Laudato Si’ Animator Julia Steed Mawson is planting seeds in her community and wherever her love of our common home takes her!

“It’s not easy. Doing the right thing takes intestinal fortitude.” These words were often said by Sr. Margaret Francis to us high school freshmen. Then with a steely eye and finger raised toward the ceiling, she’d say, “GUTS!!!” followed by, “What have you done today to make the world a better place?” 

What I did was become a Laudato Si’ Animator.

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Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical gave Julia inspiration and hope.

But before joining the Laudato Si’ Animators, I had eco-conversions. It began with me as a lake-loving child, then being a horrified college student when I had to be fully immunized to work on the polluted Merrimack River, and being nearly terrorized years later by having to fight off a fracked gas pipeline from my land.  In between, I was blessed to become a biologist and an environmental educator.  

It’s wonderful work, but  sometimes it’s sort of like “pushing  a peanut up a hill with my nose”.   When I got discouraged, my colleagues would say, “But Julia, there just aren’t enough of us.” Then, along came Pope Francis …

Laudato Si’ spoke to me loud and clear; reinforcements were coming! Pope Francis got it all right: the science and environmental justice, meshing with Catholic social teachings that Sr. Margaret had said would require my “intestinal fortitude”. Laudato Si’ Movement has brought more voices to his platform. One of the jewels of the movement  is the Laudato Si’ Animators program. 

My path really started with Johnny Applesseed … 

I had taken one of the first Laudato Si’ Animator trainings, and I knew that, in my conservative parish, introducing Laudato Si’ would be a challenge. To add to that, I didn’t really know many people in the parish.  But before I could even get started, I had to leave home to help family and friends around the U.S.  I kept asking myself, “How can I be an Animator when I am traveling across the country?”  I could read Laudato Si’ on the road, but what about “Laudato DO? After having conversations with the Blessed Virgin (my “Home Girl”), Johnny Appleseed kept coming to mind.  

Driving around with a cooking pot on my head (like legendary American figure Johnny Appleseed), while throwing apple seeds out the car window was probably not what Mother Mary had in mind.  But maybe I could start by helping disseminate ideas somehow, without necessarily being present in a parish. Not from my car window, but from the internet. How much intestinal fortitude could I need?

Julia’s love for creation has led her to brainstorm ways to engage her local community.

Along the way, any time anything related to Laudato Si’ came across my radar, I would share it via email. I included my parish priest, without any pressure or expectations. I also attended services on my travels and made it a point to always thank the priest at the end of Mass, give him a Laudato Si’ elevator pitch, and follow-up with an email including relevant websites.  Out of twelve micro-conversations, only one priest showed any interest or awareness of Laudato Si’.  The emails also didn’t bear much fruit, until…

I was contacted by a fellow parishioner I’d never met. He thought that our parish should do something about the environment and my parish priest gave him my email. Ten months later, we were able to meet in person with our priest, and we’ve continued ever since. I credit the Laudato Si’ Animators program and its great global community for giving me training on the encyclical and its ties to our Catholic spirituality.  It enabled me to speak with our priest with truth and authenticity, and therefore a good dose of credibility, which was essential to opening doors.  

Join Julia and thousands of others and become a Laudato Si’ Animator by taking our free course. 

With encouragement and ideas from the Laudato Si’ Animators community, our small steps have evolved into bigger things. Season of Creation 2021 featured prayers of the faithful, bulletin announcements, inserts initiated by our priest, a St. Francis of Assisi Prayer Service, and recruitment for our Laudato Si’ Circle.  Though response has been low so far, we are optimistic. Because there are only two of us, our priest reminds us that it is a “Laudato Si’ Line”, not a “Circle” (Animator Humor is always essential). Thanks to incredible Animator morale-building, we progress!  

Our plans include: a 2022 Lenten Ecological Way of the Cross, an “Introduction to Laudato Si’”, prayer cards and materials  to promote Laudato Si’ Week, and projects for Season of Creation 2022. These include a discussion group, interfaith outdoor contemplative walks, and a Feast of St. Francis Prayer Service. Did I mention working to set up a chat with our Bishop? That may take “GUTS”!  

When you train to become a Laudato Si’ Animator, you’ll be joining a global movement of hundreds of thousands of people committed to prayer and action for our common home. This leadership development training will equip you with the skills you need to lead your community in urgent climate action.