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New program joins Catholic teaching and environmental science

Student of Agriculture

Shutterstock | Indypendenz

J-P Mauro - published on 04/11/24

Ave Maria University "is engaging coherently with this conversation and proposing robust alternatives that emerge from the Church’s anthropology."

A Catholic college in South Florida has come up with a novel way to prepare the next generation to be custodians of our shared environment. In the Fall 2024 semester, Ave Maria Universitywill begin offering an Agriculture and Catholic Environmental Stewardship (ACES) minor, a program that will utilize Catholic teaching to train future leaders in the field. 

According to the university’s website, the minor will integrate Catholic teaching “on the person, family, ecology, and economy,” into students’ formation in the renewal of our way of life.

Along with practical outdoor skills, students who complete the course will be equipped to become “a transformative Catholic presence in local society,” as well as taking part in the broader public conversation.

Ave Maria points towards the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI to explain the inspiration for the new minor: 

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations, and towards humanity as a whole.” — Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 48

Dr. Samuel Shephard, associate professor of biology at Ave Maria University and director of the ACES minor, said of the course in a press release: 

“While the Western world is deeply invested in solving crucial environmental challenges, it often proposes solutions that reflect a superficial understanding of the human person, creating a critical gap of sustainable and holistic ideas by Catholic leaders and thinkers.”

Students outside

He went on to note that the program will place a focus on sustainable living and self-sufficiency, teaching both the theories and practice of the subjects. A strong outdoor element will see students spending at least four hours per week at practical work, learning new skills in sustainable food production, including composting, preparing soil, and growing fruit and vegetables.

“No faithfully Catholic university is engaging coherently with this conversation and proposing robust alternatives that emerge from the Church’s anthropology and which attract people to the faith.” Dr. Shephard added. “We are pleased to be able to offer this new minor in order to fill this critical gap in the environmental sector.”

The new minor will also create an added benefit to the school in the form of the new St. Isidore Center for Agriculture Science and Stewardship (SICASS) farm in Ave Maria. This farm will allow for annual vegetable production, which may or may not head to the school’s cafeteria, as well as a permaculture garden that will beautify the area. 

Visit Ave Maria University to learn more about this new minor.

EducationEnvironmentFaith and ScienceUnited States
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