When Pope John Paul II visited Iowa's Living History Farms in 1979, Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant '80, PhD, then a St. Ambrose student, served as an acolyte for the outdoor Mass.
It was during that visit that Fr. Grant-and the world-heard the first articulation of environmental theology by a pope. "Catholic environmental theology was born," said Fr. Grant.
Fast-forward to 2013, when, despite the efforts of many individuals, "We live in a society that is unsustainable," according to Fr. Grant.
One of the organizers of the 2013-14 St. Ambrose project series on Sustainability, Fr. Grant sees the lectures, concerts, projects and discussions as having one chief objective: to heighten awareness and, hopefully, help bring about change.
"Environmental issues are so grave and so rapidly advancing, the whole global community must be mobilized to address them on an infrastructure and governmental level," he said.
Among the topics that will be addressed during the project series are sustainable agriculture, a shift from coal and oil to alternative energy sources, and the use of carbon trades and other examples of collective and corporate sustainability initiatives.
This spring, theologian John Haught, widely recognized as a contributor to the dialogue about faith and science, will give the Chair of Catholic Studies lecture. Baecke Lecturer Wes Jackson will discuss his research into native plants as food sources.
There even will be a "Sustainability Concert," featuring a new composition by Music Department Chair William Campbell, PhD, said Fr. Grant.
In the end, living in a more sustainable way—individually and collectively—fits the St. Ambrose mission to enrich lives, Fr. Grant said.
"We have an obligation to intentionally reduce our standard of living and to shift the burden from those suffering the most as a result of ecological damage, to we who have caused it," he said. "Christ set a clear example of this kind of ‘redistributive suffering.'"