Five years ago, Pope Francis released Laudato Si, the landmark call to action to “care for our common home.” It was a watershed moment that rallied millions of people around the world, regardless of faith, to join the fight against climate change as a moral imperative. The encyclical defined climate change not only as an ecological crisis, but as a form of social and economic injustice. At Catholic Charities, our primary goal is to promote social justice for the poor, and taking action to fight climate change has become an integral part of that work.
To mark the anniversary of Laudato Si, we spoke with President and CEO Father John Enzler, who answered five questions about how the encyclical has affected the agency and what he sees for the future.
Q: What was your first reaction when Pope Francis released Laudato Si?
Father John Enzler: I was so proud that our pope was addressing an international issue that affects us all. His comments spoke to the essence of all on Earth being part of one family and the need to protect our environment, and thus protect all human beings.
Q: How did you think Catholic Charities could contribute to this vision?
Father John: We contributed in a very special way a year and a half ago when we built the largest private solar field in Washington, D.C. Five acres, 5,000 panels, saving electricity for an equivalent of hundreds of homes. All of us need to look at ways to be part of the solutions, not the problem.
Q: How do we incorporate these principles in what we do to help those in need?
Father John: Young people are showing us the way. They realize the importance of clean water, clean air and protection of our land. There are big decisions made by our government but there are also smaller decisions in which we all can participate. Are we recycling? Are we saving water through shorter showers, turning water on and off when we shave and brush teeth, trying to decrease our carbon footprint by trying to avoid unnecessary travel and gas emissions? These are small things but if you’ve seen any pictures of cities before the pandemic, covered with smoggy skies, compare it to the last few weeks when the skies are blue and clear. This is what happens when there is less driving, fewer airplanes and a conservation of our fuel output.
Q: Would you say that there has been a difference in our operations in the five years since Laudato Si was release?
Father John: Change normally begins when we are challenged. Laudato Si has encouraged us to look carefully at our everyday behaviors. We are doing that more than ever at Catholic Charities. As we make decisions, and before we move forward on new ideas and programs, the environment is a constant question that needs to be addressed. We have a long way to go, but we are definitely making progress.
Q: Other thoughts you’d like to share for the fifth anniversary?
Father John: Even this blog speaks of our efforts and our common desire, not only to clean up the environment but to “clean up our act” as we continue to protect the great gift of nature that God has provided for us.
For more another example of Catholic Charities DC’s efforts to promote sustainability, visit: