Preserving our precious planet

For the second year, the Congregation’s Precious Planet Award program has been a successful way to share the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum, both of which shed light on the importance and urgency of caring for our planet.

We collaborated with three area Catholic schools. Two eighth grade students with outstanding environmental science projects were each selected to receive a $500 scholarship to the Catholic high school of their choice.

We also expanded the program this year to include presentations delivered to eight classrooms, focusing on the critical messages of Pope Francis’ writings and the collective action required to mitigate climate change.

Vocation Ministry Coordinator Teri Iverson and I visited St. Peter School in Huber Heights, where I taught a class on Laudato Si and Laudate Deum for the eighth grade students. This session was designed to lay the groundwork for the students’ environmental science projects.

I later returned to St. Peter School with Sisters Regina Albers, Paula Gero and Patty Kremer to judge the students’ inspiring projects. It was a day of discovery and enlightenment as we evaluated the projects of the nine remarkable students who participated.

On February 28, Sister Judy Kroeger awarded certificates to the St. Peter’s eighth grade students. Jayden Brown emerged as the winner with his impressive “Grow Algae” project.

The project’s momentum continued at St. Christopher School in Vandalia, where Teri and I, along with Sisters Regina Albers and Mary E. Wendeln, engaged with 17 seventh graders who presented their research on environmental issues. Despite their initial nerves, the students confidently shared their insights, earning them participation certificates and medals for their efforts.

Seventeen seventh graders and six eighth graders at Mother Brunner Catholic School in Dayton also participated in the program. In March, I was joined by Sisters Marita Beumer, Jeanette Buehler, Nancy Kinross and Mary E. Wendeln as judges for the students’ environmental science projects.

In April, Sister Ann Clark presented the Precious Planet Awards at Mother Brunner School. Louise Sango earned honorable mention for her presentation on poaching. The $500 Catholic high school scholarship went to Jennifer Unakalamba for her presentation on deforestation.

We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the teachers who facilitated this program, and to the students who participated and demonstrated their commitment to making a difference. They all did an excellent job in learning about environmental issues and presenting their research. The judges were thoroughly impressed by the students’ enthusiasm and their ability to eloquently present their projects.

The importance of teaching children about environmental issues goes beyond the classroom, as it also reaches into their homes, encouraging a collective commitment to taking care of our planet. This initiative is a direct response to the call from Pope Francis in his encyclical to care for the Earth and continues the rich educational tradition of the Sisters of the Precious Blood.

The Precious Planet Award program represents a unique opportunity to blend faith, science and environmental stewardship, reinforcing our Catholic value of shared responsibility toward our common home.

We look forward to further expanding the program next year, as it will be open to all schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Applications opened on May 20, with a closing date of August 9.

There will again be a $500 scholarship offered to the eighth grade student with the top project at each participating school. Other participants will receive a certificate and medal. We began prioritizing school collaborations on June 3, aiming to integrate this enriching program into the upcoming academic year’s activities.

We hope not only to challenge students, but also to educate the community on the environmental crisis and ways to make a positive impact. Let us all work together to cultivate a generation of informed and committed caretakers of our planet.

Sister Judy Kroeger awards certificates to the St. Peter’s eighth grade students. Jayden Brown emerged as the winner with his impressive “Grow Algae” project; Jen Morin-Williamson photo.

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