Sister Joan Spiering
Sister Joan Spiering
" Pope Francis has witnessed the link between how we treat the earth and how we treat each other, especially the poor and vulnerable among us.
Overwhelming issues meet us every day: mass shootings, homelessness, consumerism, increased frequency of heat domes and deadly storms. The list goes on. Amid the pileup of problems, Pope Francis guides us to see that everything is connected. From his frequent visits to slums around the world, his meetings with refugees and migrants, he has witnessed the link between how we treat the earth and how we treat each other, especially the poor and vulnerable among us.

Fair warning: If you are afraid of your hair or your heart catching fire, now is a good time to stop reading because this column intends to give off sparks.

Jesus made no mistake when declaring his intentions: “I have come to cast fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled” (Lk. 12:49). His bold determination and anguished longing for us to follow his example are palpable.

With similar passion, Pope Francis set out to start a wildfire of the Spirit with the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” With it, he provided a seven-year action platform to keep the world moving on the climate emergency.

Key question: Where in the Archdiocese of Portland is this fire flaring? Or has it flared and fizzled out in the seven years since Laudato Si’ was published? Surely embers of this fire glow in the hearts of our Catholic community.

We are the ones Christ has called, and this is our time to give a Gospel response to our current circumstances of divisiveness and devastation.

Discover the path onto which Pope Francis invites us:

• Make time to be silent and start humbly within your own heart.

• Discover what you love and want to protect.

• Now that you know, learn more about it.

• Talk about it. That is, listen deeply with the purpose of understanding, not convincing, the other.

• Witness your gratitude to the Creator with small action steps to repair or refresh a piece of our common home.

• Join with others who share your passion. Join or start your parish’s Laudato Si’ Circle (more at

For your encouragement, here are two pieces of news of Laudato Si’ sparks aflame in the archdiocese:

• A group of parishioners on the Oregon Coast provide tuition assistance to Ugandan girls who otherwise would not be able to go to school. Recently they also added a water filtration system for the girls to access clean drinking water.

• Four parishes in North and Northeast Portland partnered to provide timely, practical, well researched Zoom presentations in an environmental enrichment series. Topics were “Christians and Climate Change,” “Greening Buildings for Carbon Neutrality,” “Ecospirituality” and “Kids Save the Earth.” The series concluded with an in-person meal and celebration at St. Charles Parish.

Your heart’s flame expressed in humble action can’t help but spark others. Before you know it, the spiritual fire that must be kindled in our time will blaze.

Sister Joan, a Sister of the Good Shepherd for 58 years, lives in Northeast Portland. She grew up as a member of St. Edward Mission in North Plains and has worked with teens, girls in a maternity home and domestic violence survivors.