Sister Anne Clifford says it was a great honor to be given the opportunity to give a plenary address for members of the Catholic Theological Society of America, the largest Catholic society of theology professors in the world, on a conference that focused on Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’.
Her address, “Pope Francis’s Laudato Si,’ On Care for Our Common Home, An Ecofeminist Response,” was presented on June 10 at the society’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was asked by the society’s President-elect Mary Hines to respond to Laudato Si’ from an eco-feminist perspective, a topic that Sister Anne addressed extensively in her book, Introducing Feminist Theology.
In her presentation, Sister Anne made integral ecology, the major emphasis of Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, her focus with attention to the heart-felt hopes and desires of women of the “developing world” who are daily affected by the negative impact of global climate change.
The urgency of Pope Francis’s call to “care for our common home” was made apparent to Sister Anne by the struggles of women with small children living in South America, especially in the favelas (slums) of the cities of Brazil, and of women and their children in Africa, especially in Kenya. With regard to Kenya, Sister Anne says she found a reason for hope for a truly integral ecology in the efforts of the Green Belt Movement founded in 1977 by Wangari Muta Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize honoree, whom Sister Anne first met in 1965 when Maathai was pursuing a Master’s degree in Biology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Sister Anne says she was gratified by the positive response to her lecture and hopes that when the annual proceedings with the plenary addresses are published that professors will share her plenary address with students enrolled in their courses
Sister Anne, who holds the Msgr. James A. Supple Chair in Catholic Studies at Iowa State University, traces her interest in ecology to her childhood and the fact that her mother had worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Forest and Waters in the 1950s. Her focus on ecological theology resulted in her serving as a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Consultation on “Catholic Theology and Ecology” in the 1990s.
Sister Anne is working on her third book project on Creation Theology and the Natural Sciences. Her first book, Introducing Feminist Theory, is widely used by colleges and universities. She has published more than 40 articles on feminist spirituality and theology and on creation and the natural sciences.
Read more about the conference in a National Catholic Reporter article by Heidi Schlumpf.