A Laudato Si’ seminary in the middle of the city of Buenos Aires. Vegetable garden, compost, chicken coop and even a rabbit farm are part of the activities of the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Nicolás and Pedro share their experience of participating in this task.

With nine years of seminary formation, the candidates to the priesthood of the Immaculate Conception Metropolitan Seminary of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, have multiple formative, pastoral and spiritual activities. In spite of their intense routine, some of them have found an activity for “their integral well-being”, to “clear their heads, be calm, serene and see God in everything, and in creation itself”. 

Encouraged and inspired by the encyclical that Pope Francis published in 2015, Laudato Si’, and realizing the demands of the plants in the large seminary park, in 2016 a group of seminarians began to meet to do work for the improvement and beautification of their home garden. Today they work the vegetable garden, manage recycling, have two compost bins, a chicken coop and even a rabbit hutch. Two of them, Nicolás Bouza and Pedro Ravarotto, share their experience of living and working for a “Laudato Si’ seminary”.

A new lifestyle at the Buenos Aires seminary

The initiative came from one of the young men who, before entering the seminary, had studied agronomy: “He began to guide us on what could be done and what to plant, encouraged us to water the plants, and we began to plan improvements for the large space in the park,” says Nicolás, who is in his eighth year at the seminary. 

In 2018 they started with the vegetable garden, “trial and error”, seeing what was best to plant depending on the soil and the time of year. And, in 2020, with the pandemic, they had the propitious time to dedicate work to it and make it grow. Today the garden also has a greenhouse space and many young people at the seminary have caught the enthusiasm to participate.

They also made two large compost beds and began to raise awareness of waste separation among seminarians and formation leaders. “Awareness is the hardest part, washing the plastics and taking them to the recycling garbage can,” says Nicolás, but the reception among house residents was very positive.

Why choose a Laudato Si’ life?

Nicolás began to become aware of the importance of caring for creation as a teenager: “At the age of 13, I had an invitation from above to realize that caring for the environment was something urgent and that, in the long run, it was a benefit for others and for the planet,” he recalls.

Encouraged by his participation in the school garden, he also learned to take care of the compost and incorporated the habit of recycling: “As Christians we are invited to be good and love our brothers and sisters, so this cannot be at odds with caring for the planet, it is part of the same harmony,” he says.

In the case of Pedro, who has already been ordained a deacon and is in his last year at the seminary, the decision to participate in the space came from his love of nature and manual labor, especially work in the park: “Knowing how nature works is to be in connection with God the Creator, besides being a healthy task for the body and spirit,” he says.

The impact of Laudato Si’

Laudato Si’ was the first document Pedro read, at the age of 18, before entering the seminary. “Laudato Si’ taught me that creation is God’s gift and mystery, and we are entrusted with the task of caring for it and taking care of it, as the Bible says, in God’s way, which is not with violence, but with tenderness, mercy and responsibility,” Pedro mentions. The young man affirms that ecological conversion should be “a matter of confession”, because as Christians we have the responsibility to take care of our common home. 

Francis is a Pope “attuned to the times”, as Nicolás defines him, and Laudato Si’ was a sign of this: “The ecological question is an urgency”. For him, the fundamental chapter of the encyclical is the third, which describes how “modern anthropocentrism” has caused us to neglect creation. And he concludes by evoking his favorite Laudato Si’ quote:

“Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature” (LS 117).

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