Caring for the Earth: What does that mean for us?

Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark
Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark

Earth is crying. Whole species of plants and animals are dying. There is news of drought and terrible storms almost every week. People are fleeing their homes because they can no longer live without food, water and security. The environmental crises brought on by climate change are increasing and are more foreboding. We must do something, together, now. There is no more time to waste!

What is crystal clear from Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,’” is that each of us believers has an obligation to do something to respond to the cries of Earth. Francis provides a powerful scriptural basis for this obligation, and he roots it in the social teaching of the church over the last 125 years. The challenge for many people is just what constitutes the satisfaction of this obligation. Are we all to get solar panels on our homes’ roofs? Is recycling enough? Do we have to start vegetable gardens, if we don’t have them already, or is joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture) OK? Is a hybrid vehicle in our future, or do we have to go completely electric in our next car purchase? What does political activism on behalf of Earth look like?

On Saturday Oct. 3, at 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church on Ferry Avenue and South Broadway in Camden, the Center for Environmental Transformation (CFET)( is hosting its seventh annual Thomas Berry Lecture. This year’s fund and friend raiser features Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark of the Sisters of St. Joseph, director of the Earth Center at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and one of only 25 Ambassadors for the Catholic Climate Covenant. Her talk is entitled “One Earth, One Family Together: Practical Ways to Respond to Earth’s Cry.”

She will lay out simple but effective ways in which each of us as individuals, and as communities, can respond to Pope Francis’ call to care for Earth. A teacher and long time policy activist, Sister Mary Elizabeth will provide people with tools they can use at home, in their schools, in their parishes and in their work places. The goal is to become much more attentive to our personal and collective behavior. There is much that we can do, that is right in front of us, but we often fail to recognize it.

This lecture is the seventh for the center in Camden, an effort that emerged from the faith community of Sacred Heart Church. The number “7” is holy in the Scripture. There is the seventh day when God rested from the work of creation, (Gen 2:2), the seventh year when the people allowed the land to lie fallow for the year (Ex 23:11; Lev 25:4)) and the 50th Jubilee year when all slaves were free and debts forgiven (Lev 25: 10). The genius of the seventh “day” is that the land needs its own time to rejuvenate, to be restored to its fruitful condition. While creation is a gift to all of us, and a source of our nourishment, it also demands our respect and care. This seventh Thomas Berry Lecture will be an urgent call to act together to respond to Earth’s cry!

Who should come? All people of faith, neighbors, parents, teenagers, grandparents, anyone who lives on Earth. All are welcome to this gathering. Although no tickets are needed, we will pass a basket to support the ongoing work of CFET. A reception follows the talk. Come to discover what we can do, together, to respond to Earth’s cry. It is time for a “Jubilee” year for Sister Earth.

For more information, contact Cathy Nevins at or call her at 856-816-6373.

Mark Doorley, Ph.D. is director, Ethics Program, Villanova University, and chairperson, Board of Trustees, The Center for Environmental Transformation.