ATHENS, Ga. — On April 5, John Coughlin, OFM, director of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia, welcomed Archbishop Wilton Gregory, UGA scientists, and more than 200 guests to the center. The occasion was an opportunity for Archbishop Gregory from the Archdiocese of Atlanta to thank scientists from the University of Georgia for developing a climate action plan response to Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si.’”
The plan, produced in both English and Spanish, describes dozens of ways people can help take care of the earth. John commented to the crowd that after he read the 200-page plan, he realized that though “some things were already being done” at the Catholic Center, many more great ideas that could be implemented. John said the encyclical that came out last year “has had an impact on our UGA students who come to the Catholic Center and they have been working to make this a more ecologically friendly place.”
UGA climate scientists Pam Knox, Marshall Shepard, and David Stooksbury helped write the action plan along with UGA water resource expert Mark Risse and geologist Rob McDowell. Susan Varlamoff, recently retired director of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences approached Archbishop Gregory after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical to suggest the action plan and then led the effort with her colleagues to put the plan together.
The plan, which can be found on the Catholic Center’s website, ccatuga.org is believed to be the first climate action plan in North America put together in response to the encyclical. Archbishop Gregory has forwarded the plan and a letter explaining the efforts of the people of Georgia to Pope Francis with the promise that “We’ll try to do a better job of taking care of God’s creation, the earth.”
The Tuesday morning press conference and reception that followed took place in Rosella’s Garden, an area named for the mother of the late Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, previous director of the Catholic Center. The catered reception featured Georgia-grown produce. During the event, attendees were able to purchase food from local farmers at the ‘Laudato Si’ Farmers Market.
— David Briones is director of religious education and coordinator of collegiate activities at UGA’s Catholic Center, which Holy Name Province friars have operated for more than 40 years.
- “Atlanta Archdiocese Acknowledges UGA’s Environmental Efforts” – April 5, 2016, WUGA
- “Signs of the Times: Threats to Earth’s Environment” – April 1, 2016, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Order Announces Plans for ‘Laudato Si’” — Oct. 8, 2015, HNP Today