As part of the Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture Series, sponsored by Seton Hill University and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Sister Anne Clifford, Ph.D., C.S.J., presented “Widening the Circle of Compassion to Encompass the Earth, a Call to Eco-Justice,” on Thursday, April 22.

Sister Anne noted that April 22, 2010, marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. She discussed how its founder, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, established Earth Day in 1970. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.

Sharing several scriptural references with the audience, Sister Anne highlighted the importance of eco-justice in relation to Catholic social teaching. Additionally, she discussed several documents from both Vatican I and Vatican II that supported eco- justice. She also informed the students that, as Christians, it is their duty to preserve God’s creation, not only for their own well- being, but for the well-being of future generations.

“We need a change of heart to preserve and protect the planet of our children,” said Sister Anne. “By practicing solidarity and widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures, we can put a stop to the earth’s groaning.”

Sister Anne is the Monsignor James Supple chairperson of Catholic Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University. She served as a consultant for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Environmental Justice Program from 1994-1996. Her numerous publications include: “An Ecological Theology of Creaturely Kinship” in the Journal of Religion and Society (2008), “From Ecological Lament to Sustainable Oikos,” in Environmental Stewardship (2006), and “Introducing Feminist Theology” (2001; ninth printing 2009) and “Christology: Memory, Inquiry and Practice” (co-editor, 2003). Sister Anne earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history education from Carlow University and her Master of Arts degree in theology from the Catholic Theological Union. She obtained her Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology from the Catholic University of America.

The Sister Mary Schmidt Lecture Series is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in collaboration with Seton Hill University. Its purpose is to support the Catholic identity of the University; to engage both communities in learning and dialogue on timely topics of social and environmental justice with global impact; and to develop an understanding of Catholic Social Teachings and how they pertain to this dialogue.