“The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Pace e bene! Peace and all good from Assisi, the magical birthplace of Laudato Si’. A fitting place to reflect on the journey so far and ponder what’s next.
About eight years ago, in January 2015, Pope Francis landed in the Philippines and a new movement was born. Pierced by the cries of the earth and the poor, so stark in the ruins of Philippine supertyphoons, the Laudato Si’ Movement embarked on an incredible journey. Heeding the first half of our name, the prayerful words “Laudato Si’”, we grounded ourselves in praise of our Creator and celebrated Creation’s sacredness. Heeding the other half of our name, the action-charged word “Movement”, we grounded ourselves in the urgency of the crisis and engaged in tireless activism for climate and ecological justice.
It’s been a beautiful dance of contemplation and action – or “Contempl-Action”. Laudato Si’ Week events, Season of Creation liturgies, divestment drives, Circle prayer gatherings, climate marches, petition campaigns, “The Letter” film screenings, sustainability projects, and more. So many generous hearts coming together to co-create this movement. Despite our fragile “clay jars” – with so many limitations – and thanks to God’s grace, LSM gradually grew to become a vital global network. From Angola to Austria, from Panama to Pakistan, and way beyond. Dozens of national chapters, hundreds of member organizations, and thousands of LS Animators active in local Circles and communities. An explosion of life.
More recently, we started pondering the image of the metamorphosis. The “GCCM caterpillar” (the original Global Catholic Climate Movement) has been growing and changing a lot, to eventually evolve into the “LSM butterfly”, as per our new name in 2021. Besides getting a new name, this creature is also getting a new form. A beautiful form. Even if unrecognizable, it’s still the same creature. The most exciting part? While a caterpillar strolls among a few plants, a butterfly flies among vast swaths of land, pollinating countless plants along the way. While the journey so far has been amazing, the journey ahead is even more amazing.
One way in which this LSM creature is getting a new form, developing and opening its new wings, is through new leadership arrangements at various levels. After much prayer and discernment about what this evolution means for me personally, and after many conversations with the Board since 2019, the time is now ripe for me to transition.
Namely, I’ll end my service as Executive Director in mid-2023 to then keep working towards LSM’s mission from a new place. It’s a decision I don’t take lightly, particularly in light of my beloved friends in the Secretariat and these eight marvelous years of service together. This caterpillar ride has been immensely rewarding, but I’m even more thrilled about what lies ahead. By the way, it’s worth stressing the obvious: beyond the Secretariat, there are countless places from where to serve this collective dream that is LSM. “One body, many parts,” as St. Paul put it. So, while I’m leaving the Secretariat, I’m definitely not leaving the movement. But it will be a very different role – going local.
Once my transition is completed, I’ll work on the longstanding idea of a new LSM project in Assisi. While details are still being discerned, we hope to set up a Laudato Si’ Center to share and live out this message, integrated into a larger Laudato Si’ Circuit connecting iconic Assisi sites to serve as a “come and see” experience. Very providential developments with the Franciscans, the diocese and other local partners, building on many years of collaboration, have affirmed the intention for this to be ready for the “Laudato Si’ Double Anniversary” of 2025 – 10 years of the encyclical and 800 years of the Canticle of the Creatures. In parallel, I’ll also keep contributing to the Season of Creation, a key LSM priority to uplift creation care – this project will have a more international outlook, but I’ll pursue it as an ecclesial affiliate of the Laudato Si Research Institute at Campion Hall at the University of Oxford.
There are several drivers of my discernment:
- Synodal “Kairos”. As announced last July, we’ve embarked on an important process inspired by the synodal “kairos” – or opportune moment – that the Church is living. Pope Francis’ invitation to embrace synodality is very timely for a young movement like ours, with plenty of wonderful leaders ready to take up more leadership. Synodality invites us to deepen the way we walk together as a global movement, including a democratization and opening up of governance and leadership structures. Naturally, this also comprises term limits on leadership roles like mine. It’s very healthy to create space for new leadership to flourish, faithful to the maxim “time is greater than space” and the need for “initiating processes rather than possessing spaces” (Evangelii Gaudium 223). In fact, our Synodality Taskforce is actively working and discerning its implications for all LSM structures – including our first General Assembly in Assisi in 2025.
- Butterfly needs. After emerging from the chrysalis, the LSM butterfly is preparing to fly through new territory – an increasingly complex global movement after such rapid growth – requiring new gifts in this role where I now stand. A butterfly’s journey is different from that of a caterpillar, presenting all sorts of new challenges and opportunities. Fresh eyes and new perspectives in this role can help the Secretariat make the most out of the fruits of recent years while addressing new areas of work derived from our growth. Leadership renewal is always healthy. I’m very confident and excited about how the Secretariat will keep evolving and maturing, to better support the movement to accomplish our bold mission.
- Thirst to go deeper. After eight years of so many videoconferences (expressing the signs of the times, LSM was founded over Skype), I’m thirsty for more nature and more face-to-face encounter. What we’ve been doing with local LS Circles in Rome, but deeper. With an ever-worsening planetary emergency, we need new ways of addressing its deepest spiritual roots, enabling the “ecological conversion” that Laudato Si’ calls for. And what better place than Assisi (also so dear to me given my Franciscan upbringing), and what better time than the Season of Creation, to try such things. As it happens, these two big projects are incompatible with the time demands of my current role. I need to be honest about what I can and cannot do while being fully present with my wife Vicky and little Isabella – a major question for a first-time dad. Thus, a transition will help me strike the right balance.
Regarding practicalities, more info will be shared soon about the open search process to identify my successor. Until that’s finalized, hopefully around June, I’ll continue serving in my role, ensuring a smooth and gradual transition.
I’m so grateful to God and all the dear friends with whom we’ve shared this life-giving caterpillar ride so far. Way too many people to be named, in way too many corners of the globe. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I very much look forward to the next steps of our journey together.
With the butterfly flexing its radiant wings, may we be faithful in helping it ride the winds of the Holy Spirit. May it thrive within the larger flock of butterflies, collectively overcoming the monsters standing in their way and proving that “injustice is not invincible” (LS 74). May they put together the most stunning spectacle we’ve ever seen, one so badly needed at this critical juncture in planetary history.
“Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” (LS 244)
See you in Assisi if you’re able. Otherwise, or on top of it, we remain united in prayer and solidarity.