In the Drôme, Church actors are trained in integral ecology

“It’s stimulating, because we understand that everything is linked and it gives us the inner motivation to act”, sums up Elizabeth. Last year, this retiree from Drôme took part, with her husband, in the very first cycle of the Laudato si’ campus, in the diocese of Valence. Their group, made up of about twenty lay people with varied profiles, met four times a year to deepen the dimensions of integral ecology, carried by the pope’s encyclical : the relationship to oneself, to others, to Creation and to the Creator.

This unique approach in France was born thanks to a local tool: the Observatory of ecological realities (Odre), where the reflections of Sébastien Dumont, president of the Oekologia association, Fabien Revol, theologian associated with the University Catholic Church in Lyon, and Augustin Guendouz, diocesan referent for the “Green Church” label. “In the parishes, many people have a commitment to the planet, but few of them give it a deep meaning or associate it with their faith! », observe the latter.

Spiritan partners

These short stays – between twenty-four and forty-eight hours – but intense, take place at the Saint-Joseph reception, in Allex, chosen for its green setting but above all for its symbolism. “While the association that manages the place has long been a member of Biovallée (1), the community has accelerated its ecological approach since 2018, reaching the third level out of four of the “Green Church” label”explains Brother Mathieu Boulanger, member of the work team and Integral Ecology referent for the Province of France of the Spiritans.

The eight religious find themselves thus “partners” of this series of lectures by philosophers, such as Isabelle Priaulet, academics, psychologists and other experts, which are interspersed with personal prayer times and workshops such as an eco-walk or a beekeeping session. “The objective is to show that ecology is not a sideline or a bonus: the campus invites people to transform themselves in order to reconsider, on a daily basis, their place in Creation”explains Sébastien Dumont.

A spreading experience

Each beneficiary pays €70, but the Laudato si’ campus is also financed thanks to the Le Cèdre Foundation (2), donations from participants, while some speakers choose to volunteer.

In the Drôme, fertile ground for environmental protection, the initiative is widely supported by Bishop Pierre-Yves Michel and is easily accepted by the faithful – the next session will welcome its first priest. “If the Church had missed it here, it would have been a real problem”says Mathieu Boulanger.

The objective, now, is to swarm: the team, which brings together six people, has already been approached by several dioceses, such as that of Toulon or Albi, some of whose referents have participated in the training. She is considering setting up a “level 2” to deepen certain themes such as eco-anxiety and the resources to be found in faith, or even climate justice and the integration of the most precarious.

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In the Drôme, Church actors are trained in integral ecology