In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls us to transform our way of life in responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Illuminated by this call of the pope and the related article of the revised Constitutions, we, the friars of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe Province of South Korea, are extending our involvement in social issues to the area of creation care. (Of course, creation care is not a brand-new matter for us. More than ten years ago, when the then government pushed forward the ecologically controversial project called Four-Rivers Refurbishment Project, many friars joined social and ecclesial campaigns against it as well as praying and fasting-in-relay for the protection of the rivers.)
Above all, we have put articles concerning creation care into the revised Provincial Statutes. The articles state that the friars are to seek a lifestyle of ecological conversion, and that each community is to set up their action plans at their first friary chapter each year and to evaluate them at the end of the year. Accordingly, various action plans in community life have been implemented which, although they might not seem extraordinary, will be building blocks for the fuller life of ecological conversion:
- offering monthly Mass for or daily prayers for the intention of the integrity of creation
- studying the encyclical Laudato Si’
- reducing the use of plastic goods and disposable items
- avoiding food waste
- practising lights-off at the set time etc.
In particular, actions are also being taken in the publishing apostolate which the Korean Province has recently established – the publisher called Jakum Publishing House. To reduce plastic waste in the delivery process, while reusing plastic buffers from the post we have received, we substitute them with paper buffers as far as possible. In addition, we choose FSC-Certified paper boxes of which materials are harvested and produced in a responsible and sustainable manner, so that our consumption of paper can be compatible with the sustainable use of forests.
Of course, our actions mentioned above are not enough to bring the spirit of Laudato Si’ to life; there are still many things to be ecologically transformed in our community life and apostolates. Nevertheless, we believe that our awareness of creation care will increasingly grow through such actions, leading to more passionate and active commitment to our common home.
– friar Stephen Dahan Lee, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe Province of South Korea
Friar Stephen Dahan Lee was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in ecological theology at Australian Catholic University in July 20, 2021.