. The ongoing gun violence in our society continues to compel the Franciscan Peace Center staff to advocate for legislation banning assault weapons and other safety measures. Uniting with other women religious communities in the recently formed Nuns Against Gun Violence organization, we will continue to work for gun violence prevention.


One other goal of our Laudato Si’ Action Plan focuses on educating people about systemic racism. While it is challenging to address how the structures of society are racist, we know that it is necessary to continuously assess our society, including our church. That is why the Franciscan Peace Center has supported the work of the Social Justice Committee of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Baltimore, Maryland, which is leading a movement to have six Black Catholics canonized through the santo subito process. Since before the formation of the United States, Black Catholics have lived lives of holiness in the midst of a white majority that often discounts their presence and contributions. As of today, there are no African American saints from the United States. Thus, St. Ann’s calls for the canonization of six individuals to not only recognize their service and example but to correct this egregious lack of representation within the Church. The Franciscan Peace Center ran a social media campaign to educate people about these six Black Catholics: Thea Bowman, FSPA; Henriette Delille, SSF; Julia Greeley; Mother Mary Lange, OSP; Augustus Tolton; and Pierre Toussaint. We are inspired by those who signed letters in support of the santo subito process and work to challenge systemic racism in our church and society.


In changing our energy generation, advocating for legislation, and countering persistent systemic racism, we encounter challenges and discouragement that could lead us to give up on or minimize the impact of our Laudato Si’ Action Plan goals. But in these struggles, we call ourselves to be recommitted to a Laudato Si’ future, a future that requires a continual conversion of heart and mind.


Want to learn more about issues related to Care of Creation and systemic racism? Sign up for the Franciscan Peace Center’s Action Alert Digest to receive a weekly newsletter that includes recent news articles on items related to the Clinton Franciscan’s corporate stands.

Back to Laudato Si Week Reflections 2023