Category Archives: Ecological Justice

Build Anew Series – Looking Ahead

Build Anew Series — Part 10
Looking Ahead

Virginia Schilder
December 5, 2023
Welcome back to our Build Anew Series, with weekly posts covering the people, policies, and values at the heart of the issues we work on. This final post wraps up the Series and looks ahead to more work together in 2024, including the launch of Y.A.L.L.: Young Advocates Leadership Lab. Thank you to everyone who has joined us in reading, watching, and taking action!    

Well friends, here we are: our TENTH and final part of the Build Anew Series!

Thank you to everyone who has been with us on the Build Anew Series journey. Over the past few months, we dove into each issue of NETWORK’s Build Anew Agenda. We learned from the some of the people most directly impacted by these policy issues, we confronted some tough policy facts, and, rooted in the Catholic Social Justice tradition, we reflected on the moral dimensions of these social realities.

Equipped with that knowledge, reflection, and compassion, we took action — from urging President Biden to establish an H.R. 40 Reparations study commission; to calling our Representatives in Congress to protect and expand SNAP; to learning more about Medicaid unwinding; and to watching White Supremacy and American Christianity part 3.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) and NETWORK work together in political ministry for climate justice advocacyYou may have noticed that one of our key issue areas was missing from the series posts: climate justice. Earlier this year, NETWORK added climate justice to our work, thanks to an extremely generous gift from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Climate justice is connected to all of the issues in the Build Anew agenda, like food, health care, immigration, taxes, the economy, and more. As we move into the new year, join us in integrating climate justice more deeply into our advocacy!

2024 will also bring the launch of our exciting new initiative, Y.A.L.L.: Young Advocates Leadership Lab. Y.A.L.L. will equip and resource emerging Catholic and other faithful justice seekers to be leaders in working for a multiracial democracy. If you’re a young person (like me!) and found that even just one of these issues touched you or spoke to you or your community’s lived experience, we invite you to reach out to NETWORK’s Grassroots Mobilization and Education Specialist Chelsea Puckett to learn more about Y.A.L.L.

The Build Anew Series brought us back again and again to our foundational Catholic social teaching: that every single person has dignity and our flourishing is intertwined — meaning no one can be left out of our circle of care! To build anew, our society and communities to be more life-giving for all of us means cultivating solidarity, a daily conversion to loving our neighbor by working for their wellbeing. We are called to join in the Spirit’s liberating action all around us, and together, we have the power to build anew!

Thank you so much for joining us! Continue to be part of our community of justice-seekers by following NETWORK on social media (like Instagram (@network_lobby) and Facebook) and becoming a NETWORK member.

NETWORK Lobby Advocates for Catholic Social Justice

Ecological Justice Means Racial Justice

Laudato Si Week Calls Us To Recognize Our Interrelatedness

Virginia Schilder
May 24, 2022

This is part one in a three part reflection on Laudato Si Week (May 22-29, 2022), which celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and care for creation by inviting all people of goodwill and prayer and study to on how they can tackle the climate crisis.

Read Part Two Here |Read Part Three Here

Ecological justice is about more than ending climate change and restoring damaged landscapes. It is about recognizing our interrelatedness and interdependence with one another, with land, air, and water, and with the non-human life forms alongside us — and then creating social and economic structures that affirm this reality.

At NETWORK, ecological concern permeates all of the policy areas we work in. As we promote the Build Anew agenda specifically, what does it mean to prioritize ecological health and cultivate an ecological orientation?

On one level, it means that our policies must always keep ecological impact in mind. No policy can be fully just if it comes at the expense of our lands, waters, air, or other living beings. This is especially true for job creation, which does not truly help our communities if the new jobs are in the business of exploiting the very resources we need to live. It is critical that as communities grow – with more housing, schools, libraries, parks, and food markets – that development is focused on meeting real needs instead of ceaseless land conversion that depletes natural spaces, pushes out long-term inhabitants (both human and non-human), and accelerates pollution.

Dr. Kate Ward, assistant professor of theology at Marquette University, wrote last year in Connection magazine, “Integral development is a distinctively Catholic reassessment of economic development. Just like national budgets can be both moral and immoral documents, so also economic development can impede or impel authentic human development.”

Rather than alienate us from ecosystems, all forms of development should strengthen our ecological relationships and uphold ecological well-being. All policies have ecological effects, meaning ecological impact should be at the forefront of all policy discussions.   But going even further, an ecological orientation in our policy work means a holistic, multi-issue commitment to transforming the structures that denigrate human beings and the Earth alike.

The intertwining exploitation of people and land is evident in the way that women, the economically marginalized, and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately harmed by ecological destruction. While climate change affects everyone, these populations are made especially vulnerable to inadequate infrastructure, poor water quality, deforestation, hazardous waste, and increased exposure to climate change-driven disasters and displacement.

Environmental racism refers to the reality that communities of color bear most of the burden of environmental degradation. Communities of color frequently face restricted access to clean air and water, green spaces, and nutritious and locally-sourced food. These forms of racism severely threaten the health of communities of color, especially as toxic waste facilities and highways are overwhelmingly (and intentionally) built in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

Environmental racism implicates housing, food, public health, and economic policy. Measures such as creating accessible, affordable housing and ending racist zoning practices have not only racial but also significant ecological justice dimensions.

Virginia Schilder, a graduate student attending divinity school in Massachusetts, completed a one-year fellowship with NETWORK’s Communications team in early May 2022.

Just Politics Catholic Podcast Season 2

Season 2 of Just Politics Podcast is Complete – Listen Now!

Season 2 of Just Politics Podcast is Complete – Listen Now!

August 24, 2023

After a successful inaugural season of the Just Politics podcast, produced in collaboration with U.S. Catholic magazine, we came back for an exciting second season!  

Our hosts Sister Eilis McCulloh, H.M.Colin Martinez Longmore, and Joan F. Neal spoke with more advocates, Catholic Sisters, scholars, faith leaders, and even a Vatican official about how we can transform our politics for the common good.  

In season 2, which wrapped up in May, our hosts covered topics ranging from Pope Francis and integral ecology to the urgent, Spirit-filled call for economic justice, health care access, and women’s leadership.  

You can find the podcast on the U.S. Catholic website, as well as on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe, and join the conversation about #JustPoliticsPod on social media!  

Also check out Just Politics press at where you can also sign up for email updates, learn more about each episode, and find additional reading on each episode’s topics. 

COMING SOON: Season 3 of Just Politics podcast drops Monday, Sept. 11!  

Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Gen Z’s Voter Vision

Young Catholics See Connections to Their Faith When They Vote for Justice

Nora Bradbury-Haehl
April 19, 2023
Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK's Pope Francis Voter Tour.

Colin Martinez Longmore and Sr. Eilis McCulloh, HM, of the NETWORK Grassroots Mobilization Team and co-hosts of the Just Politics podcast, stand with a cutout of Pope Francis at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 12, 2022, on NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour.


On Nov. 9, 2022, the day after the midterm elections, President Joe Biden expressed his gratitude to young voters. “I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who voted in historic numbers,” he said, and named the issues they came out for: “They voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and student debt relief.”

Gen Z has embraced a platform of social justice — economic, racial, climate, immigration — and they don’t just care about it, they vote about it. In 2018, young people ages 18-29 set a record for voter turnout, 28.2 percent, and again this past fall they came just short of that previous performance at 27 percent. Indeed, Gen Z voters, the largest and most diverse generation of American voters in history, are making waves — and stopping them. The much-hyped “Red Wave” of Republican victories in 2022 never came ashore. The nation’s youngest voters made sure of it.

The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) urges that “all citizens be mindful of their simultaneous right and duty to vote freely in the interest of advancing the common good.” The Venn diagram of Catholic Social Teaching and the values of Gen Z voters has a wide region of overlap.

But do Gen Z Catholics know it?

Seeing Connection

According to Colin Martinez Longmore, they do. Martinez Longmore is the Grassroots Outreach and Education Coordinator at NETWORK, where he works on equipping young justice-seekers with faith-based advocacy skills and opportunities. A co-host of NETWORK’s “Just Politics” podcast, produced in collaboration with U.S. Catholic magazine, Martinez Longmore spent several weeks in the fall of 2022 visiting college campuses and other venues as part of NETWORK’s Pope Francis Voter Tour, making the case for multi-issue voting across generational lines.

Gen Z voters, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse generations, “are also growing up surrounded by an American popular culture that is much more accepting of diversity than before,” says Martinez Longmore. He contends that because of this, their understanding of the equity and social justice aspects of Catholic Social Teaching is more innate than previous generations.

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez

Emely Hernandez, a 24-year-old studying and working in Chicago, also makes the connection between the church’s social teaching and her own vote.

“There is so much beauty and thoughtfulness in the teachings of the Catholic Church that focuses on upholding the dignity and respect for every human,” she says, naming the call to family, community, and participation as the principle that motivates both her vote and her career. She describes the latter as “focused on advocacy work against human injustices” and “working to promote the greater good for those who are poor and vulnerable.” Her current position involves supporting unhoused individuals, low-income families, immigrants, and refugees.

Ethan Carrino is a Michigan-based college student and a recent convert. He describes a “disconnect” he encounters with some older church leaders over hot-button and social issues.

Ethan Carrino

Ethan Carrino

“As a mixed-race Catholic who’s felt racism in the church, raising awareness ending bias, and having inclusion is very important.” Carrino grew up going to Catholic schools but came into the church through a campus RCIA program.

“Our church calls all cultures/ethnicities to itself,” he points out. Regarding voting, Carrino says his faith pushes him to take note of things Jesus would speak on and think about what the Gospel calls him to do.

“It’s easy sometimes to only see an issue a certain way, but being Catholic helps me to see how the issue impacts everyone, especially those in need,” he says.

According to Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a non-partisan, independent research organization focused on youth civic engagement in the United States, “Youth are increasing their electoral participation, leading movements, and making their voices heard on key issues that affect their communities.” The first Gen Z member of Congress, 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, got his start organizing with the anti-gun-violence group March for Our Lives. Voters of Tomorrow, a pro-democracy research and advocacy organization, was founded in 2019 by then 17-year-old Santiago Mayer.

What is Meant by Catholic?

Do Gen Z Catholics see a connection between the church’s teachings and their vote? Christian Soenen, projects manager of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University and one of NETWORK’s 2022 Social Poets, says perhaps.

Christian Soenen

Christian Soenen

“I think this largely depends on which circles of Gen Z Catholics I am in,” Soenen says. He observes that very devout Catholics on both the left and the right connect their Catholic identity with their vote but that different aspects of religiosity inform their different conclusions on politics.

“Among my friends on the right, ritual, symbol, and personal discipline are components of their practice of faith that then create a cultural lens through which to understand politics” Soenen says, which in his observations translates to conservatism. On the left, “the social message of the Gospels and the prophets form the core of their understanding of their faith.”

Among left-leaning young Catholics, this understanding manifests as a desire for a more inclusive and equitable society that prioritizes issues like poverty and healthcare.

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll

Audrey Carroll, 24, is a political communications professional and former NETWORK staff member. She says her faith provides a framework for the values she cares about and votes for, “by encouraging me to always be in pursuit of justice and the common good.” Carroll says being Catholic teaches her to avoid supporting “policies and legislation that only protect and benefit people with power and privilege” and to reject policies that “intentionally marginalize underserved communities and individuals.”

Nick Cook, 24, works in Rochester, New York at a refugee outreach center. He has worked with homeless veterans and, during college, volunteered with a Catholic organization that serves the people living in poverty in rural Pennsylvania. Cook says he votes the way he does because of his Catholic faith and Catholic Social Teaching. The issues that he identifies as a part of that influence also have wide appeal among his peers: “Respect for all God’s creation — environment, option for the poor and dignity of the human person — higher minimum wage, more expansive public benefits, care for refugees, the homeless, anti-death penalty, anti-gun.”

But he also identifies two big sticking points: “I disagree with a narrative I hear that Catholic voting should lead to voting for anti-abortion candidates without regard for any other issues, especially because I believe conservative candidates have more opinions opposing Catholic social teaching than more liberal candidates.”

His other concern is also common among Gen Z voters: “Thinking about the term ‘Catholicism’ sparks ideas of a lack of openness to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, even though I and many Catholics I know are open to that. I also believe respect for the gay and transgender community should be included in respecting the dignity of the human person too.”

Where We’re Rooted

Gen Z Catholics, depending on where they worship and what movements or media they are connected to, may or may not hear their own views and values supported by church leaders. Nonetheless, those who are committed to Catholic Social Teaching seem to be firmly rooted.

Martinez Longmore describes his own sense of it: “My Catholic faith instilled instilled in me a deep sense of reverence for the inherent dignity of every person, and an awareness of God’s unique preference for marginalized and shunned communities. So I see issues like creating a just immigration process, or reforming the criminal legal system, or addressing the root causes of poverty through public policy as a very Catholic thing — even if I don’t hear those issues talked about at my local parish or by faith leaders.”

Soenen at Georgetown offers a caveat on the importance of formation: “A Catholic whose faith formation hasn’t included any significant focus on the social dimension of the Gospel will have very little reason to reject the present destructive forces in politics: populist nationalism, nativism, and romanticized notions of the efficacy of capitalism, to name a few. In this case, faith might actually become an obstacle to social justice, especially if it is understood to place morals in a dimension that is somehow separate from the public square.”

But Soenen’s thinking on young Catholics whose faith causes them to care about social justice is that they will have “an extraordinarily impactful dedication to social justice and will carry with them a moral that is more consistent, coherent, and focused on the common good than another system of social values.”

He adds, “When faith and politics are understood together, the faith adds a sense of transcendent importance to the politics, while knowing that that importance is fully expressed in human terms. My Catholicism, for me, means that a political injustice offends both God and humans, and because of that, it has a much stronger hold over my conscience than it would have if the religious component were absent.”

Nora Bradbury-Haehl is the author of “The Twentysomething Handbook” and “The Freshman Survival Guide.”

This story was originally published in the 2nd Quarter issue of Connection. Download the full issue here.

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections

Laura Peralta-Schulte
August 1, 2022

On Wednesday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on moving the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation process forward. This announcement was welcome after months of ups and downs in Senate negotiations since the House passed its budget reconciliation package last fall.

This new bill—the Inflation Reduction Act—addresses tax reform, prescription drug reform and healthcare costs, as well as climate change. If passed, this bill would be a huge accomplishment by beginning to require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, while tackling the long-standing crises of healthcare costs and climate change.

Key tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • $313 billion in revenue raised from a 15% corporate minimum tax. This is critical to ensure that wealthy corporations pay taxes.
  • $124 billion in revenue raised from better IRS tax enforcement. This provides the IRS with money to improve customer service systems as well as ensuring the wealthy pay what they owe.
  • $14 billion in revenue raised from closing the carried interest loophole.

Key healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Prescription Drug Pricing: The legislation empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly, ensuring that seniors get better deals on their medications, and caps Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year.
  • ACA Premium Tax Credits: The Inflation Reduction Act extends enhanced Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for the next three years to enable working families and individuals support to pay for insurance through the exchange.

Key climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:

  • Incentives for Consumers to Go Green: The legislation provides money for home energy rebates, consumer tax credits for energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient. These measures would help reduce energy costs for families by more than 10% on average.

Unfortunately, this package leaves out high-level policy priorities for us at NETWORK including Medicaid expansion, paid leave, funding for affordable housing, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and more. However, given the political and time constraints, this bill will do a lot to advance economic justice and address other problems in healthcare and climate.

No Republican Senators support this bill, and one Senator, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the only Democratic member who has not yet expressed her full support for the bill. Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to vote “yes” to pass the legislation. Senate Democratic leadership is planning a vote on this package later this week.

Sign the Petition to Lament the Loss of Transformative Policy

Sign the Petition to Lament the Loss of Transformative Policy

We suffer when Congress fails to address the crises facing people and our planet

President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Act’ would have reversed 40 years of trickle-down tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, provided funds for healthcare, eased financial barriers to childcare and early education, invested in wildfire prevention and drought relief efforts, and more. The House passed the BBB plan, but the Senate did not.

Instead of taking moral action, the Senate prioritized the wealthy and corporations over the people and communities that would have benefited from the jobs and equitable access to life-giving resources that the transformative legislation would have provided.

Who would have benefited from BBB? Working people, school-aged children, Black and Brown people, tax payers, rural communities, the climate and ecological concerns, Tribal lands and citizens, college students, immigrants…all of us. Congress is in the final days of budget reconciliation negotiations for less impactful, piecemeal solutions as an alternative to BBB.

We lament the investments in affordable housing, support for children and families, and efforts to combat climate change missing from the budget reconciliation package. It is shameful that our country will suffer as a result of Congress’s moral failure. Join your lament with ours and sign the petition to lament the loss of transformative policy.

We invite you to sign our petition
NETWORK Lobby Advocates for Catholic Social Justice

Ecological Justice Means Holistic Justice

Laudato Si Week Calls Us To Advocate For Our Whole Community

Virginia Schilder
May 27, 2022

This is part three in a three part reflection on Laudato Si Week, which is May 22-29, celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and care for creation by inviting all people of goodwill and prayer and study to on how they can tackle the climate crisis.

Read Part One Here | Read Part Two Here

The Catholic tradition affirms this interrelationality and calls us to honor our interdependence in holistic, grounded, ecological communities. One of the key principles of Catholic Social Justice is “Care for Creation.” In addition to conserving the Earth and curbing climate change, this principle calls us to critically examine how we live — how we encounter and treat living, breathing bodies and how we understand ourselves and what we need to live well.

This means reflectively asking ourselves: What does it mean to live in ecological community?

Luckily, ecological community exists all around us – in the interactions between plants and animals (including humans) outside your window, for example, but also among humans anytime we help one another and work for our mutual flourishing. Alternatives to the alienation of our present structures are already in practice, modeled by those who choose, as best they can within damaging systems, to live out ecological harmony. Through even small acts of connection, we participate in our common ecosystem life, and thereby resist systems of destruction and disconnection.

Promoting ecological justice policies, especially as they arise in NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda, embody Catholic Social Justice in their care for the earth and its inhabitants. These policies include ending fossil fuel tax subsidies, guaranteeing clean, safe drinking water as a right in all communities, updating water infrastructure and protecting watersheds, restoring ecosystems, instituting widespread renewable energy access, and developing other green infrastructure and natural solutions. They include curbing the ongoing conversion and destructive development of land (especially Native lands), and supporting green economies, localized agriculture, and responsible and integrated land stewardship.

As we enact other social and economic policies, we have a responsibility to make equitable ecological impact a key consideration. Dr. Kate Ward writes that in a just economy, “The environmental costs of economic production, which impact human health and livelihood, would be borne equitably when they cannot be eliminated.”

The same goes for environmental benefits, which we must equitably share. Our economic restructuring, including with the recovery package, must center ecological impact while prioritizing equity and community needs – because protecting the most vulnerable communities necessarily means protecting the land, air, and water on which they depend.

But above all, we are called to adopt an integral ecological orientation in our advocacy work and in the way we envision a just society. This means taking an ecosystems-view: highlighting our interrelationality, rooting more deeply in the land, and working from and in communities to conserve and promote mutual flourishing. It means taking seriously our interdependence with and embeddedness in all of creation, and letting that realization transform our politics.

Additionally, we can never discuss ecological justice without speaking of colonialism. Colonialism operates in large part via the stealing and destruction of the lands, waters, and wildlife on which Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and cultures depend. Native Americans and First Nations peoples have sustainably inhabited and skillfully stewarded North America for millennia. It is impossible to truly respect and honor Native communities without also respecting and honoring their rights to land access, inhabitation, protection, and stewardship. Ecological justice means ensuring that economic development does not further burden Native communities with environmental destruction, and that our policies cease the ongoing usurpation and poisoning of Native lands.

Regardless of our issue area or community role, we are called to see that building thriving communities requires not domination over but harmony with the Earth. Because in an ecological sense, justice means the fullness of all God’s holy creation in integrated community.

Virginia Schilder, a graduate student attending divinity school in Massachusetts, completed a one-year fellowship with NETWORK’s Communications team in early May 2022.

NETWORK Lobby Advocates for Catholic Social Justice

Ecological Justice Means Economic Justice

Laudato Si Week Calls Us To Reject Oppressive Structures

Virginia Schilder
May 26, 2022

This is part two in a three part reflection on Laudato Si Week (May 22-29, 2022) which celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and care for creation by inviting all people of goodwill and prayer and study to on how they can tackle the climate crisis. 

Read Part One Here | Read Part Three Here

Ecological injustice is intimately linked to economic injustice. They both refer to how we live in our common home, Earth – in fact, the “eco” in both “ecology” and “economy” comes from the Greek word “oikos,” meaning house!

At present, we distribute the resources of our home through a global economy that is based on accumulation, consumption, competition, extraction, and exploitation. Global, imperial capitalism has long been driving the degradation of local sustainable economies and food systems, as well as natural resources depletion, habitat destruction, and the mass pollution that has created climate change. In this way, our capitalist system and its concentration of resources is fundamentally at odds with ecological flourishing, which is predicated on practices of sharing, cooperation, reciprocity, and respecting limits.

The central role of capitalism in ecological degradation further exemplifies the way in which the ecological crisis is inseparable from our structures of economic, racial, and social oppression. All of these interconnected realities reflect a need for something that Pope Francis calls “integral ecology” in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si.

Integral ecology refers to an interstructural and holistic approach to political, social, economic, and environmental problems. What integral ecology gets at, essentially, is that we live in an interconnected world. We are connected to each other, as well as to the Earth’s lands, waters, air, non-human life, and climate. Similarly, structures of power and oppression – such as capitalism, racism, patriarchy, and colonialism – are also intertwined.

This is why Pope Francis observes, “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” Francis emphasizes that the health of our institutions has implications for the health of the environment, our bodies, and our communities. As a result, Francis offers, “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

Integral ecology has much to teach us about ourselves as holistic, interdependent communities. It helps us see the ways in which our present socioeconomic structures disrupt harmony with other humans and the Earth. Many of us may feel alienated from one another, from the land we inhabit and the other creatures around us, from what we produce and what we consume. But in ecosystems, all beings are enwrapped in an enormous web of reciprocal interrelation.

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese highlights Pope Francis’ teaching that “Relationships take place at the atomic and molecular level, between plants and animals, and among species in ecological networks and systems. For example, [Francis] points out, ‘We need only recall how ecosystems interact in dispersing carbon dioxide, purifying water, controlling illnesses and epidemics, forming soil, breaking down waste, and in many other ways which we overlook or simply do not know about.’”

We too are embedded in these webs. Pope Francis affirms that the natural world is not simply our “environment.” Nature is not something separate from us, nor the mere setting in which we live. Rather, “we are a part of nature.” Plants, animals, the air, water, fungi, bacteria, and soils are members of our communities — or rather, we are members of their communities! — and our flourishing is linked to theirs.

We have the choice of either participating in our ecosystems with care and respect, or forgetting our embeddedness, taking more than we need, and ravaging the land and each another.

Virginia Schilder, a graduate student attending divinity school in Massachusetts, completed a one-year fellowship with NETWORK’s Communications team in early May 2022.