Image source: Envato/RossHelen, Father and young son walking keeping hands together on the field during the summer activity, back view

The following story was written by Justin Galliner, a Wollongong Environment Network Facilitator & Science Teacher from Oak Flats, Australia, as a testimony to his involvement with the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The submission has been edited for brevity. 

Corpus Christi Catholic High School aims to provide programs and practices that care for our common home embedding within the school community a commitment to ecologically sustainable actions that promote and nurture ecological conversion. Environmental education and action challenges our perception of teaching and school life, that we might be alert to and create opportunities through the integration of curriculum, prayer and liturgy, resource management, grounds management, whole school planning and school community that contributes to the betterment of our environment and our relationships with one another.

Since 2015 following the release of Laudato Si’, Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong has taken seriously Pope Francis’ prophetic call for an ecological conversion and has proactively responded in a strategic, planned approach whereby sustainable practices and ecological values are promoted and supported across the system of schools in the Wollongong diocese and Corpus Christi Catholic High School, Oak Flats has been a part of this. The Wollongong Environment Network (WEN) is an initiative of the Catholic Education Office that aims to support school communities to respond to Laudato Si’ and implement environmental stewardship and sustainability. As part of the WEN, Corpus Christi has allocated a WEN Facilitator who coordinates the environmental education and action initiatives at our school and participates in diocesan WEN meetings and Diocesan Environmental Education professional learning and development. This engagement has involved embedding ecological values into school programs and practices that promote an ecological and sustainable culture, encouraging everyone to live out his/her ecological vocation and engage in caring for our common home. 

The school has also responded to Laudato Si’ in the following ways:

School Environment Management Plans (SEMP)
The SEMP, initiated in 2019, is a tool that has enabled the school to document, implement, reflect and celebrate sustainability as we respond to the challenges from Laudato Si’ to walk our own journey of ecological conversion. At Corpus Christi we understand that we have a missionary and ecclesial mandate that impels us to participate and respond to the call to care for our common home with strategic planning, formation and concrete actions and it is within this context that this SEMP is formulated, with the following actions:

  • Sharing of SEMP and promotion of specific environmental actions for staff involvement. 
  • Refurbished Staffroom to create an environmentally aware and active culture that engenders a sense of “our common home”. 
  • Development of an Environmental Calendar that can be incorporated into the Liturgy Calendar and the School Calendar.
  • Creation of liturgies for whole school celebration each term on ecological days. 
  • Educating staff about how to utilize and incorporate the Laudato Si’ Garden in their learning and teaching. 
  • Streamed waste management system across various school areas.

Professional Development and Staff Formation in eco-spirituality, eco-theology and ecological conversion
Corpus Christi Catholic High School has participated in a whole staff formation day titled “Who is My Neighbour? Called to Ecological Conversion” in 2016. As a response to Laudato Si’ this professional development was the beginning in improving the culture of the school staff to focus upon a care for our common home and model this to the students in our car. 

Involvement in CEDoW Environmental Education Grants Program
Corpus Christi has applied on multiple occasions for the CEDoW Environmental Education Grants Program, receiving grants on two separate occasions. The first grant was used to implement and promote the use of correct waste management. The second grant is currently being used to establish two beehives on school grounds. These beehives will be a benefit to the local ecosystem as bees are fantastic pollinators. The bees and honey will also be used for educational purposes across multiple Key Learning Areas and develop ‘buy-in’ within the school community by generating a point of interest as a gateway to ecological conversion. *Hear more about it in the interview below!

Earthcare School Level 3 Certification
Corpus Christi has been certified by Earthcare Australia as a Level 3 school. This is a formal recognition by Earthcare Australia as “a school certified at Level 3 is now commiting to a whole of school ecological change and implementing its first change actions, using its links between its charism and ecological dialogue to drive commitment to change.”

Focus Area Goals (ASSISI Framework)
Corpus Christi has engaged in the ASSISI Framework developed by Catholic Earthcare Australia. This framework has focus areas and goals regarding ecological conversion, that is used as a framework in all ecological initiatives and plans. These 5 focus areas are: Whole School Planning, Religious Dimension, Teaching & Learning, Ethical Resource Use, and Caring for Country. 

Environment Club
The school has established the “Mission Team” in response to Laudato Si’. This team is a collection of staff and students who develop and continuously strive for the implementation of sustainable practices in the school and wider community. From this team, students have had a role in many of the initiatives mentioned in this document and have spoken at cross-school conferences regarding the environmental action of the school. 

Celebrating Progress
The school actively seeks to celebrate milestones, progress and success in the ecological space in a variety of ways to ensure it is held at the forefront of the school community: 

  • Reporting progress in the annual school report. 
  • Regular updates in the school newsletter. 
  • Relevant displays and events at locations inside and outside the school. 
  • Awards or badges for students involved. 
  • Promotion at school assemblies. 
  • Sharing the skills, positives & challenges of our school’s journey with other schools. 
  • Showcasing on the school website.

Watch Justin’s interview, where he makes an important clarification!

Red Justin’s full reflection in the Laudato Si Action Platform