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Integral Ecology

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Laura Koonce, Vice President of Mission & HR and Ministry Lead of Marianist Encounters, Saint Louis School, Honolulu, HI, shares this article from the school magazine.

Laura Koonce

We are not alone in our love for the ‘āina. In the Fall of 2022, I attended the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative (MSJC) Integral Ecology Issue Team annual meeting in Dayton, Ohio at Mount St. John. Mount St. John is the intersection of various Marianist community organizations, including the North American Center for Marianist Studies (NACMS). The Integral Ecology Team works in partnership with the Marianist Environmental Education Center (MEEC) by animating MSJC members and our Marianist Family networks to take transformative action for a just and sustainable future. As Saint Louis School continues to champion our ‘āina-based learning and global learning curricula, the Integral Ecology Team compliments our school’s mission and aims to show an interconnectedness with all living things. During the trip, members of the team explored the goals of Pope Francis in his encyclical letter of Laudato Sí, networked with other organizations, held open discussions surrounding our approach to the cry of the Earth, as well as set goals for the group.

In addition to the meetings, I learned more about the Marianist mission and explored different lenses of ‘āina-based learning. While visiting other Marianist schools and non-profit organizations in Nebraska and Ohio on this trip, I observed how organizations employ social and environmental activism in their lessons and curricular structure. Visiting the Mission of Mary, a nonprofit Marianist community-based urban farm in Dayton, Ohio, I explored themes of sustainability, food accessibility, and cultural connectedness in the environment. One theme that struck me was when Executive Director Mike Schulz shared how food is love and love is food. True in any culture, growing one’s food is an act of empowerment, and sharing food is an act of aloha that grows and strengthens a community. While on the trip, I was able to reflect on the Ka Lamakū’s imu and how the context of growing, preparing, and sharing food enlightens and connects our school community. Another organization I visited was the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. There, I learned about the Rivers Institute and its focus on growing leadership in college students within the context of the protection of the watershed. Similarly, Saint Louis School will begin expanding leadership opportunities and classes in the coming years.

As I visited and met with Marianists sisters, brothers, and priests, I learned more about the history of how the Marianists approach social justice and its connectedness to environmental issues within different communities. I was invited to meet the Marianist brothers, sisters, and priests at the North American Center for Marianist Studies, where the people of faith enrich the culture and transform society through Christ’s message. Now that I have returned, I see the connections between Laudato Sí, Saint Louis School’s ‘āina-based learning, and the social justice aspect of Marianist values and how they have created a very holistic approach to the way we teach our students here on Kalaepōhaku. I was happy to share with these communities the ways in which Saint Louis School is a prime example of how students can learn about the environmental challenges our community faces and assist with approaching those challenges mindfully and faithfully.

Our unique, deeply rooted Hawaiian history at Saint Louis School shows the path laid before us. As we allow our faith to guide us, use our own ancestral knowledge, identify real-world problem-solving strategies, and engage with our community, our students, teachers, and staff can continue to mālama our ‘āina and the community’s future.

Pictured above from left to right: 1. Mission of Mary Cooperative, located on the inner east side of Dayton, transforms vacant land plots into vegetable gardens and partners with neighbors to sustainably develop the community. 2. Sister Leanne Jablonski, a member of the Integral Ecology Team and Director of the Marianist Environmental Education Center, leads a nature hike with University of Dayton students and community members.

'Āina = Land

Kalaepōhaku = refers to the land/hill that is home to Saint Louis School and Chaminade University

(Source: Red & Blue, the Magazine of Saint Louis School, Honolulu, HI, Summer 2023)

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1 Comment

Dear Laura, thanks very much for sharing your experiences while visiting our schools and institutions. Your comments have spurred me on to learn more about Aina-based learning. Keep up the good work.

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