Dynamic duo Dr. Simone Seym and Deacon Clayton Nickel hit the ground running and never looked back. Their inspiring story shows us how a journey of a thousand miles truly begins with a single step.

On Pentecost Sunday 2021, at the climax of Laudato Si’ Week 2021, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, led a missionary-like sending of local Laudato Si’ Animators, so that they may go and announce “the Gospel of Creation” (LS 2) in every corner of the globe. Dr. Simone Seym and Deacon Clayton Nickel were among those sent out by Cardinal Tagle. 

Here is their first-person testimony:

Dr. Simone Seym

To become missionaries of the “Gospel of Creation” on Pentecost Sunday meant to us that the Holy Spirit that inspired us to become Laudato Si’ Animators in the first place would continue to guide us as missionaries of the Gospel of Creation.

In 2015, Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ felt like gentle rain on thirsty ground. We both have always been in awe with the powerful readings of Genesis at the Easter Vigil, that remind us all, that we are stewards of Mother Earth with all her creatures and plants, and that we ought to care for each other and walk together in Geschwisterlichkeit (fraternity). We embraced the Catholic Church’s continued Social Teaching at the intersection of Care for Creation and Sustainability and were grateful for Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’ promoting and teaching of ecological conversion, integral ecology and the call to solidarity. 

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (LS 13).

Deacon Clayton Nickel

We attended a Laudato Si’ lecture by Dr. Anthony Annett, now author of Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy. Simone then became a Climate Reality Leader and served as a Mentor with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Al Gore. When we attended a Laudato talk/workshop with Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, we knew that we wanted to become Laudato Si’ ambassadors. Simone was elected Co-Chair of the Creation Care Team of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. the night before the lock down. 

Soon after, the then Global Catholic Climate Movement, now Laudato Si’ Movement, offered their Spring 2020 online training to become a Laudato Si’ Animator. Simone participated and became a certified Laudato Si’ Animator, and immediately recruited Deacon Clayton for the Summer 2020 Laudato Si’ Animator Course. In early 2021, we both became Animators of Animators, the first cohort of coaches and mentors for Laudato Si’ Animators in training and participated in coaching LSAs thereafter.

“Not all environmentalists need to be Christians, but all Christians and people of good will need to be environmentalists!”

It is a beautiful thing to be able to connect to LSAs locally, nationally, and globally. The program is so rich and praying and working together in Geschwisterlichkeit all over the globe gives us hope. (We use “Geschwisterlichkeit” as a loanword – it’s the official German translation of “fraternity”  in Fratelli Tutti, and it is definitely a beautiful one. “Geschwister” means “siblings” in German. Simone hopes to introduce this loanword to the English vocabulary).

The latest UN report on Climate Change, in April of 2022, and the war in Ukraine substantiates that a global economy driven by fossil fuels has proven to be a collective act of self-sabotage with the poor on the front lines. PEACE therefore is intrinsically connected to the use of 100% renewable energies. Global PEACE needs renewables. It is our moral and faith-filled obligation towards Creation, Mother Earth, and towards each other, to do everything we can for a global ecological conversion on the path of PEACE. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ should resonate with us like a prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit, and remind us in all we think and do, that we are stewards of our almighty God’s most beautiful Creation.

As Laudato Si’ Animators and Laudato Si’ Missionaries of the Gospel of Creation we act and perform on multiple levels: parish and local, archdiocese, national, and global. Working together as a Team and collaborating on multiple levels proves to be quintessential in this endeavor.

The Laudato Si’ Movement’s values frame this in the most beautiful way: Grounded in faith; Committed to spiritual transformation; Caring for one another; Being prophetic; Taking an integral approach; Cultivating unity within diversity; Being in the Church and in the world;
Building bridges, Embracing contemplation and action; Living in hope.

As a Creation Care Green Team, we: 

  • Celebrate Laudato Si’ Week, Earth Day, and the Season of Creation. 
  • Learn together about ecological conversion through talks, readings, and movies. 
  • Enjoy and discover Mother Earth during Laudato Si’ Walks. 
  • Monitor gas leaks in DC, and advocate for Green legislation in DC and Maryland.
  • Partner with Anacostia Watershed Society for Earth Day Cleanup.
  • Join Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake in team-building activities.
  • Walk with our Bishops for Black Lives Matter & pray with Interfaith Leaders on Black Lives Matter Plaza.
  • Invite for a Laudato Si’ Prayer Service & conduct a Creation Care Green Team Synodal Listening Session, facilitating the implementation of the LS Action Plan to become a Laudato Si’ Parish. 
  • Celebrate Biodiversity and Restoration on a Creation Care Green Team Anacostia River Tour.

As core member of the Archdiocese of Washington Creation Care Committee, Simone participated in the preparation of the proposal for Cardinal Gregory for the ADW Laudato Si’ Action Plan and participates in the ADW-wide Laudato Tree care for canopy and heat islands tree plantings, partnering with Casey Trees. She has won a grant for her Laudato PóēTree Project and is eager to bring it to fulfillment. We participate, partner and cooperate with LSM ecological, spiritual, and advocacy efforts. Deacon Clayton is also a Laudato Si Movement Spiritual Consultant.

We are both grateful to be a part of the Laudato Si’ Movement. Please pray for us and join us as we walk together on the Path of Laudato Si’!

Watch Dr. Seym and Deacon Nickel’s inspiring video (Enable YouTube captions):


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Also read:

What it means to be a Laudato Si’ Animator