Laudato si' and the Family

Living Human Ecology in Daily Life

On September 23rd-25th, 2015, participants with many different backgrounds and interests gathered in West Chester, Pennsylvania to discuss Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato si’and how it relates to family. Participants engaged in dialogue and brought unique perspectives together for discussion on how we live this relationship between faith and environment in our daily lives.


See the participants and read their papers discussing their particular interests on the topic below.

Pope Francis

and Laudato si'

“Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” (141)’


Laudato si’, Pope Francis

Speakers & Presentations

Dr. Bernard Amadei


Dr. Bernard Amadei is Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He received his PhD in 1982 from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Amadei holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering and serves as a Faculty co-Director of the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities. He is also the Founding President of Engineers Without Borders – USA and the co-founder of the Engineers Without Borders-International network. Among other distinctions, Dr. Amadei is the 2007 co-recipient of the Heinz Award for the Environment; the recipient of the 2008 ENR Award of Excellence; the recipient of the 2015 Washington and ASCE OPAL awards; an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering; and an elected Senior Ashoka Fellow. He holds five honorary doctoral degrees (UMass Lowell; Carroll College; Clarkson, Drexel, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute). In 2013 and 2014, Dr. Amadei served as a Science Envoy to Pakistan and Nepal for the U.S. Department of State.

José A. Ambrozic


José A. Ambrozic, born in Lima, Perú, is a consecrated layman, member of the Catholic Society of Apostolic Life Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – SCV since 1972. He has a License in Business Administration, a Master Degree in Education and is pursuing a PhD on Catholic Human Ecology. Has been Assistant General of SCV for Apostolate, Temporal Affairs and Communications and is currently Vicar General of the SCV. He has served as Superior of the SCV community in Denver, Director of Camp Saint Malo Retreat Center, and Chairman of the Board of San Pablo Catholic University. He is Chairman of the Board of the Network of Sodalit Schools and Vice President of Creatio, a non profit that promotes reconciliation between humans and creation as a response to environmental issues.

Brittany Carl


Brittany Carl studied Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at the University of Florida to learn about the mechanisms and prevention of environmental issues, with the goal to develop viable products that have minimal detrimental impact on the health of the environment and the people within. Soon after entering school, she felt a strong pull toward improvement of shelter in the developing world, and has been pursuing it ever since. She currently works in sustainable building consulting and is a graduate student in Architectural Engineering and Engineering for Developing Communities at the University of Colorado Boulder in order to make the shift to sustainable housing design, with specific interest in housing design for developing communities abroad. Her research is in development of passive building systems for improved indoor air quality and thermal performance of affordable housing in the Peruvian Andes, with particular attention to sustainability in regard to local culture, climate, and materials.

Daniel Cheeley

Daniel J. M. Cheely, Ph.D., is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture.  He also is a historian of the Renaissance and Reformation.  He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.  His research has been supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Huntington Library, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Witherspoon Institute, the Bradley Foundation, the Catholic Record Society, and the Harvey Fellows Program of the Mustard Seed Foundation.  His scholarship has been published in Church History: Studies in Christianity & Culture (Cambridge), The European Legacy (Routledge)and The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (DeGruyter)and has been presented at the Institute for Historical Research, the American Academy of Religion, Sixteenth Century Society & Conference, the Renaissance Society of America, the American Society for Church History, the Mid-Atlantic Conference of British Studies (where it was awarded the annual prize for best graduate student paper), and other conferences in the United States and Europe.


Before beginning doctoral studies at Penn, he joined Teach For America in Chicago, where he taught eighth grade for R.S. Abbott School, chaired the social science division and partnered it with local universities through the Chicago History Project, and was awarded his school’s teacher-of-the-year distinction.  He is now, while serving as Executive Director of the Collegium Institute, a Resident Senior Fellow of the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania and Lecturer in Penn’s History Department.

Elias Crim


Elias Crim has worked in book and magazine publishing for over twenty years and is the father of three teenage girls. He is the founder of Solidarity Hall (www.solidarityhall.org), a non-profit which combines publishing with civic activism through a new network of social incubators. Solidarity Hall combines the use of principles of the common good (including Catholic social teachings and the ideas of social thinkers such as E.F. Schumacher, Dorothy Day, Wendell Berry and Jane Jacobs) with a new approach to community regeneration.


Elias has degrees in classics and comparative literature from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Masterworks Program at Valparaiso University.

John Peter DiIulio


John Peter DiIulio is a doctoral candidate in Princeton University’s Department of Politics, where he is currently writing his dissertation on the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill. His other main areas of interest include, broadly: freedom, ethics, the philosophy of law, and intellectual history. Before coming to Princeton, John earned his B.A. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania, where he wrote his senior thesis on the political thought of the Anti-Federalists. While at Penn, John was involved in the Penn Newman Center and a founding member of the Penn Catholic Student Association. Recently, John became a Graduate Fellow at the Collegium Institute.

Peter Dodson


Peter Dodson holds three degrees in earth sciences: B.Sc. University of Ottawa ’68; M.Sc. University of Alberta ’70; Ph.D. Yale University ’74. He has spent his entire career as a gross anatomist at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, and as a dinosaur paleontologist in the Dept. of Earth and Environmental Science at U Penn. He has done extensive fieldwork in the western United States and in Alberta, where he did research for his master’s degree. Since 1995 he has visited India and has participated in field projects in Madagascar, Egypt, Argentina and China. He was the founding president of the Philadelphia Center for Religion and Science (1998 – 2001) and served its successor the Metanexus Institute for Religion and Science until 2011. He is on the advisory board of the Institute for Religion and Science at Chestnut Hill College. In 2014 he was named senior fellow of the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, and in 2015 was named Resident Senior Fellow, Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the Fox Leadership Center of the University of Pennsylvania. He has been married for 47 years to his wife Dawn, and is blessed with two children and three grandchildren. He lives on 26 acres of wooded paradise near Woodstown. He shares his house with 2 dogs and 2 cats, and is surrounded by frogs, turtles, snakes, deer, countless birds and many flowers. He is currently a parishioner of the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit, Woodstown, NJ, where he serves as lector, member of the parish council, and member of the social justice committee.

Mark Gordon


Mark Gordon is a business owner and president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for the Diocese of Providence, RI.  He is the author of Forty Days, Forty Graces, an account of his conversion to Catholicism, and a contributor to Radically Catholic in the Age Of Francis, published by Solidarity Hall, of which he was a founding member. His forthcoming book, Nonviolence for Daily Living, due in the Spring of 2016, will also be published by Solidarity Hall.  He has written for the National Catholic RegisterMars Hill ReviewAleteia, and Vox Nova, and is the former host and producer of “Abound in Hope,” a nationally syndicated Catholic radio program. Mark holds a BA in philosophy from Salve Regina University.

Brad Gregory


Brad S. Gregory is Professor of History and Dorothy G. Griffin Collegiate Chair at the University of Notre Dame, where he is also the Director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study.  From 1996-2003 he taught at Stanford University, where he received early tenure in 2001.  He specializes in the history of Christianity in Europe during the Reformation era and on the long-term influence of the Reformation era on the modern world.  Before teaching at Stanford, he earned his Ph.D. in history at Princeton University and was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows; he also has two degrees in philosophy from the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.  His first book, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard, 1999) received six book awards.  Professor Gregory was the recipient of two teaching awards at Stanford and has received three more at Notre Dame.  In 2005, he was named the winner of the first annual Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, a $50,000 award given to the outstanding mid-career humanities scholar in the United States.  His most recent book is entitled The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Belknap, 2012).

Jonathan Reyes


Dr. Jonathan J. Reyes is the executive Director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which capacity he oversees the relevant policy development, educational programing and grant resources for the Conference. He was educated at the University of Michigan, where he studied European History as a Rackham Fellow. He earned the Ph.D. in European History at the University of Notre Dame, writing his dissertation on the historical vision of Christopher Dawson. In 2009, Dr. Reyes became the President/CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver.   In 2005, Dr. Reyes helped found the Augustine Institute of Denver, a graduate program devoted to Catholic theological studies and leadership training, and served as its first President. Dr Reyes also served as Vice President for ministry and formation for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and also taught in the History Department at Christendom College, in Front Royal, Virginia where he served two years served as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Fr. Jorge Olaechea


Fr. Jorge Olaechea Catter was born in Lima, Perú, and is a priest in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae – SCV. He studied Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome, and taught at the School of Philosophy of the Pontifical Gregorian University. He is now the General Assistant of the SCV for Formation, a professor at the San Pablo Catholic University (Perú), and head of the editorial board of the institute “Vida y Espiritualidad”. Among his publications: “Rudolf Allers: psichiatra dell’umano” (D’Ettoris Editori, 2013).

Dr. Marisa March


Dr. Marisa Cristina March is a cosmologist at the University of Pennsylvania where she carries out research in the field of dark energy science, a field that seeks to understand the acceleration of the Universe. Dr. March works on galaxy lensing for the future Euclid space mission, and she works on supernova cosmology for the ground based Dark Energy Survey. Dr. March studied theoretical physics at Imperial College London, where she also carried out her doctoral research on advanced statistical methods for astrophysical probes of cosmology; she also holds a Bachelors degree in Catholic Theology from Heythrop College London.

Gregory Koutnik


Gregory Koutnik was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Minnesota, returning to his state of birth to earn degrees in political science and economics at the University of Wisconsin. Raised in a religiously split household (by a Catholic mother and a lapsed father), he was a believer until mid-adolescence, when he no longer identified with the Church, its teaching, and the Christian faith in general. He would not, however, describe himself as an atheist, and his intellectual and spiritual life both owe much to my upbringing and prior faith. His is entering my third year as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a PhD in political science with a concentration in political theory. His research explores the current ecological crisis and the attendant political challenges by asking the question of what it means to be at home on the earth – at home materially, spiritually, and politically.

DeWitt John


DeWitt John has a B.A. (Economics) from Harvard College and an M.A and Ph.D. (Political Science) from the University of Chicago. His M.A. thesis was Indian Workers Associations in Britain (Oxford University Press, 1978) and his dissertation was Civic Environmentalism (CQ Press, 1992)He worked in state government for 8 years, as project leader in the Massachusetts office of Human Services, assistant to the director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and director of policy for the Governor of Colorado. He spent 15 years in Washington, DC at the National Governors Association, the Aspen Institute, and as research director on economic development and environmental management at the National Academy of Public Association, including three book-length studies of the Environmental Protection Agency commissioned by the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations on a bipartisan basis. In 2000, he became Director of Bowdoin College’s Environmental Studies Program, taught each in the ES program and Government Department, and consulted for the Pew Trust and state agencies in Maine and California, and served on an EPA advisory committee for four years. He retired in 2014.

Erika Scheelje


Erika Scheelje, born in Lima, Peru, is a consecrated laywoman, member of Marian Community of Reconciliation (MCR), since 2000. She is a Civil Industrial Engineer with a specialization in IT Engineering. She received her degrees from The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Erika has been a member of the Communications team for the MCR, the Director of Women Apostolate for the Christian Life Movement in Chile, and the Director of Youth Ministry in the Diocese of Bridgeport. She is currently the Mission Trips Coordinator for the MCR in Denver and has been leading mission trips for 17 years. Erika enjoys hiking, swimming and reading.

Christopher Shannon


Christopher Shannon is associate professor of history and chair of the history department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. A cultural and intellectual historian of modern American life, he is the author of several works, including Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual and Culture in Modern American Social ThoughtA World Made Safe for Differences: Cold War Intellectuals and the Politics of Identity, and Bowery to Broadway: The American Irish in Classic Hollywood Cinema. Most recently, he is co-author, with Christopher Blum, of The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition and the Renewal of Catholic History(Christendom Press, 2014).

Ricardo Simmonds


Ricardo Simmonds is a consecrated layman in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a religious order founded in Peru. Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Ricardo studied at Bowdoin College and subsequently obtained a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Studies from CU Boulder. Currently he is the Director of Penn Newman Center in Philadelphia. He is the founder of Creatio, a Catholic Environmental non-profit, and an in- ternational speaker on Catholic envi- ronmentalism. He has produced a 13-episode documentary on the environment for EWTN, and published Truth and Climate Change: Pragmatist Truth Confronted by Habermas and Ratzinger in the Context of Climate Change (Lambert) in 2013.

Mary Stanford


Mary Stanford earned a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Dallas, and a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC, graduating summa cum laude from each institution. Mary is a married, homeschooling mother expecting her seventh child, and in her small amount of spare time, teaches as an adjunct instructor in the Theology Department of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. She is a frequent lecturer in dioceses all over the United States on topics including marriage, contraception, sexual differences, and the theology of the body, and has published an article entitled “The Dynamic of the Gift: Authority and Submission in Christian Marriage” in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (January, 2013) and served as a contributing editor for The Theology of the Body Study Guide (published by Imago Dei., Inc.), which has been translated into many languages for study groups worldwide. Most recently, she has been applying principles from John Paul II’s theology of the body to the issue of modern social communication technology, particularly from the perspective of parents trying to manage their children’s engagement with such technology. This June, she presented a lecture entitled: “Communication Technology and Our Kids:  What are We Risking?” at the Immaculate Heart of Mary National Home School and Parent Conference in Fredericksburg, Virginia. An abbreviated version of the talk aired in April as part of the online Catholic Conference for Moms.