Father William "Jud" Weiksnar, OFM, of the Holy Name Province in Buffalo, returned home in June from a two-week trip to Italy for a meeting on justice, peace and the integrity of creation. The gathering brought together Franciscans from throughout the world who discussed the importance of caring for creation and the lasting impact of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si."
The concept of integrity of creation, formerly known as environmental ecology, is one that has united Franciscans the world over. At the meeting, attendees focused on the concepts of "Laudato Si," and on making Pope Francis' dream of having people of all religions and walks of life care for what the pope referred to as "our common home."
"A big emphasis, not just for this year but for 2017, will be to try to implement 'Laudato Si' in all of our ministries in all of our parishes," Father Weiksnar said. "One big thing is that we're asking every Franciscan friary to come up with an ecology plan and seeing how we can simplify our lifestyle, or adapt our lifestyle, in order to have less of an impact on the environment."
In his encyclical, which drew a great deal of attention last year, Pope Francis warns not only the world's Catholics, but all people of good will, that human actions, including pollution, are causing the earth to look "more and more like an immense pile of filth." The quote made headlines among secular and religious press alike. The pope stressed that care for creation is a fundamental responsibility of humanity.
According to Father Weiksnar, Pope Francis called for an "integral ecology" that is not only about all of nature, but also society and culture. The pope expressed his belief that it's the world's most prosperous nations that disproportionately contribute to pollution, while the poorest nations and individuals are frequently those who suffer the majority of the effects of lack of stewardship for the environment.
As a Franciscan friar, Father Weiksnar said this issue is coming from the highest levels of the Franciscan order and will be a mandate for 2017. Many communities of women religious and individuals, such as Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, chair of the diocesan Care for Creation Committee, have also joined forces with the Franciscan fathers. Recently, Father Weiksnar had co-presented a three-night workshop on this topic with Sister Sharon and Carol Ann Cornelius, the energy manager for the Diocese of Buffalo.
Father Wieksnar said at the beginning of the gathering, participants were asked to rate their knowledge of the pope's encyclical.
"Out of the 32 participants over the three nights of the thing, something like 28 said they would put themselves at a one," Father Weiksnar said. "So we were so happy to be able to introduce people to 'Laudato Si.'"
After the meeting, Father Weiksnar received a message from one of the workshop participants asking him about forming a Care for Creation committee in his parish. The message asked for ways to put the concepts and what he learned into action.
"I'm spread pretty thin, so I haven't been able to do anything with them, but I think one of the greatest things happening in Buffalo right now is the emergence of the bicycling community," Father Weiksnar said, noting one of the emerging cyclist groups is 'Slow Roll.' "If you're on Facebook and look for Slow Roll Buffalo, it's an amazing thing. We get thousands of people bicycling through the city every Monday night."
Father Weiksnar has committed himself to Slow Roll, which has spread throughout the country after beginning in Detroit. Slow Roll Buffalo has a website, slowrollbuffalo.org, as well as its Facebook page, to encourage the use of this greener transportation.