August 26, 2022

Local Catholic is chosen to lead pope’s global plan to care for the Earth

John Mundell poses for a photo against the backdrop of the Puget Sound in the state of Washington. (Submitted photo)

John Mundell poses for a photo against the backdrop of the Puget Sound in the state of Washington. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

John Mundell considers it “an incredible honor” that he was recently chosen as the director of the worldwide effort to put Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home” into action.

At the same time, the member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis feels a great responsibility to help people from around the globe understand the urgent need to care for the world that God has created—the central theme of the encyclical that Pope Francis shared seven years ago.

“The world and the Catholic Church as a whole have not responded adequately to Pope Francis’ core message, which calls for an ‘ecological conversion’ to change our lifestyles and our economy,” Mundell says.

“During this same period, we have witnessed firsthand the increasing effects of climate change and biodiversity loss—more intense storm events and flooding, wildfires and record temperatures. While there are positive signs of progress in some areas and increased engagement with the faithful, much more is needed if we are going to make any positive impact.”

Mundell is hoping to help create that positive impact as the director of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP), which offers concrete plans for a “seven-year journey toward healing in our relationships with God, our neighbors and the Earth itself.”

Mundell views that journey as essentially Catholic. It’s also a journey that has marked more than 50 years of his life.

He shared his thoughts about his personal journey and his recent appointment to lead Pope Francis’ call to heal the Earth in an interview with The Criterion. Here is an edited version of that exchange.

Q. In terms of goals, what do you hope to accomplish as the director of the Laudato Si Action Platform?

A. My goals with the LSAP are to do as much as possible to put into action Pope Francis’ vision of how we should all be responding to our environmental crisis. The challenges we face are immense, but it doesn’t mean we should give up on our individual and collective abilities to make a positive impact. Although we still need to continue to talk, think, pray and discuss during our seven-year LSAP journey, we can no longer be satisfied with mere words. Now is the time for our global Catholic community to respond with a sense of urgency.

Q. How do you, and how should we as Catholics, view this effort as an extension of our faith?

A. For over 50 years, from the writings and speeches of St. Pope Paul VI to Pope Benedict XVI, care for creation has become an ever-growing concern for humanity and an integral part of Catholic social teaching. Only in the last few years, has it become politicized as some kind of “right or left” issue.

Our faith calls us to respond differently. Care for our common home is a moral issue for all of us. I believe that we are truly more authentically Catholic when we realize and practice our universal calling to the common good and to caring for all of creation.

Q. For those who may not be familiar with the Laudato Si Action Platform, share the emphasis of this initiative.

A. The LSAP is an online, digital space ( developed by the Vatican in collaboration with hundreds of Catholic organizations to inspire and empower everyone to take decisive actions to support care for our world. It offers planning guides and resources, a planning process and a place for connecting with others taking action.

This includes inviting everyone— individuals and families, parishes and dioceses, educational institutions, health care and healing facilities, businesses, religious congregations and communities—to embark on a seven-year journey toward healing in our relationships with God, our neighbors and the Earth itself. The development of local Laudato Si’ Plans that contain concrete actions is the primary focus.

Q. Pope Francis has designated the World Day of Prayer for the Season of Creation to be on Sept. 1. And the Season of Creation extends to Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Talk about the significance of emphasizing this season, especially in light of its theme, “Listen to the Voice of Creation.”

A. The pope’s 2022 message has a real urgency in its tone. Through the ecumenical theme “Listen to the Voice of Creation,” he asks us to not only listen to the “sweet song” in praise of our beloved Creator, but also to hear the “cries of anguish” from our sister, Mother Earth, from the poor, from native peoples and from our children, and respond with action and with deeds “so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.”

The Season of Creation gives us a chance to stop, listen and feel our interconnection to everyone and everything, and to experience a deep sense of responsibility toward our global community and our common home. This can only lead to positive action.

Q. Talk about your own path as a person from getting involved in care for creation as an individual in Indianapolis to becoming the director of this worldwide effort.

A. Growing up, I always felt a strong connection with the land and the Earth. My family helped settle the State of Indiana and were farmers for several generations. Inspired by my participation in the first Earth Day in 1970 and my Purdue University education in civil engineering and geology, I became one of the first environmental consultants in Indiana and have spent the last 43 years investigating and cleaning up thousands of contaminated sites across Indiana, the United States and the world.

I worked with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1990s on several environmental justice projects. When Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ was published, it was as if he had written about everything that I had been experiencing in my work life.

Q. Talk about what it means to you to be named by Pope Francis as the director of the Laudato Si Action Platform.

A. First of all, it’s an incredible honor to be asked to head up this global effort to put Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si into action. I’m really thankful especially for the chance to have worked with all the other members of the ArchIndy Creation Care Commission over these last seven years—to support our local parishes and individual Catholics in trying to become more aware of the needs of our planet and more sustainable in all of their activities.

I’ve also been excited to work with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Laudato Si Movement to develop the idea of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Despite my special experiences, I believe everyone is called to a life of care for creation and see it as a fundamental aspect of our Catholic faith.

Q. What are some of the ways that individuals and parishes in the archdiocese can make a difference in this Season of Creation and beyond?

A. I hope that individuals, families and parishes will sign up for the LSAP and put a simple Laudato Si’ Plan together to begin following. As always, we have to start with ourselves and do a little daily “examination of conscience” with how we are living our lives and our Catholic faith. It’s sometimes easy to ignore those things our faith is calling us to live that are more difficult that others—simpler lives, less consumerism, less wastefulness.

Also, I would recommend to start with something easy and doable—perhaps focusing on only one thing each month that you could consider changing for the better. And if you fail? Just remember you can start over again the next day.

I know we will all experience a deeper joy and sense of purpose with these new attitudes and changes. †

Local site Links: