Ecology and Environment – The Beauty of Creation Series




On October 14th, Geoffrey Woollard and I had the pleasure of speaking with Sister Damien Marie Savino about ecology, faith and science more broadly. The recording is up on our Youtube Channel.

In Laudato si’, Pope Francis calls us to ecological conversion, and writes that “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue.” In conversation with Sister Damien Marie Savino, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College, we discussed:

  • This call to ecological conversion and its meaning;
  • The Catholic idea of integral human ecology, and its synthesis with the health, environmental and ecological sciences; and,
  • The way forward for integrating care for God’s creation into our daily practices of discipleship.

Time stamps

0:00 — Introduction and opening prayer
2:11– Introducing Sister Savino
4:00 — Sister Savino’s unique vocations as a soil scientist and religious
10:25 — A brief history of environmentalism, ecology and environmental sciences
18:00 — Is Christian theology to blame for the ecological crisis? Sister Savino responds
24:15 — The technocratic paradigm and anthropocentrism at the centre of the crisis
29:10 –Transhumanism through an ecological paradigm
36:20 — When is power over nature good or destructive?
38:45 — A daily examen inspired by Laudato si’
44:30 — Seven ages of ecological conversion: New beginning
51:45 — Seven ages of ecological conversion: The tension of dependence, independence, and interdependence + Personal initiative
54:45 —  Seven ages of ecological conversion: Life commitment + New life through dispossession
57:00 —  Seven ages of ecological conversion: Dedication to continuity
1:01:30 — Nature as diversity, not homogeneity: How do we design in harmony with natural rhythms?
1:03:10 — Craftsmanship as enhancing our dignity
1:04:30 — Ecological health and the health of human societies
1:08:40 — Excellence in research as evangelization
1:11:50 — Signs of hope for ecological conversion
1:15:30 — What Sister Savino is working on now

Links to further Viewing and Reading:

Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, Ph.D. – Resources

Youtube videos or podcasts

1.     The Mutual Ennobling of Science and Faith: From Rev. John Zahm, CSC to Laudato Si’, University of Notre Dame Founders’ Day lecture, 2021:

2.     Christian Imperatives for Environmental Care, The Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, 2021:

3.     An Approach to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, Talking with Francky, Salt and Light Media, 2021 (podcast):

4.     Dismantling Environmental Racism: Promising Tools in the Laudato Si’ Toolbox, The Catholic Information Center, Grand Rapids, MI, 2020:

5.     Faith in a Time of Crisis: Salt and Light TV Special on Laudato Si’, 2020:

6.     Banana Peels and Climate Change: A Daily Examen, with Dr. Phil Sakimoto, 2019:

7.     Evangelizing through Land-Based Experience and Dialogue with Science, McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame, 2018:

8.     Entrusted with the Environment: GIVEN Institute, 2016:

9.     Sr. Damien: Pro-Life, Pro-Creation, The GIST, the CatholicTV Network, 2016:

10.  Women in the  Church, Salt and Light Media, Vatican Connections, 2014:

Journal Articles

1.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021, in press). “Evangelizing through Land-Based Experiences and Dialogue with Science.” In John Cavadini and Donald Wallenfang, eds. Global Perspectives on the New Evangelization, Volume 3. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications.

2.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021, in press). “No Such Thing as Catholic Chemistry? The Catholic Difference in Teaching Science,” Review for Religious, Special issue on Science and Religion.

3.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie and Clarage, James (2021). Reconnecting Catholicism with the Sciences: A Model for Teaching Science and Religion Core Texts. In Bridging Divides, Crossing Borders, Community Building: The Human Voice in Core Texts and the Liberal Arts, Selected Papers from the 23rd Annual Conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), Dallas, April 20-23, 2017, eds., Tuan Hoang and Daniel Nuckols (ACTC Publications, ACTC Liberal Arts Institute).

4.     Clarage, James, and Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2021). Teaching the Big Bang and Cosmological Education in the Core. In Bridging Divides, Crossing Borders, Community Building: The Human Voice in Core Texts and the Liberal Arts, Selected Papers from the 23rd Annual Conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC), Dallas, April 20-23, 2017, eds., Tuan Hoang and Daniel Nuckols (ACTC Publications, ACTC Liberal Arts Institute).

5.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2018). Proposing an Examen for Living the Ecology of Daily Life and Building a Culture of Care. The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy. Vol. 34, No. 1. Special issue on Laudato Si’.

6.     “Disputatio on the Distinction between the Human Person and Other Animals: The Human Person as Gardener.” Paper presented at Expanded Reason Congress in Rome, co-sponsored by the Benedict XVI Foundation and the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, European University of Rome, September 24 -26, 2018.

7.     Savino, S. D. M. and Hittinger, J. P. (2016). Loss of Creation and its Recovery Through Aquinas and Bonaventure. New Blackfriars, 97: 5–21. doi:10.1111/nbfr.12161

8.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2015). Facilitating Social-Ecological Transformation of a Vacant Lot on an Urban Campus: the Houston-Congolese Connection. Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 8: Iss. 2, Article 4. Available at:

9.     Savino, Sister Damien Marie (2015). Nature, Soil, and God: Soils and the ‘Grammar of Nature.’ In Peter Casarella, ed., Jesus Christ: The New Face of Social Progress (pp 311-323). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

10.  Savino, FSE, Sister Damien Marie (2009). Atheistic Science: The Only Option? Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture,12(4), 56-73. 


Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, Ph.D., is a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist and currently serves as the Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In this position she oversees the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography and Environmental Studies departments and the college’s Center for Sustainability. Sister Damien Marie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biogeography from McGill University, her Master of Science degree in Soil and Plant Science from University of Connecticut, her Master of Arts degree in Theology from The Catholic University of America and her Ph.D. degree in Civil (Environmental) Engineering from The Catholic University of America. She has lectured and written widely on Laudato Si’ and integral ecology, as well as on themes related to ecological restoration and resilience theory, ecological health, ecology and theology, and science and faith.


Geoffrey Woollard is a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where he applies physics and computer science perspectives to questions in structural biology. He is a member of the Society of Catholic Scientists. His interdisciplinary writings on faith-science dialogue have been featured in the Torch, Scientia et Fides, and the online Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science. (


Contemporary civilization is characterized by a technological paradigm, in which our increasing control over nature challenges our interpretations of the essence of what is natural, what is good, and what is properly human. This has major implications for civic life, in areas such as bioethics, medicine and the dignity of the human person, the state of the environment, and our relationship with the rest of creation. In this speaker series, we engage with leading scientists, philosophers, and theologians whose work is nourished by a Catholic Christian understanding of the world. By listening to and dialoguing with them, and going deeper into the body of work they are engaging, we can wisely engage and critique the technocratic paradigm and the transhumanist attitude. Through their work, as well as an engagement with Catholic Social teaching and the latest work in the Magisterium of the Church, we come to a greater appreciation of the integrity and beauty of creation that is a hallmark of Catholicism.

Series overview available HERE
Human Uniqueness with Professor Christopher Baglow available HERE


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