23 May 2023
Valuing Humanity, Valuing Creation: Promoting a Sustainable Lifestyle

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


Consumerism, immediate gratification, and individualism are encouraged in many areas of our society. How can we work against this culture in order to promote one of simple living, responsibility for others, and community?


In our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we have included goals that challenge us to contemplate our relationship to others and the Earth. These goals encourage us to live counter-culturally, to be guided by values that place people and creation above greed and pleasure.


One of the values that guides our Laudato Si’ Action Plan is the dignity and value of the human person. This value is central to Catholic Social Teaching and shapes our mission as Clinton Franciscans – to live lives of active nonviolence and peacemaking. Consider, for example, the movements in the United States to prevent workers from unionizing and the efforts to eliminate or weaken child labor laws even as cases of children working in unsafe conditions are uncovered. The continued presence of such movements motivates us to advocate against the exploitation of all people. That is why one area of our Laudato Si’ Action Plan focuses on human trafficking.


To observe Campaign Nonviolence’s Days of Action in October 2022, the Franciscan Peace Center hosted a Just Food event on The Canticle property. This event educated participants about human trafficking and food production. Participants learned about child labor involved in the production of chocolate and the responsible process of producing and marketing cheese locally. The event was cosponsored by the Clinton Public Library, which displayed resources related to food production and trafficking, and the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center, which offered children’s activities to understand where our food comes from. This event also highlighted the Share Our Sandwiches program, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa, that provides a free lunch for people experiencing food insecurity. The World Food Programme estimates that there are “more than 345 million people facing high levels of food insecurity in 2023.” Expanding access to healthy, affordable food is central to ensuring that every person has the food they need. And yet, food production should not be at the expense of the safety of laborers.


Another value that guides our Laudato Si’ Action Plan is the value of creation. As Pope Francis notes, humans are part of creation and our actions affect the health of the environment. Thus, it is necessary to consider how we live as individuals and communities in order to live simply and make responsible choices for the good of Earth. One of our Cry of the Earth goals was to assess the carbon footprint of our vehicle fleet, study electric vehicle usage, and implement an improvement plan. Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland notes, “Vehicles are one of the highest sources of carbon dioxide on the planet.  Anything we can do to reduce the emissions is valuable, and I am pleased that we took this step to honestly look at what we drive.” The committee engaged a professional consultant to assess the vehicles and considered the cost and accessibility of electric vehicles in Clinton, Iowa, as well as the needs of the Clinton Franciscans in choosing vehicles to purchase. The committee next developed a policy for vehicle purchases. As Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland observes, “This policy committed the Sisters of St. Francis to make every effort to acquire and use the lowest emission vehicles possible, reduce our vehicle use, and keep vehicles properly maintained. We have purchased two vehicles since that time – a lower emission truck and a Prius, both of which follow this policy.” This policy builds on previous ones such as sharing cars and communal shopping, which cuts down on carbon emissions. Thus, in everyday practices and in large purchases, the Clinton Franciscans strive to protect the Earth through our choices and actions.


So, the next time you need to purchase something consider the broader context. Do you need that item? Does it need to be new or can you purchase something used? Is it a fair-trade product? What is its impact on the environment and vulnerable communities? Does it honor the value and dignity of the human person and creation? As the Clinton Franciscans continue to focus on our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, our efforts will continue to consider how our lifestyles impact those around us and the Earth.


Want to learn more about issues related to the Care of Creation and human trafficking? 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