Pope Francis' Trip Generates High Hopes and Expectations

Pope Francis

As excitement builds for Pope Francis’ first trip to the United States from Sept. 22 to 27, members of the USD community are expressing their hopes and expectations for the historic event.

Since his election two-and-a-half years ago, Pope Francis has spoken out on a number of issues, including the need to respond to climate change, care for the environment and the poor, criticism of income inequality and unfettered capitalism, and recently, the need to assist refugees from the Middle East.

“Pope Francis’ visit is important because he has inspired so many members of our community, and so many others around the world,” said Michael Lovette-Colyer, Assistant Vice President and Director of University Ministry. “His words and actions witness in a most compelling way the beauty and richness of our Catholic faith. His emphases on mercy, solidarity, simplicity, and humility moves me to rededicate myself to my faith. I hope, and expect, his visit to the U.S. will inspire others to do the same. Since the unexpected developments leading up to his election, Francis has been surprising. In the many unexpected things he does and says, he reminds us that trusting in the Spirit can lead us to new, unanticipated ways of living. In particular, his dedication to sharing the good news of God’s love for all, especially to those most in need, speaks directly to the concerns of so many of us at USD.”

Emily Reimer-Berry, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, believes the Pope’s visit will be “both affirming and challenging” and wonders what he will say about income inequality and families. “The Pope has already been an advocate for the vulnerable, and when he is in Philadelphia he will visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. I wonder what he will say and whether he will highlight the many injustices in our criminal justice system. I look forward to discussing the papal visit with USD students. The logo ‘Love is our mission’ captures the heart of the gospel message, and I hope that this papal visit provides an opportunity for all Americans to be inspired, spiritually nourished, and ethically challenged.”

Michael Williams, Associate Professor of Political Science, who is also director of USD’s Changemaker Hub, said “The Pope’s visit to the United States is important to me because I believe his moral leadership on issues of the environment, poverty, and social justice are extremely important for us. It is vital that we begin to think more seriously about not only our own individual interests with respect to how we live but that we also think about future generations and the legacies we are leaving them. I hope that his visit to the United States will encourage more discussions about these important social issues and what we need to be doing at this present moment to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable place for others.

During his visit, the Pope is expected to continue his call to take action against climate change, environmental degradation and its effects on the poor. At USD, professors, administrators and students are already responding to the Pope’s challenge outlined in his encyclical Laudato si’: On Care for Our Common Home issued earlier this summer.

Michel Boudrias, Associate Professor of Environmental and Ocean Sciences, for example, is the lead scientist for Climate Education Partners, a National Science Foundation initiative to develop innovative approaches to climate change education for a variety of audiences. Although developed for San Diego, Boudrias and other team leaders hope it will serve as a model for the nation. “USD is approaching climate change education by combining traditional climate change science analysis with a framework grounded in social and behavioral psychology,” he explained. “This interdisciplinary approach illustrates how environmental science, social science and a strong community outreach plan can match the key messages from (the encyclical) by responding to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on disadvantaged communities now and for future generations.”

Chell Roberts, Dean of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, recently co-authored an opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report with other deans from engineering schools at Catholic universities. While institutions are making progress, there is still much more to be done, the deans wrote. “We must make fundamental changes to a field that is often narrow and focused on an end result that fails to see the bigger picture. For 300 hundred years, our reductionist mindset has led us to think in silos, answering the call of progress without regard for the side effects. We, like the rest of society, have been part of the problem and now we have an opportunity to be part of the solution. We must continue and redouble our efforts to have our education, outreach and research programs reflect a holistic inclusion of the social, environmental and economic impacts of our work in the world.”

A variety of campus events are also planned in connection with the Pope’s visit. Those include:

Catholic News Round Up

Thursday, Sept. 17

4 to 6 p.m., Salomon Hall in Maher Hall

Open forum to discuss current Catholic news, including Pope Francis’ Encyclical and the upcoming synod on the family. Sister Tobie Tondi of Theology and Religious Studies and Timothy Clark, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will serve as commentators.

Free, open to students. RSVP Here.

Papal Address to Congress

Thursday, Sept. 24

9:15 to 10:45 a.m., University Center, Forum C

Opportunity to watch Pope Francis’ speech to a joint session of Congress, followed by discussion of topics addressed.

Free, open to students and classes.

“Praise Be! Pope Francis and the Environment: Care for Our Common Home”

Thursday, Oct. 8

4 p.m., Warren Auditorium in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall

Dan Misleh, a graduate of the Franciscan School of Theology and founding Director of the Catholic Covenant, will speak on Pope Francis’ encyclical and suggest some practical applications. Free, open to all.

— Liz Harman

Photo credit: iStock.com/neneos

 

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