Loretto Sisters shift investments for creation

Sisters of Loretto and Loretto co-members applauded at a special liturgy in 2012 to mark their bicentennial. Women religious in the area have been at the forefront of efforts to care for creation in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Record Photo File by Marnie McAllister

Sisters of Loretto and Loretto co-members applauded at a special liturgy in 2012 to mark their bicentennial. Women religious in the area have been at the forefront of efforts to care for creation in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Record Photo File by Marnie McAllister

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Women religious have been at the forefront of efforts to take better care of creation in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Sister of Mercy Mary Schmuck, who recently retired from Catholic Charities, has for several years surveyed all of the various Catholic agencies and organizations working in the archdiocese about steps they’ve taken to care for creation.

She consistently reported that women religious “do the heavy lifting” — they take major, sometimes expensive steps, to take care of God’s creation.

The Sisters of Loretto took another step in that direction in mid-July when delegates to the annual Assembly of Loretto Sisters voted to divest their financial interests of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas and oil.

“We are proud to join the ranks of religious groups that have decided to divest,” said Sister Kathy Wright, treasurer of the Sisters of Loretto.

“With the world literally hovering on the brink of climate disaster, it is the least we can do.”

For an aging religious community, it wasn’t an easy decision, said Sister Maureen Fiedler, who was among those who proposed the action.
The decision was, however, unanimous.

“I was amazed” by the vote, said Sister Fiedler, a member of the community’s executive committee, She also belongs to the coordinating group of the Loretto Earth Network, a group of sisters who work on issues related to care for the earth.

She expected the proposal to pass, she noted, but did not expect it to have universal support. The community had been concerned about divesting and wondered, “Can we find other ways to invest the money that will give us the same kind of return?”

While the community’s finance committee is still exploring investment options, she said, the answer appears to be, “Yes.”

“The popular view out there for a number of years, maybe decades, has said the best investments are fossil fuels,” said Sister Fiedler. “But fossil fuels are going down in value.”

The community hopes to invest in renewable energy, but that decision depends on whether or not the return on their investment is solid enough to help secure the sisters’ future.

Sister Fiedler noted that some detractors have asked, “You’re going to sell that stock; isn’t someone else going to buy it?”

“Well, yes, of course. It’s a moral statement that says we don’t want to profit from that anymore,” she said. “If fossil fuels are destroying the earth bit by bit, we don’t want to profit from that.

“I think this is the most important issue of the 21st century,” she added. “If we don’t have a planet, what do we have?”

Sister Fiedler, who has a public radio show called Interfaith Voices, will serve on a panel at the Divest/Invest Conference, hosted by the University of Dayton, this fall.

According to its website, udayton.edu, the Nov. 5 to 7 meeting’s full name is: “Acting on Pope Francis’ Call: Divestment and Investment in Care for Our Common Home.”

The title reflects the name of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.”

The conference will bring together representatives of colleges and universities, health care systems, social service and relief agencies and religious orders to discuss church teaching and climate change.

It will highlight Catholic institutions that have decided to divest of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy, the site said.

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