How Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids
Have Studied and Implemented into Their Daily Living the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si from Pope Francis

Submitted April 22, 2024 by Laudato Si’ Directors Elizabeth Amman, OP and Margaret Hillary, OP


Dominican Sisters and Associates ~ Grand Rapids have responded to the call from Pope Francis to care for our earth, our common home. Sisters and Associates studied the Popes’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si, written in 2015 and his “Laudato Si” Action Platform written in 2021.

In his words, Pope Francis launched A seven-year journey that will see our communities committed in different ways to becoming totally sustainable, in the spirit of integral ecology. I would therefore invite everyone to embark on this journey together. Work together. Only in this way will we be able to create the future we want: a more inclusive, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world.

In response to this exhortation of our Holy Father Pope Francis, several organizations have developed plans that would sustain our earth and address climate issues that have a destructive effect on the poor. In like manner Dominican Sisters and Associates devoted several months to studying sustainability issues and practices. In September of 2023 our Laudato Si Action Plan was published.

Our Laudato Si’ Action Plan is modeled after the seven goals established by Pope Francis. The various study and writing committees developed actions for responding to the Cry of the Earth, the Cry of the Poor, Building Ecological Economics, Adopting a Simple Lifestyle, Creating Tools for Ecological Education, Recovering Ecological Spirituality, and Promoting Community Action and Advocacy. There are actions appropriate for individuals and other actions that our Operations Departments of Food Service, Grounds, Environment, Maintenance, and Transportation are implementing.

The Sisters did not allow the Action Plan to be placed on a shelf. Rather they gathered in small living groups to discuss how they could implement the goals of our Action Plan. The five living groups at Marywood gathered to review our Laudato Si Action Plan and discuss ways that they could implement the actions. Aquinata Sisters, who were able to meet, held a vibrant discussion. They had studied the Pope’s Encyclical, Laudato Si’ and were well aware of the needs of our earth. Sisters who live off campus participated in a Zoom meeting. They enriched the conversation with news of climate sustainability practices that people in their communities and parishes had initiated.

The Directors of all the Operations Departments at Marywood and Aquinata met and discussed the Grand Rapids Dominican Laudato Si’ Action Plan. They have been initiating sustainable practices for a number of years. The Food Service Department uses washable and reuseable dishes and service ware. They wash large loads of dishes and ask Sisters to submit menus indicating the size of the food serving they need. In these ways Dietary has reduced food, water, and electrical waste. For those days that dishes cannot be washed, they provide compostable paper plates, bowls, cups, and serving utensils. The Food Service Department purchases from local food and service providers to the extent possible. They have collaborated with vendors and other organizations to assess and gather information regarding paper products, food production and local venders in order to provide resources that protect our earth and promote small independent local businesses.

The Maintenance and Environmental Services Department is always researching for up-to-date and new organic products. Within the past year they have purchased five or six new organic products. The four primary chemicals they use are ecologically sustainable; they purchase mop products that are washable and reuseable; and they have provided four new wall-mounted chemical products so as to eliminate plastic jugs.

The Grounds Department has planted over forty-five new trees and experts have been hired to guide our decisions regarding the older forest area and land sculpturing. Some trees were rehomed from a site that was removing trees in order to build a facility. Sisters have collaborated with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreations Department for trees and the seeds of water plants and flowers that will contribute to sustaining our earth. A burn eradicated invasive plants on our Prairie. The land habitats are being restored with flowers and plants native to Michigan and attractive to birds. The flowers and plants were purchased through grants from Wild Ones and National Wildflowers.

The Transportation Department is exploring issues involved with the care and maintenance of hybrid and electric cars. They are conscious of these alternatives when replace aging vehicles. As opportunities become feasible, they will proceed to study options for remodeling the parking area to accommodate conduit pathways for electrical recharging stations.

Sisters conscientiously recycle. Bins are available for compostables, recycling products, waste, and cans. The cans are given to organizations to support their charities. Cans are sent to St. Alphonsus Parish to support Social Service Ministries and the tabs go to Ronald McDonald House to support family care services.

Sisters are conserving water, washing larger loads of laundry, and purchasing Fair Trade products when possible. One example of the intentionality of Sisters is their question about leaving a charger plugged into an outlet. The answer to their concern is that they can leave chargers plugged into outlets without expending a large amount of electricity.

Several research projects are in place. The lighting system at Marywood is being studied to determine how best to reduce the electrical output. LED lights have been installed. A purchasing policy is being developed as well as a baseline measurement of compost, recycling, and waste.

Other groups influenced by our Dominican Charism are also initiating sustainable practices. Liturgists are conscious of the need for prayer to support all actions that care for our common home and frequently incorporate petitions for our earth and the care of the poor. Dominican Center practices sustainability and provides sessions devoted to Ecological Spirituality. For example, DCM collaborates with Aquinas College students to plant native flora in the prairie at Marywood.

Our Associates have gathered faithfully in small study groups for a number of years. They researched environmental issues and initiated ecologically appropriate practices in their homes and broader communities. They are collaborating with other organizations to promote community resilience and empowerment.

Dominican Sisters and Associates of Grand Rapids are aware of our need to care for our earth, our common home and to care for the poor. They are collaborating with other organizations to plant native trees, flowers and plants and initiate sustainable practices. Through prayer and in their daily living they are joyfully and enthusiastically collaborating with others to provide opportunities for all humanity to live fully human lives on an ecologically sustainable earth.