Catholic Ecology Center Celebrates its 6 Month Anniversary!

It has been humbling to see our ministry grow over the last 5 years. From the simple beginnings of Laudato Si’ Project to the establishment of the Catholic Ecology Center, God’s fingerprints have been especially present in our work in recent years. On March 8th, 2021 we were able to purchase nearly 60 acres of amazingly diverse and beautiful property from the former Girl Scout Camp; Camp Winding River. Our property is also part of a 225-acre preserve complex thanks to adjacent land purchase of what is now Camp SIM. God’s providence also allowed for us to partner with Milwaukee Catholic Home’s Clare Gardens to grow organic produce on site to feed the senior living homes in Milwaukee and also educate people about living sustainably.

Our mission seeks to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to Christ and His Church utilizing the beauty and wonders of the natural world as a conduit to make this connection. Our programs are varied in nature and include retreats, ecology programs, service projects and recreational opportunities.

From March 8th, 2021-September 8th, 2021 We have:

* worked with over 2000 people of all ages

*logged over 2275 hours of stewardship service by over 250 different volunteers

*run 125 hours of educational programming including retreats and ecology programs

Laudato Si’ Mi Signore; Praise Be to you my Lord

Within the first few months after establishing the Catholic Ecology Center, it became very clear that the desire of schools, parishes and families for faith-filled, nature based programming was necessitating our hiring of a new staff member. In June of this year, we were honored to hire Theresa Liebert to become the Program Coordinator.

Theresa grew up in the driftless region of Wisconsin on a small hobby farm. She graduated from Wyoming Catholic College in Lander Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in the Liberal Arts. Before joining the Catholic Ecology Center, Theresa worked on an organic produce farm and as a CNA for five years. During her time in Wyoming she spent over 70 hours in the back country and enjoyed many outdoor activities including rock climbing, white water kayaking, cross country skiing, canyoneering, caving, and backpacking. Theresa has always found beauty to be the transcendental which brings her closest to Christ. She hopes to share God’s first book with others through her work at the Catholic Ecology Center.

From the very beginning of our founding as Laudato Si’ Project and right through the present ministry of the Catholic Ecology Center, our mission is Christ focused and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. This was exemplified when we held our formal CEC blessing and Mass in July. It was an amazing day beginning with a blessing of the Catholic Ecology Center by Bishop Schuerman of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and followed by fun, family activities, culminating with an outdoor Mass with the Bishop.

I want to thank the generous donors that have made this all possible. Without your support of the vision for the Catholic Ecology Center we would not exist today. I also want to thank all our members. Your membership support allows us to keep our doors open, trails accessible and mission and outreach increasing. Thank You!

Read more about who we are and what we do in these articles:

Scientist Saints

All Saints Day! - Catholic Daily Reflections

Often when we think about Saints, our minds are drawn to the more obvious candidates such as the great theologians, Doctors of the Church, and missionaries. When we think of great scientists and naturalists, people such as Newton, Galileo, Mari Curie, Darwin, John Muir and Aldo Leopold come to mind. But how often do we combine those ideas, that is, saint and scientist? It is a fairly well known fact amongst Catholics that in 1979, St. Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis of Assisi the patron Saint of those who promote ecology. However, very little is known about the more obscure Saints who were greatly involved in the study of nature and promoting its integral beauty. 

In this secular age, which prizes science almost as a religion unto itself, little credit is given where it is due. Most do not know, or perhaps they ignore, the vast amount of information which the Catholic Church safeguarded and indeed, added to the scientific knowledge which we have today. During the Middle Ages, the preservation of philosophical and scientific texts were largely due to the copying of manuscripts which took place within the monasteries. Furthermore, the Medieval monasteries often contained extensive herb gardens. The monks would record their findings about the medicinal properties of plants in a text called a Materia Medica. Not only did the Church contribute greatly to scientific advancement during the Middle Ages, but also into our modern time. 

We, as the Church militant, have an obligation to pray for the Church suffering, but so too should we acknowledge the great sacrifices and accomplishments of the Church triumphant. By elevating these holy souls to the status of saint, mother Church has given us a plethora of figures to emulate and call upon in our daily lives.

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Saint Ambrose

While Saint Ambrose is one of the four original doctors of the Catholic Church, he is also the patron saint of beekeepers and candlemakers. Legend has it that when he was a baby a swarm of bees landed on his face and left behind a single drop of honey. His father took this as a good omen, declaring that his son would grow up with the gift of a “honeyed tongue”. The prediction did indeed come to pass and St. Ambrose became an excellent writer and a persuasive orator. 

Saint Ambrose, pray for us. 

Feast day: December 7th.

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Saint Valentine

St. Valentine is, of course, the patron saint of love and happy marriages, but he is also one of Catholic Church’s other patrons of bee keepers. As a physician, St. Valentine would often use both beeswax and honey in his practice. Historically, bees have been associated with love, and so in St. Valentine we find the perfect marriage of bees and love. Calling upon the intercession of this great saint was thought to ensure a sweet harvest of honey and protection to those who care for bees.

St. Valentine, pray for us.

Feast day: February 14th

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Saint Isidore

Isidore was born in 1070 A.D. to a peasant family near Madrid, Spain. He often came later to work in the fields than other laborers because he would first attend Mass in the morning. Yet his work never suffered and he always met the chores required of him. It was said two angels, one on either side of Isidore, appeared and joined their pious companion in plowing the fields. St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers. 

St. Isidore, pray for us.

Feast Day: May 15th

Saint Fiacre

St. Fiacre has been recognized as patron saint of gardeners (as well as cab drivers and florists, among other things) since medieval times. Born in Ireland in the 7th century, Fiacre was raised in a monastery. During the Dark Ages, monasteries were repositories of learning, and it is here that Fiacre became a skillful user of healing herbs. As he earned fame for his knowledge of plants and healing abilities, disciples flocked to him. Fiacre sought more solitude and left Ireland for France where he established a hermitage in a wooded area near the Marne River. Here Fiacre built an oratory in honor of the Virgin Mary and a hospice where he received strangers. He himself retreated to a solitary cell, living a life of prayer and manual labor in his garden.

The legend upon which Fiacre’s sainthood rests is this: Fiacre asked the local bishop, Bishop Faro, for more ground on which to plant food and herbs. Faro told him he could have as much land as he could entrench in one day. After prayer, Fiacre used the point of his staff to turn the earth, topple trees and dig up briers and weeds to prepare the land for a garden.

St. Fiacre, pray for us.

Feast Day: August 11th

Saint Gall

Gall was born in Ireland and, after growing up, he became a monk. He traveled to preach the Gospel and help start new monasteries until he became ill and needed to stay in one place to heal and recover. Gall often spent time outside in nature reflecting and praying. Birds frequently kept him company during those times.

Gall miraculously performed an exorcism for a woman who was possessed by demons who hadn’t come out of her previously when two different bishops had tried to exorcise them. But when Gall tried to exorcise them, the demons flew out of Fridiburga’s mouth in the form of a black bird. That dramatic event inspired people to make Gall the patron saint of birds.

Gall encountered a bear in the forest near his monastery one day and stopped the bear from attacking him after it charged toward him. Then, the story goes, the bear went away for a while and returned later with some firewood it had apparently gathered, setting the wood down by Gall and his fellow monks. From that point on, the bear reportedly became a companion to Gall, showing up around the monastery regularly.

St. Gall, pray for us. 

Feast Day: October 16th

Saint Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard was born in 1098 to a noble family in the county of Sponheim, west of present-day Frankfurt. As a child she experienced visions of God, which she described as “living light.” She was given over to the care of a nun at the age of eight, who taught her to read and write, and by 14, she was a nun herself. When her mentor passed away in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously chosen to lead her Benedictine monastery.

In addition to running the monastery, Hildegard also devoted her time to writing musical compositions, poems and plays, as well as theological texts, medical books and scientific essays. She founded two monasteries, and extensively travelled around Germany on numerous speaking tours. All in all, Hildegard was a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and polymath of the High Middle Ages. She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most recorded in modern history. She has been considered by many in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She is the patron saint of musicians and writers. 

St. Hildegard, pray for us.

Feast Day: September 17th 

Nature as a Conduit to Christ

Care for Creation program for St. Anthony pre-school in Milwaukee

One of the greatest challenges today is reigniting the faith of our youth. We are seening the result of poor catechesis, tepid Catholicism and the secular culture pushing in from every angle. This is coupled with the disintegration of how to understand faith’s relationship with ecology and the disconnect of how we are called to care for creation. So…what do we do? Laudato Si’ Project and the Catholic Ecology Center’s mission is born. We seek to deepen faith and foster a stewardship ethic through hands-on encounters with the natural world. We bring a message of Hope!

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.

Wisdom 13:5

The most clear path to instilling faith and fostering a stewardship ethic is through programing that intentionally connects the two. Our ecology programs and retreats are a clear path to showing the beauty of what is around us while catechizing youth about the depths of our faith. Stewardship projects flow from our faith in God and are our response to the many gifts he has given us. Our stewardship projects put faith into action and exemplify a living out of Catholic social teaching, especially care for creation. These stewardship projects include woodland restoration, prairie plantings, wildlife monitoring and more.

Fostering a Stewardship Ethic; Our Faith in Action

With the help of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, we planted this butterfly garden on the Schoofs Preserve near Holy Hill.
Let Wonder Take You Into the Heart of God

Laudato Si’ Project seeks to use the natural world as a conduit to facilitate a quiet place for prayer and utilizes Wonder to deepen faith. We need the stillness offered by nature to heard God’s voice in the whispers and time in nature is always “re-creational”. Opening our eyes to the ecological intricacy of the little things around us can help awaken a child-like Wonder which can then be directed toward God. One doesn’t need to go far to experience this. Here are some examples from the insects that call our prairie plantings home.

On the right side of this coneflower is a camouflage looper. This caterpillar takes bits of the plant it is resting on to help itself blend in. It turns into a wavy-lined emerald moth.
Looks like a bee visiting a flower, right? This is one of hundred’s of bee-mimicking flies using the black and gold stripes as visual protection from predators.
When we think of migrating, it’s always birds that come to mind but what about insects? Some of our butterflies, beetles and dragonflies actually migrate! These monarch’s are on their way to Mexico this Fall. A several thousand mile journey that was never taking by them but rather their great, great, great grandparents.

Upcoming Events

Get outside and rediscover your sense of wonder for creation

Let the stillness and beauty of a prairie draw you to God

Spring of Rebirth

Blue-spotted Salamander

March can be such an emotional roller coaster; warmth and sunshine followed by ice, snow and cold. The landscapes look brown, devoid and lifeless. Yet, God’s life is stirring-up and working throughout the created world.

Maple Sap is flowing to the tops of trees while providing a sweet treat for sugarer’s during this Lenten season. Skunk cabbage, our earliest blooming flower, has already made its way through the ground to bloom (often needing to melt ice by creating heat). Woodcock’s are performing their mating ritual of the sky dance, fluttering several hundred feet into the air only to drift downward in a falling leaf display. Mourning cloak butterflies (our first butterfly to emerge) have spent the winter as a frozen adult and now search for nectar from broken tree branches and sap-sucker holes. These are all amazing indeed, but it is even a more hidden treasure I would like to highlight today.

God has written a precious book, whose letters are the multitudes of created things in the universe.

Pope Francis

After the first warm rains (and even with nighttime temperatures in the 20’s) our native salamanders and crayfish are heading to the ephemeral ponds and waterways to mate and lay eggs. This is the exact moment when researchers and citizen scientists do their live-trap monitoring.

Our native salamanders (Wisconsin has 7 including the newt and mudpuppy) are secretive creatures. We may have have found these critters as kids under logs or in our window wells. Three of our salamanders awake with the first rains and head to the nearest fish free wetland and vernal ponds to mate and lay eggs. Setting minnow traps to catch them is a great way to monitor their presence, abundance and breeding.

All water creatures, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever.

Daniel 3:79

It is not just the salamanders you discover but many other little treasures along the way; sandhill crane nest, mud minnow, diving beetle and migrating birds.

The other cold-blooded creature moving during the nights may come as a surprise to you; the prairie crayfish. That’s right, not all crawfish spend their life underwater and Wisconsin has 6 native species. I recently discovered a crawfish burrow in the middle of a prairie on a nearby preserve and wondered what kind of crayfish it could be. Let the live-trapping begin!

Not a lot is known about these crayfish species and much of our knowledge has come in recent decades using live trapping. Like salamanders, the prairie crayfish comes out after the first rains to find water to breed (even with nighttime temperatures in the 20’s!). During the warmer months, they forage nocturnally in the prairies and woodlands for worms and other food. There burrows can be quite elaborate and go as deep as needed to hit the water table, even up to 10 feet.

There are amazing natural treasures all around us all the time. Many are right before our eyes but we need our eyes “focused on the little things” to see.

Blue-spotted Salamander

A special thanks to Dr. Gary Casper of Great Lakes Ecological Services and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

2019: A Year in Review

Future Catholic Ecology Center Land Tour

God continues to richly bless Laudato Si’ Project‘s ministry and this February our organization will be turning 4 years old! Our mission has reached new levels in the last 12 months with new partnerships, programs and nearly $300,000 raised for the future Catholic Ecology Center land acquisition! None of this would be possible without our generous members, donors, partners and volunteers. Thank You!

2019 By the Numbers:

  • Over 1200 students, families and adults took part in faith-based and ecological programming
  • 100 hours of educational programs
  • Over 465 volunteer hours of stewardship caring for our common home
  • 30 hours of recreational outings to get outdoors and explore nature

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.

Wisdom 13:5

We are excited for what 2020 has in store for Laudato Si’ Project and the Catholic Ecology Center. Please continue to pray for us that God’s will may be done through our ministry. Keep up with all the happenings this coming year and join us for a program by liking us on Facebook.

Fruits of the Earth

The Bible is full of analogies that use the Earth and its abundance to describe our God and His love for us. It also uses the imagery of farming, scattering seed and harvesting to illustrate our need to cooperate with God’s will, evangelize, die to ourselves and bear virtuous fruit through our actions.

On this feast of St. Francis of Assisi and during this wonderful harvest time of our crops and vegetable gardens, perhaps we are more attune to this connection with God’s creation and our role to be stewards of it.

Fall is also the perfect time to seed a native prairie. That is, of course, after you have prepared the site and removed all unwanted “weedy” species like crown vetch, wild parsnip and Queen Anne’s lace before you seed natives. It is just like our life of virtue in which we must clear a space for the Lord in our hearts and replace our habitual vices with acts of charity or other virtue. Prairie sites can be prepared in 3 primary ways; agricultural tilling, smothering with cardboard, or herbicide treatment.

The tremendous roots of prairie plants, often times deeper than the plant is tall. We can all learn an important spiritual lessen from this and deepen our faith and commitment to God.

Laudato Si’ Project has done many such restoration projects over the last 4 years including plantings on preserves, at schools, or for private landowners. The amazing thing about these native plants is their tremendous root systems, sometimes extending over 10 feet down. They seem to heed the Bible’s advice to put down deep roots of faith to avoid quickly abandoning God when hardship or suffering comes along. For a plant, this hardship would be the availability of water and their deep roots solve that very problem.

Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever. -Daniel 3:76

Prairies and butterfly gardens not only look beautiful but can have some other important benefits as well; like helping pollinators, increasing infiltration and reducing soil erosion. They are also great places to do educational programs, both in the planting of them but also throughout their life.

Below are pictures from various prairie projects we have done and the many students and volunteers that helped to make them happen. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi Laudato Si’ Mi Signore; Praise Be To You My Lord

Springtime Care for Our Common Home

Spring is a time rich with opportunities to get people back outside after a long and cold winter. The last couple of months have been packed with retreats, educational programs and stewardship projects. Below are some of the highlights.

Education: Live Owl Program and Owl Prowl; Care for Creation Pollinator Program

We ran a sold out live owl program for our friends at Tall Pines Conservancy. We learned about all the amazing creatures that are active at night and learned about the adaptations that allow them to be so successful. Thanks to Wanakia Wildlife Rehabilitation for bringing live animals including the american crow, great horned owl, barred owl, saw-whet owl, eastern screech owl and opossum. The educational program was followed by an owl prowl looking and calling for owls on the amazing Camp Quad Conservation Easement. We finished with a bon fire and s’mores.

We also ran a Care for Creation program for St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Milwaukee. First graders through adult learned about topics including our Catholic call to be stewards of creation, prairie ecology and the diversity and importance of pollinators.

Stewardship: Camp Quad Conservation Easement

Tall Pines Conservancy’s private conservation easement on the 300 acre Camp Quad property is truly a treasure. We spent the morning with Marquette High School student volunteers marking their new nature trails throughout the property.

Faith: Retreats for St. Gabriel and St. Jude the Apostle

We always enjoy running retreats for the schools and parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In April we did so for St. Gabriel middle school at the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in Port Washington. In May we ran a retreat for St. Jude the Apostle 6th graders which took place at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha.

Part 2 Outdoor Adventure Series: Wyoming Catholic College

Wyoming Catholic College’s COR Expeditions;

The 4-part Outdoor Adventure Series will consist of essays written by students who participated in one of Wyoming Catholic College’s COR Expeditions: a 21-day backpacking trip infused with faith, community, virtue and beauty.

Choose Wisely by Emily Gecosky

Wild berries were our staple snack food during our time in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. They were our sustenance: our sweet antidote for the soggy bland oats, the crown of our backcountry apple pie, the rich carpeting of several campsites, and even fish food. I remember standing on a rock one day during our three week escapade, tossing small rosy berries onto the surface of the veiled yellow depths of Lake Vera. I watched them drift lazily, and within moments a little fish pounced upon one of the berries, sucking it up with a sudden plop.The other berries soon met their demises in this fashion. Moments ago the fish had been wandering the sandy floor of the lake, sucking on pebbles and spewing them out again, but they forgot about their pebbles when they noticed the berries.

How like these fish we as human beings are: searching, foraging, grabbing at good things when we perceive them— perhaps for better things than we had before, as the fish abandoned their pebbles for the sake of berries. But what if they weren’t good— what if the berries I threw to the fish were poisonous? They probably would’ve eaten them anyway, mistaking them for food. In the same way, I think we often judge incorrectly: that in our innate desire for good things we can end up taking what merely appears good, but what is not actually good, and that in our hunger we often don’t distinguish between good berries and poisonous ones. We are beings cursed by concupiscence, which is the moral tendency to veer off course as misaligned tires would cause a car to tend slightly to the left, needing constant correction. It is precisely this bi-product of the Fall which makes us confused and causes us to choose wrongly. I then remembered how C.S. Lewis put words to such confusion in his Screwtape Letters. In one of the letters, the demon Screwtape corresponds with a less experienced demon, instructing him in the fine art of corrupting people. He explains the subtle differences between kinds of joy and how to use them to their advantages. Screwtape says, “Fun is closely related to Joy— a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field…” (Lewis, 50). The demons speak of a type of joy that will strengthen a person with good things versus a joy that will lead to their ruin— the difference between the good berry and the poisonous berry. People love and gravitate towards humor— why else are memes so popular? But in their desire for humor, they are prone to choosing the detrimental kind, a kind that will wound and degrade. A sad irony arises as well: even the demons are confused on what is “Enemy” and “evil”, as they use these words to refer to “God”, and to “goodness”. They have it flipped around.

My thoughts were interrupted by the chattering of chipmunks in the trees above me. There I stood, thinking deeply over something as insignificant as snacking fish. It wasn’t all that strange, since the day was especially set aside for this kind of meditation, for silence and self-reflection. A few hours in the presence of raw nature can turn anyone into a philosopher. With the day ahead of me, I kept tossing berry after berry, seeing the hungry mouths of fish breaking the surface of the glassy yellow water.

2018: A Year in Review

It has been another great year for Laudato Si’ Project and this February our organization will be turning 3 years old!  There have been so many highlights and adventures in the last 12 months and it is all because of our generous members, donors, partners and volunteers. Thank You.

2018 By the Numbers:

  • Over 1400 students, families and adults took part in programming
  • 80 hours of educational programs
  • Over 650 volunteer hours of stewardship caring for our common home
  • 25 hours of recreational outings to get outdoors and explore nature


In 2018, Laudato Si’ Project ran 80 hours of educational programs! We were able to connect with hundreds of school students ranging from kindergarten up through college. Whether it is speaking at a school, retreat, conference, or out in the woods- education is at the core of what we do. Our School Partnerships have really expanded Laudato Si’ Project’s reach. With our partnerships growing, we are able to work with teachers to help them connect students to the teaching of the Church and Laudato Si’. This ensured they could find ways to get students into nature, sparking curiosity and developing a love for this amazing natural gift.


One of Laudato Si’ Project’s most impactful programs are the retreats we facilitate forret6 parishes and schools throughout Southeast Wisconsin. This fall we were privileged to work with nearly 300 students, deepening their faith and calling their love for God into action through stewardship of our common home.

Watch our short video about Laudato Si’ Project Retreats.


In 2018, Laudato Si’ Project logged over 650 volunteer hours! Stewardship is all about getting our hands dirty. It is our philosophy that is it not enough to just learn about nature, you have to work to help restore it. By allowing students opportunity’s to give the Earth a helping hand- we are instilling a sense of mercy for our common home that they will carry with them throughout their lives. We are very proud of the great partnerships we have struck with multiple organizations including Tall Pines Conservancy, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Waukesha Land Conservancy, Catholic Heart Work Camp, Heiliger Huegel Ski Club and Schoenstatt Retreat Center.

Protecting Pollinators

In 2018, we planted 7 different native butterfly gardens totaling nearly 4000 native wildflowers! These gardens are an oasis for our native bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Over 200 students assisted with the plantings and also learned about the benefits of prairies and unique ecology of the organisms that call it home.


In 2018, Laudato Si’ Project created 25 hours of recreation outings. We seek to create intentional recreational opportunities so that students, adults and families can spend time enjoying our beautiful natural environment.

It has been a great year! God has richly blessed our organization again this year and has given us countless ways to spread our vital mission. We look forward to busy and fruitful 2019. Happy New Year.

Upcoming Events:

  • Sat January 26th 10am-noon Hartland Marsh Stewardship
  • Sat/Sun February 2nd-3rd: Langlauf Winter Carnival
  • Sun February 17th 1pm-3:30 Living in the Web of Creation Program and Fellowship

Check our Facebook page for more details




Outdoor Adventure Series: Wyoming Catholic College

Wyoming Catholic College’s COR Expeditions;

The 4-part Outdoor Adventure Series will consist of essays written by students who participated in one of Wyoming Catholic College’s COR Expeditions: a 21-day backpacking trip infused with faith, community, virtue and beauty. You can view a video and learn more about Wyoming Catholic College’s COR Expedition offerings HERE

Essay #1: Mt. Geikie33

by MaryAnne Speiss

With a slap, cold woke me; I was freezing! The chill of last night’s storm hung on the air of the tent, and trying to pretend it away did no good. I tensed my entire body to combat the frigid air sneaking into everypore and extricated my aching limbs from the thin bag that had so wretchedly performed its function. All my clothes (save the thin layers I wore) were wet; I could not warm myself. The tent dripped on us; I could not fix it. My bare feet, cringing as they slid into clammy sandals, hurt as cold bit them. I was completely powerless to ameliorate the situation. All I could do was grit my teeth and hurl myself, exhausted and rebellious, through the tent flap and onto the wet mountain grass of the windy valley. My stiff body uncrumpled and poised upright, and then I saw it!

Mt. Geikie stood before me, but not the brutal mound of rock that I had summited55
the day before. It still retained its perfect shape, climbing and climbing to a double peak, and my feet and hands still vividly recalled the ledges and dark boulder fields discernible from below. But the storm had transformed the sight before me. No longer was it something known and familiar, as it had been in the garish sunlight; it was now something of immense power, almost eerie in its captivation as soft tendrils of cloud swirled white against the dark peaks, mirroring their swaying counterparts in the sky. They flowed in slow succession into all the crannies and crevices of Geikie, almost to the tree-line. If ever a mountain took on the robes of a god, this was the moment! A shuddering thrill: I had stood on holy ground and had not known it! Would that I had knelt upon the peak. What words were whispered between the rugged rocks and soft curling cloud I could not hear, but though the wind swirled hard about my huddled shoulders and bare ankles, I stood stunned, my misery forgotten.

The vision only lasted a few breathless moments before I was filled with such inspiration that I found myself tromping off, still shivering, to attack the camp’s morning duties with a gusto so intense that it rivalled my recent, vicious frustration.

I was shocked! Had this really happened? Had an experience of intense beauty just given me the ability to bear cold serenely (which had never happened before in my life)? Where was the writhing of my soul in the face of my inability to improve the situation? It was gone, not explained away but suddenly absent, crowded out of my small brain by a deluge of beauty. The frustration begin to seep back from time to time over the course of the morning, and with it the vivid consciousness of pain, but whenever I remembered the beauty of my early morning vision it would again vanish. I was intrigued and began a quest of speculation.

I at last hypothesized that pain is comprised of two things, both which we call pain by themselves though perhaps we are wrong in so doing: firstly, the discomfort caused by an inevitable stimulus, and secondly, the impotent frustration that usually ensues. These go hand in hand so regularly that I had not clearly noticed this distinction before. It appeared to me now that the frustration was not inevitable and could indeed be avoided by counteracting it with beauty, either in actuality or in memory, which would then allow for a strengthened and vivacious going-onward with life. So I set out to test my theory, and I soon broadened my experiment not just to physical discomfort but also to mental discomfort.

As painful situations would spring upon me, I was ready for them. At one wyc1time my eyes ached from exhaustion; I recalled the crescent moon crested by a planet that I had seen the night before, and, sure enough, I found that I could go on invigorated, my frustration dissipated. At another time, I found myself on the verge of cursing at an annoying situation; I looked up and saw some fresh-cut flowers and returned to a place of inner cool. In no case did the exhaustion or annoyance magically disappear, but they lost the edge that made them feel unbearable, and I could then attack or tolerate problems with considerably more ease and courage. St. Paul might have meant something far more immediate and tangible than I had ever realized when he famously penned “whatever is lovely … think about these things.” (The Holy Bible, RSV, Phil. 4.8). So far my vision of Mt. Geikie had only lead me to confront lesser manifestations of the problem of evil. Little did I suspect that through it, and through my speculations on the nature of pain, I would get a glimpse of a deeper answer I had been seeking for years.

 I, (and I know that I am far from alone in this), have long been locked in close combat with the problem of evil’s most affronting manifestation: the suffering of innocent victims. I was aware that my impotent rage at this injustice was etching itself deeper and deeper into my heart. The older I got, the more it threatened to shatter me. I could follow the arguments of theologians like C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain as they used logic to explain how such outrage could be allowed by a good God. I could even intellectually assent to such arguments; only, I could not come close to inward peace on the subject. I had no concrete example to draw upon in order to comprehend how somehow, someday, it could be possible to accept a reason for innocent suffering without experiencing devastating inward rebellion. Indeed, I had several times considered whether I should “most respectfully return [God] the ticket” (245) to heaven, alongside Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov.


But then I saw it! Of course! Everything suddenly came clear; my image of Geikie was the example I needed! For an intense, flashing second I saw a metaphorical Geikie, not the mountain of stone but now representing the whole of history. It too was swathed in clouds, the clouds of all innocent suffering since the fall of man. If, thought I, the very clouds that caused the misery on the freezing morning were the things that redeemed it in the end — with beauty and not explanation — then it is possible, just possible, for the same to be true of innocent sufferings when seen from the end of time.

I stand stunned, my heart at peace.


A Fall Packed with Faith, Stewardship and Fun


This Fall has presented countless opportunities to connect with nature, grow in faith, and care for our common home. Over 300 people, ranging in age from 3 years old to 80 years old, took part in Laudato Si’ Project events this Fall! These included educational programs, retreats, recreational outings, and stewardship projects.


Programs with Saint John Vianney 7th and 8th grade, Woodside Elementary, Families at Schoofs Preserve, St. Gabriel Flea Market and Schoenstatt Families

Laudato Si’ Project was also honored to have executive director Joe Meyer awarded File_006Ozaukeee Washington Land Trust’s Michael Frome Education and Outreach Award.



Programs with Cristo Rey High School, Woodside Elementary, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Casa Romero Center, Marquette High School and other hard working volunteers.

Recreation: Nothing beats time spent in nature. Student groups find that hiking and exploring in our natural world is truly Re-Creational.

Connecting with Summer Wildlife

Showing the group a meadow vole

Laudato Si’ Project seeks to utilize connections with nature to instill a sense of wonder and begin to create a stewardship ethic rooted in faith. The summer months present great opportunities to do just that. Using small mammal live traps, snake boards, turtle nets and other ecological monitoring equipment, we are able to let groups get up-close and hands-on with Wisconsin wildlife.

Learning about the beautiful treasures of creation is not limited to the daytime. Few people experience the diversity of our nocturnal animals: bats, lightning bugs, and moths. We use ultrasonic microphones that hook-up to your smart phone that detect feeding bats overhead that are using echolocation. Even though you may not see them, the device makes audible their echolocation and auto-id’s the species of bat. Although Wisconsin’s 8 bat species present great opportunities for discovery and topics of conservation, our hundreds of species of moths should not be overlooked.

We make this great diversity of moths accessible through live moth trapping. By

Virginia Ctenuchid Moth

making a homemade moth live trap you are able to make visible all those amazing bugs that move about while we are asleep inside. All you need to do is turn the black-light on in the trap before you go to bed and in the morning feast your eyes on the treasures it has collected. If you really want a project, purchase a Peterson Field Guide to Moths and try to identify some of them.

“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker”    -Pope Francis Laudato Si’ (Wis 13:5)


Faith, Education and Stewardship

With Earth Day just this past Sunday, we thought we would share all the great happenings within the last week. If you haven’t read the article about Laudato Si’ Project in the National Catholic Reporter, you can view it HERE. We also had the opportunity to speak about Care for Our Common Home on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air. You can listen to that Conversation HERE.

This week we also had the privilege to work with 2 middle schools in the Archdioscese of Milwaukee, St. Alphonsus and St. Jude the Apostle. We helped St. Alphonsus 7th graders with a service project and teaching them about how our faith connects with Care for Our Common Home. We continued with a woodland restoration at our Schoenstatt project area removing invasive species and putting up bluebird and kestrel nest boxes.

Laudato Si’ Project also led the 6th graders of St. Jude the Apostle in their retreat focused on Respect, Peace and Acceptance. This is part of a continued partnership with Marquette University High School, Laudato Si’ Project and middle schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The weather could not have been better and the students were able to experience a fun, faith-filled retreat that drew them closer to God, one another, and Creation.

Lastly, we have finished installing our Bat Boxes on several properties in Washington County. These boxes will serve as a day-time roosting site for our many bats that call Wisconsin Home. You can learn more about helping bats at

February/March Nature Notes

Butterflies in March?

Even with snow on the ground, adult mourning cloak butterflies emerge from their mourning_cloak_10-27-14winter slumber spent under leaves or loose bark. They are one of only a handful of butterflies to overwinter as adults. To keep from freezing, mourning cloaks reduce the amount of water in their blood by as much as 30 percent and then thicken it with a sugar solution of sorbitol. Biologists in Alaska found that mourning cloaks do not freeze until the temperature reaches minus 220°F. Once they emerge, they need to quickly feed, so they often seek out running tree sap or rotten fruit. Mourning cloaks win the award for greatest longevity among butterflies, living 10 or 11 months. Search the woodlands near you this spring.

Maple Syrup

February and March can be tough months, with some warm days followed by a snow storm. One way to sweeten this emotional roller coaster is to experience the maple syrup season. File_002(1)Even when nature seems asleep, maple trees are sending sugary sap up to the branches where the buds will use the sugar to make leaves in a few weeks. In my experience, having days around forty and sunny with nights below freezing produces the best sap flow. When temperatures reach high forties and fifty the flow actually stops. The sap is about 2-5% sugar and will be boiled down to about 66% sugar which we then call syrup. This boiling can be slow going as you may have to evaporate off 50 gallons of water to get 1 gallon of syrup! Sugar Maples are the most common tree used for syruping but other maple family trees can be used; silver, red, and boxelder. In Alaska, without maple trees, they utilize the sap of birch trees to make syrup!

Small Mammals

Some of our mammals began to awake from their winter slumber in March but many

A meadow vole we captured recently

mammals were active all winter. Laudato Si’ Project is beginning some small mammal survey’s using live traps in order to gain understanding of what lives in certain areas and how many. The goal is also to create programs open to the public so they can see many of these amazing critters close up. It also demonstrates ways in which research scientists monitor and study these animals. Our target species include: meadow vole, short-tailed shrew, meadow jumping mouse, woodland jumping mouse, deer mouse, 13- lined ground squirrel and flying squirrel.

Spring Avian Arrivals

Many of us look forward to the first calls of red-winged blackbirds, robins, and sandhill cranes, but there is another bird species that begins its unique mating dance in March, the


American Woodcock

American Woodcock. On these spring evenings, just before dark you will begin to hear the “peenting” call of the male Amercian Woodcock. Without knowing this, you might write it off as a silly insect buzz but what follows is truly a spectacle of nature. The male continues his “peenting” call for several minutes before taking flight. Then begins a circular flight into the sky, during which you will hear a high pitch noise as they fly made by the sound of their wings. They continue these concentric circles until they are several hundred feet in the air and then continue with their “falling leaf” display. This consists of erratically falling through the air while making high pitch vocal tweets. Their sky dance ends with them swooping silently to the ground where they originally took off and continue their “peenting.” This mating display continues well into the night and sometimes in the morning as well.

February and March is also a great time to cleanout your bluebird nest boxes for the arrival of the Eastern Bluebird. These gorgeous birds arrive early in the spring and begin to choose nest sites; tree cavities or nest boxes. American Kestrels also begin choosing their territories and picking out nest boxes as well. Laudato Si’ Project is helping to boost both bird populations with the installation of dozens of kestrel and bluebird nest boxes in Southeast WI. Many of our bird houses are made from scrape lumbar reclaimed from construction sites. Volunteers and Boy Scouts are placing them at several sites including Schoenstatt Retreat Center, Daniel Boone Conservation League, Tall Pines Conservancy’s Camp Quad Easement, Heiliger Huegel Ski Club and several other private land owners with appropriate habitat.

Lent with Laudato Si’



“The poor and the earth are crying out.”                                                                                               -Pope Francis Laudato Si’

As we embark on this Lenten season, we do so with the structure of the 3 pillars of lent; Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These actions of self denial orient us toward the Creator who is the source of all life and true happiness. Many of our transgressions against God and one another stem from a distorted understanding of our place in this world. When we forget our rightful place as creature and not Creator, we focus only on ourselves and neglect our prayer life, our role as stewards of creation and service to one another. We can also use the 4 Cardinal Virtues as a guide to reflection about our personal stewardship ethic.



What is owed my neighbor? What is owed to generations yet to come? How are we going to hand on this Creation that we have been called to steward?


One of the hardest but most impactful of virtues. How can we restrain our consumption and always wanting more? How can we simplify our lives to make more room for God?


This virtue allows us to discern the true cost of our actions. Our consciences need to be formed by our Faith. This will allow us to guide our families and those around us to more sustainable choices and lifestyles. We can also give thanks for what we have been given.


The virtue of fortitude gives us the perseverance to live more simply and the courage to be counter-cultural. It also gives us the strength to remain hopeful amidst the hardships and injustices in our world.



In your prayer this Lent, take time to pray for Our Common Home and those which depend most intricately on it, the poor. Click Here for a great prayer by Pope Francis


In an effort to rid our hearts and lives of that which is not essential, the Church calls us to simplicity through fasting. Much of our environmental and social degradation is due to a “throw away culture.”  This Lent, fast from those wasteful habits in your life.


The paradox of Christianity is clear; less is more, give and you will receive. By detaching from our money we more clearly can experience God’s love and freedom in our lives. There are so many wonderful organizations helping Humanity and our Common Home. Consider supporting Laudato Si’ Project this Lent.

Further Study:

You can find a Laudato Si’ Study Guide and other resources on our Website


Sign up Here for a Lenten Guide to fast for creation


Kindergarten, Naturally

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Guest Reflection by Woodside Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Peter Dargatz

Some of my earliest and favorite childhood memories are my experiences with nature at Underwood Creek, catching frogs at Menominee River Parkway, and rock hunting along the shores of Kohler-Andrae State Park. Nature has always been a place of peace and passion in my life. No matter what else was going on in life, nature was a constant. Living in Wisconsin means amazing seasonal variability and wonderful access to nature. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. As I grew up, I knew that nature would continue to be something I enjoyed personally. I never expected it to be something I could enjoy professionally. Fortunately, I can now do both. I am ecstatic to be able to continue sharing my passion and love for the natural world with my family and my students.

Teacher burnout is a real thing. I love educating children, but after years of teaching, I couldn’t help but feel that change was needed. I saw my students excelling academically but falling short in other areas. The change I needed was not a new job, but a new 1direction. That direction led me back to my love: nature. Initially, my rejuvenation began with the creation of the Tyke Hike program in my volunteer work for the Ice Age Trail’s Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter. These monthly hikes along a segment of the trail focused on more unstructured exploration and nature play combined with some service learning and emergent learning opportunities. Seeing how excited children were at being able to observe, explore, and play in nature inspired me to find a way to bring that enthusiasm to my classroom. I found that way with the nature kindergarten concept. Being in a public school, there were many potential hurdles. However, with tremendous support, access to land, and a seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, it soon became a reality. My students receive daily interactions with nature with a nature-infused curriculum bursting with project-based, personalized, and play-based experiences.


The Tyke Hike program and my nature kindergarten classroom are extremely important to my family. Besides the substantial support and assistance with the responsibilities 2these activities require, my family is my inspiration for my continued development as a teacher and nature steward. My daughters inspire me to create a classroom community that would make them proud. My wife inspires me to follow my dreams and try new things. We constantly share our own nature experiences and making new nature memories together. My wife and I want our girls to experience and celebrate nature so that they will appreciate and honor it on their own.

Whether it be visiting my outdoor classroom, walking through the nature preserve at the end of our block, or visiting one of our many favorite nature spots throughout the area, nature is and will always be an essential element of our lives. We don’t learn about nature. We learn from and in it.


In my three years as a nature kindergarten teacher, I have worked to revamp and rejuvenate my instructional practices by enhancing my curriculum with opportunities for my students to dig into nature, both figuratively and literally. We engage in a diversified set of activities aimed at creating a well-rounded whole-child experience. Place-based learning is crucial to this. I want my students to more deeply understand their community and more importantly, their place and role in that community. While there are a variety of specific activities and experiences we use to deepen our connection to the natural world, the first and far most valuable resource is time. Time to explore, observe, and play. Every day. Mother Nature is a much better teacher than I could ever be so giving her control allows the students to see their world with a different perspective.

This different perspective aims to create and instill a passion for appreciation and love of the land. I want my students to experience the land, understand their place in it, and preserve it. For example, students learn about invasive species. With garlic mustard being easy to find and just as easy to pull out, it is a natural choice to use as a learning tool. We learn about what garlic mustard is, what it does, and why getting rid of it will be helpful for our land. Once we learn that, our daily interactions with nature include garlic mustard picking. It becomes so motivating for kids. I have received many correspondences from parents stating how their child spent hours at home and in the neighborhood pulling out plant after plant. Similarly, to diversify the land, we work on prairie restoration. Using old donated tarps, the students choose a spot to kill off the bland and homogeneous grasses. Later on, they remove the tarp, move it to a new location, and plant prairie plants in that spot. They also distribute native seeds and study different plans to purchase. Additionally, the students do a variety of things to help our animal friends. Whether it be building bird feeders or setting up winter dens, we learn about nature by immersing ourselves in it.

Read a great article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Peter and his classes HERE


High School Retreat at Holy Hill

The St. Catherine of Alexandria High School group ready for our Ice Age trail hike

Laudato Si’ Project was thrilled to help run the high school retreat for St. Catherine of Alexandria in Brown Deer. We began in the morning with a presentation and discussion

The St. Catherine of Alexandria High School Retreat

on Living Laudato Si’. Topics included: What the Church teaches in regards to Care for Creation, what are the major themes of Laudato Si’, and how to we live a Laudato Si’ stewardship ethic day to day.

After a great morning session, it was time for lunch and then out into the sunny 40 degree January weather! We were off on our faith-based ecology hike to explore the amazing beauty of the Holy Hill segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Joining us for our walk was volunteer educator Steven Schwartz. Steven earned his Bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and wetland science and is currently taking Master’s classes at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. It was a blessing to have Steven’s faith and expertise on our hike. We discussed some of the unique geological features that can be found in the Kettle Moraine and heard insights for great Saints like St. Kateri Tekawitha. It was truly a wonderful day for the youth and it ended with the sacraments of Reconciliation and Mass at the Holy Hill Basilica. A special thanks to Lorrie Maples who is the Formation Director for St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

2017 Highlights

Well, it’s hard to believe that were are wrapping up 2017 already. It has been another big year for Laudato Si’ Project and this February our organization will be turning 2 years old!  There have been so many highlights and adventures in the last 12 months and it is all because of our generous members, donors, and volunteers. Thank You.

The summer of 2017 was the 2 year anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Pope Francis also made “care for our common home” a work of mercy 1 year ago in 2016! (see New Work of Mercy). This solidified Laudato Si’ Project’s mission and gave us even more momentum moving forward. As our mission states, we are dedicated to restoring humanity’s connection to the natural world through education, stewardship, and recreation.


In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project ran 70 hours of educational programs! We were able to connect with several hundred school students ranging from kindergarten up through college. Whether it is speaking at a school, retreat, conference, or out in the woods- education is at the core of what we do. Our School Partnerships have really expanded Laudato Si’ Project’s reach. With over a dozen partnerships and growing, we are able to work with teachers to help them connect students to the teaching of the Church and Laudato Si’. This ensured they could find ways to get students into nature, sparking curiosity and developing a love for this amazing natural gift.

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’


In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project logged over 600 volunteer hours! Stewardship is all about getting our hands dirty. It is our philosophy that is it not enough to just learn about nature, you have to work to help restore it. By allowing students opportunity’s to give the Earth a helping hand- we are instilling a sense of mercy for our common home that Pope Francis has called us to.

“We must hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”Pope Francis, Laudato Si’


In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project created 25 hours of recreation outings. We seek to create intentional recreational opportunities so that students, adults, and families can spend time enjoying our beautiful natural environment. “Less screen time-More green time”, that’s our modo. We are very proud of the great partnerships we have struck with multiple organizations including Tall Pines Conservancy, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Heiliger Huegel Ski Club and the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. These organizations own large amounts of land and gives us the ability to connect people with meaningful educational events, stewardship projects, and recreational outings.

It has been a great year! God has richly blessed our organization again this year and has given us countless ways to spread our vital mission. We look forward to busy and fruitful 2018. Happy New Year



A Home for Kestrels

Laudato Si’ Project has ambitious goals for 2018 to help this species recover.

A Male American Kestrel

Few birds of prey in WI can rival the beauty of the American Kestrel. At roughly the size of a Mourning Dove, it is North America’s smallest falcon. Unfortunately, it has declined nearly 50% over much of its range since the 1960’s.  Reasons for the decline are varied


but include continued clearing of land and felling of the standing dead trees these birds depend on for their nest sites. The American Kestrel is also losing prey sources and nesting cavities to so-called “clean” farming practices, which remove hedgerows, trees, and brush. An additional threat is exposure to pesticides and other pollutants, which can reduce clutch sizes and hatching success. For kestrels in North America, a larger problem with pesticides is that they destroy the insects, spiders, and other prey on which the birds depend.

Laudato Si’ Project is responding to kestrel decline the same way we responded to blue bird decline- the installation of nesting boxes (See past blog post Bluebird Nest Boxes). LSP has already begun the construction and hanging of Kestrel nest boxes. Kestrel’s prefer open habitat where they hunt for rodents, grasshoppers, and other insects. This presents great opportunities for LSP to work with landowner’s in Southeastern Wisconsin installing nest boxes and increasing nest success. Nest boxes can be placed 10-25 feet up on non-utility telephone poles, lone trees or barns. Farm’s, pastures, and preserves managed by our partners provide countless opportunities to help a species in need. These nest boxes also create monitoring and educational opportunities for both students and adults.

Help us create a house for an American Kestrel 


Sponsor an American Kestrel Box for $25. Great gift idea for the nature lover in your life. We’ll send you an Adopt-A-Kestrel Certificate and in the Fall inform you of the number of hatchlings your box made possible. Donate securely online HERE

Cool Kestrel Facts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  • It can be tough being one of the smallest birds of prey. Despite their fierce lifestyle, American Kestrels end up as prey for larger birds such as Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Barn Owls, American Crows, and Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks.
  • Unlike humans, birds can see ultraviolet light. This enables kestrels to make out the trails of urine that voles, a common prey mammal, leave as they run along the ground. Like neon diner signs, these bright paths may highlight the way to a meal—as has been observed in the Eurasian Kestrel, a close relative.
  • Kestrels hide surplus kills in grass clumps, tree roots, bushes, fence posts, tree limbs, and cavities, to save the food for lean times or to hide it from thieves. 
  • The oldest American Kestrel was a male and at least 14 years, 8 months old when he was found in Utah in 2001. He had been banded in the same state in 1987.



World of Wonders

Guest Reflection by Steven Schwartz; Member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish 

Photo by Steven Schwartz

We have been given a world of wonders.

That’s the only conclusion I can reach when I find myself admiring the beauty of nature. That’s the only conclusion I’ve ever been able to reach, from the time I was looking at the bugs found from overturning rocks as a little kid to pursuing a degree in Wildlife Ecology as an adult. The world around us is beautiful, infinitely complex, fascinating, sometimes intimidating or horrifying, but amazing in its features nonetheless.

This is the world God has given to us. Whether you look at the charge given from God to Adam in Genesis or the sheer influence we have over the natural world through our numbers and technology, like it or not, we are the stewards of this planet.

Photo by Steven Schwartz

Which makes it more painful to me when I see people not only completely ignoring that duty, that sacred duty, but seemingly embrace decidedly non-Christian principles in regard to the world around us. Greed in many ways has become the norm, and anything impeding the acquisition of more wealth is increasingly subject to scrutiny. This, among other things, includes nature itself. People in power bear false witness in order to try and make themselves appear as if they are doing no harm in spite of what they are actually inflicting on our mother Earth. What’s worse is that people, through their own ignorance whether willful or no, believe them.

We have been given a world of wonders, yet we can see only money. For this challenge, we must all embrace an awesome stewardship in which we live as examples of giving all to Christ who has given all to us.

Steven with other LSP volunteers during a stewardship work day

In truth I think many of the teachings of Jesus do connect themselves to our treatment of nature, just as they do to humanity. For we are, all of us, part of nature as a whole, connected to the world around us as surely as any other plant or animal. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you stretches to, as the saint who Pope Francis took as his namesake often said, our non-human “brothers and sisters,” in my opinion. Another aspect of St. Francis was his radical poverty, his life itself a dramatic prayer, and his denying self to glorify the Lord.  Being mindful of greed, just as our Lord warned, rings just as strongly when looking at the actions of powerful industries as they did when looking at the actions of the corrupted powerful in Roman-occupied Israel in Jesus’ time.

It is with great happiness then that I read for myself just how invested and informed Pope Francis himself is on the topic of preserving and protecting the environment. He reminds us in his Laudato Si encyclical that it is often the poorest among us who continue to suffer the most at the hands of ecological degradation, whether it be through air pollution or drought worsened by global climate change. He’s really given me hope that the Catholic Church can do some good in this conflict.

This and the desire to educate are a now a part of why I continue to try and do my part to protect the natural world, whether it’s through education or through physical efforts. I genuinely believe, on top of this, that we cannot be cut off from the wonder of life, its diversity, its beauty, while we still have the means to protect and cherish it.

For we have been given a world of wonders. With God’s help, let’s act like it.

Photo by Steven Schwartz

Schoofs Preserve Stewardship and St. Dominic Retreat


This past week, Laudato Si’ Project helped put on the St. Dominic middle school retreat, as well as, a stewardship work day on the Schoofs Preserve for St. Theresa of Calcutta young adults group. For the stewardship work day, chilly temperatures were no barrier for this group. The Schoofs Preserve is a 51-acre preserve owned by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and our group was focused on removing invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle from around the pond to allow regeneration of native species like red-twig dogwood and elderberry. Thanks to all the young adults from Theresa of Calcutta for their hard work!

Laudato Si’ Project, in collaboration with MUHS and CMH, put on a great retreat for the IMG_2166St. Dominic middle school. Students were lead through a day of prayer and contemplation around Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si: Care for the Common Home. They participated in activities that helped them to better appreciate their relationship with God, one another, and creation. Students came to understand our interconnectedness to all parts of creation and ended the day making a commitment to care for our common home. Each received a prayer card, badge, and sticker to remind them to be the hands of Jesus to one another and to the world! Thanks to all the high school student and adult volunteers that made this a great experience for St. Dominic students.

St. John Vianney 7th Grade Retreat

SJV 7th Grade Retreat

We had a wonderful Wednesday with the 7th grade class of St. John Vianney at Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with Marquette University High School and St. John Vianney for our Common Home Explorer Program. We were privileged to work with St. John Vianney’s youth minister, Claire Hoffmeyer, in the planning of the retreat which had a focus on prayer, relationships, and stewardship.

The morning started with Mass and witness talks by SJV pastor Fr. Miniatt and MUHS student/SJV graduate Phil Volkert. Students were split into groups to discuss prayer, trust, and relationships. Students then took part in a skit about St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation. This was used as a springboard into our afternoon which focused on Care for our Common Home.

The afternoon activity included a reflective group walk up to our woodland restoration site. Students helped with our ongoing project by removing and stacking invasive buckthorn trees. The amount of work that 34 motivated 7th graders can do is truly amazing. Temperatures in the high 40’s didn’t seem to negatively impact this group at all. We finished the afternoon by hiking a trail that loops much of the beautiful retreat center property.

Here is a brief video clip showing our land stewardship.

Canticle of Creation: St. Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God, to you belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience – you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face. I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.

Butterfly Garden Planting

We had an incredible afternoon Friday planting a butterfly garden at Milwaukee IMG_1946Parkside School for the Arts. We started by doing an educational program with the K-5 students about prairie, what factors shape it, and why it is important.  We discussed the role of fire in shaping this unique ecosystem, as well as, how bison and elk in WI also shaped the landscape. Students were able to feel the hides of those animals and even try on an elk antler. We also looked at the amazing roots of prairie that can go as deep as 15 feet! This helps prairies survive and benefit from wildfires and also help the plants during droughts. Students were able to lie next to a banner showing the actual size of big bluestem and lead plant roots. We talked about WI butterflies and pollinators that will benefit from the prairie planting.

We then got our hands dirty planting 150 native prairie wildflowers and mulching the area. This diverse wildflower planting will provide a nectar and pollen source for butterflies and other pollinators from May to October. Thanks to Erin Dentice and Jessica Maxwell for there leadership at Milwaukee Parkside and our amazing student volunteers from MUHS. We look forward to several planting projects with Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts this Spring.

Check out this short video about our educational program and planting

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”   -Mark 10:13

Fall Living Laudato Si’

This beautiful Fall weekend was truly a Living Laudato Si’ weekend. It was packed with action starting with our stewardship work day at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Student volunteer groups from both Cristo Rey High School and Marquette University High School helped with various projects on the Schoenstatt property. The first was the seeding of a 2 acre Oak Opening Prairie. These unique prairie ecosystems historically covered much of southern Wisconsin and have unique species that depend on them including many types of insects and birds. There are actually classified as the most endangered ecosystem type in the World (more than rainforests)! Thanks to the generosity of several donors, we were able to purchase and collect a diverse mixture of prairie wildflowers and grasses that do well in situations ranging from shade to full sun.

We mixed the seed in an old landscape pond with a filler called vermiculite. This acts as a carrier for the smaller seed and helps you to seed more evenly. The trickiest part is to ensure that your seed lasts the entirety of the site and you don’t use it up too early. To avoid this, we set up flagged grid patterns and work methodically back and forth, spreading seed evenly to ensure good coverage.

If you have visited the Schoenstatt Property and are wondering where these sites are, refer the brochure map below. This map was created this summer as part of a pamphlet given to people on retreat. The brown arrows show the 2 sites.


After seeding the prairie, we headed across the property to our woodland restoration site. It was here that we continued maintenance on our nature trail and continued with invasive species removal. See our post from an Eagle Scout who made this site his project  

On Sunday, Laudato Si’ Project was invited to give a presentation to the parish on the encyclical Laudato Si’ and how to Live Laudato Si’ everyday. After mass, parishioners were invited to a hot breakfast followed by worship music and our presentation. Some religious education classes came to the presentation including their junior class of Confirmation students (who agreed to dress as characters of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation, from which Laudato Si’ gets its name: see picture below)

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi


October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment. Many of us have seen his statue adorning gardens or quite places for reflection in nature. Our current Pope took his name to reflect the need to live simply, care for the poor, and find God in His Creation. Pope Francis’ encyclical named Laudato Si’ references St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon which begins “Praised be You my Lord…” (Laudato Si’ means Praise be You in medieval Italian)

Pope Francis also calls for a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1st every year. It was on September 1st last year that he announced a new work of mercy in the Church, “Care for Our Common Home.” He then called for several week span to pray and reflect upon God’s gift of Creation for us in what he termed the “Season of Creation.” This Season of Creation comes to a close with this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Let’s pray the prayer St. Francis wrote “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon”. While praying, realize that St. Francis was near his death upon writing this prayer, suffering greatly in his health and from the stigmata.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs. Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.

Learn more about this amazing Saint Here

Below are pictures with our MUHS student group Caring for Creation by do water quality testing on the Menominee River in Milwaukee, WI.

St. John Vianney 8th Grade Retreat

“It was a great time away from the pressures of the world to think about God’s Creation” -Adam
“I believe this experience has brought me closer to God and my faith. I learned that I can just sit in nature and listen to God” -Anonymous
“We need to care for and protect the intricate works of God in nature” -Sara

Laudato Si’ Project had the privilege of helping plan and lead the 8th grade retreat for St. John Vianney School.  Our new partnership with St. John Vianney is the result of a program created by Marquette University High School and Laudato Si’ Project called “Our Common Home Explorer Program.” Laudato Si’ Project worked with St. John Vianney’s Youth Minister, Claire Hoffmeyer, to create a retreat experience focused on Care for Our Common Home. We wanted to create a retreat that would be prayerful, transformative, and fun. We call it “Contemplatives in Conservation.”

“I learned that caring for God’s Creation can affect others in a positive way” -Katie      
“It was very reflective and a good time to collect my thoughts. God was telling me to be thankful for Creation. I learned that God needs us to care for Creation.” –Anne  
“I heard God speaking to me about Care for Our Common Home”  -Joe
“God needs our help to care for the Earth” -Amelia
“I can praise God with everything I do and with my talents” -Bridget

The retreat took place on the beautiful wooded grounds of the Pallottine Retreat Center in Elkhorn, WI. The retreat began with an intro to Laudato Si’, witness talk, ice breaker, and group activity about finding God through beauty. In that activity, student groups searched through magazines to find images of people, places, and nature that struck them as beautiful and reflected God in some way. They presented their collages explaining the beauty in each image and created a group prayer.

“This retreat helped me see God in nature” -Conor
“One take away is to be a good steward of this Earth” -Julian
“Everyone needs to pitch in to help our world” -Andrew
“This retreat was faith-filled and peaceful” -Annie
“One take away is that I should take time out of my day to pray” -Morgan
“My experience was reflective, peaceful, and fun. I liked it a lot and it was a great time to hear God.” –Theresa

The remainder of the morning was spent outside doing various stations focused on forming a relationship with God and His Creation. Stations were titled: Be Still, Pray, Meditate, Give Thanks, Imagine, and Mercy. At the end of the stations, students reflected upon their experience and received a Care for Our Common Home patch as a visible sign of their retreat experience. A wonderful lunch was provided and the day concluded with mass at the retreat center. Special thanks to all the St. John Vianney teachers and MUHS student Henry Rohmer, for helping make this day a memorable one for students.

“My experience was fantastic and I was blessed to have been here” -Erin
“It was really fun to connect with God. I heard him speak to me about how to serve him and to go out and do things for the needy” -Michael
“God spoke to me and told me to never lose faith” -Ainsleigh

Monarch Migration Tagging

Over the past several weeks, Laudato Si’ Project has led numerous outings in order to tag monarch butterflies on their way to their Mexican wintering grounds nearly 2000 miles away. The small stickers, with a unique serial number, are affixed to their wings and when these butterflies are caught again in Mexico, knowledge of migratory pathways are better understood. You can take part in this citizen science research by visiting monarch

Holding monarchs appropriately ensures that you are not damaging their wings. Unlike other butterflies that do not migrate, monarch wings are sturdier. Monarch populations have declined by 80-90% over recent years and ensuring your yard has wild space for both milkweed and flowers will keep their populations strong in WI.

Monarch’s begin their migration around mid August in Southern WI and catching them


can be an unpredictable affair. Finding their favorite prairie plants helps increase the odds you will see them feeding. Monarch caterpillars are milkweed specialists but they are not alone. Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars also feed on milkweed and like monarch caterpillars, become distasteful to predators as a result. Whenever we take a group out looking for monarch’s, you always find other amazing species that call the prairie their home.

View our video below highlighting a prairie in late summer. It shows the diversity of plants and pollinators that a prairie holds. Contact Us if you would like a prairie planting, big or small, at your home, school, parish, or business.

“Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; Cold and chill, bless the Lord; Light and darkness, bless the Lord; Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord; Let the earth bless the Lord, Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord; All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”   – Daniel 3 (adapted)