Laudato Si’ Animator Anna Maria Bianchi, Italy

Before becoming a Laudato Si’ Animator last year, Anna Maria Bianchi of Italy was searching for a holistic spirituality, something that would bring together all aspects of her Catholic faith.

“The ‘true’ answer to the groan and cry of the Earth could not be found in the many well-deserved environmental associations or even in prayer alone,” she said.

Anna Maria became a Laudato Si’ Animator in May. In only eight months as a champion for Catholic action against the climate crisis, she has helped bring Laudato Si’ to hundreds of people in the southern Italian region of Basilicata.

“It’s my turn to donate to others what I have received for free, to try to be a ‘beacon’ by making available to everyone what I have discovered,” she said.

To start, she created a Laudato Si’ Circle with people from her parish, San Francesco d’Assisi, and Catholic organizations in the area. Laudato Si’ Circles are small groups that meet regularly to deepen their relationship with God as Creator and all of creation.

During last year’s Season of Creation, which takes place annually from 1 September through 4 October, Anna Maria also led a pilgrimage walk.

The five-kilometer walk helped Catholics throughout the region contemplate creation and give gratitude and praise to our Creator during the annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home.

During short breaks, people read from Laudato Si’, Psalms, or sang together. The prayerful and inspirational time ended with the entire group singing and proclaiming St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun.

Now, as president of the Diocesan Council of Lay Aggregations of the Diocese of Tursi-Lagonegro, Anna Maria is busy ensuring that Laudato Si’ is properly woven into the diocese’s 2020-2021 pastoral activities.

She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with the Global Catholic Climate Movement about what drew her to Laudato Si’, why she feels called to act, and why contemplation is so important.

Why did you want to spread the good news of Laudato Si’ to your community? Why was it so important to you?

The desire and the joy of spreading a positive contagion made it almost automatic to think about forming a Circle… from the Circle to the local community (my town, my parish), to the socio-cultural area (Val Sarmento), to the ecclesial community (the pastoral area, the Diocese)… like the wave of concentric circles that is generated when you throw a stone into a pool of water.

On contemplation and the Season of Creation contemplative walk

To really see [creation] requires stopping for a moment… in a place of great beauty, to calmly set the gaze of your eyes and enter into deep communion with our brothers and sisters and with nature as a whole, which shares with human beings the divine creation and redemption in Christ.

Stopping is to silence the noise around and within oneself. It is to silence the many voices in order to listen to the voice of nature, which “is filled with words of love” (LS 225), and the voice of our brothers and sisters impoverished by our greed.

Why experiencing an ecological conversion is so crucial

We want to be pilgrims, not wanderers of Laudato Si’. And possibly pilgrims in a caravan, not solitary ones.

… Being a pilgrim requires traveling light, stripping oneself of the superfluous, carrying only the essential, which depends on the destination and duration of the journey.

For this journey, the essential is to return to the source of the encounter with the Lord to rediscover the relationship of responsible reciprocity between human beings and nature.

To live spirituality linked to Laudato Si’ and to make a path of ecological conversion is something more than changing one’s lifestyle: it means finding one’s “right place” in creation.

Without putting man in his place nothing changes, because the root of the current evil is precisely this: man no longer recognizing man as a creature, an attitude that leads to no longer seeing other creatures as brothers and sisters.

To do this, it is essential to reflect on the theology of creation.