Laudato si’ in Canberra: a conversion story
Care for our common home is at the center of Knox Peden’s conversion. Originally from the United States, Professor Peden moved to Australia about ten years ago. Having grown up Presbyterian, he experienced a period of personal and professional reflection which led him to embrace Catholicism in July 2019. He is a historian and a philosopher, and a Laudato si’ Animator in the Global Catholic Climate Movement, organizing conversations with fellow parishioners in Canberra on the message contained in Pope Francis’s Encyclical, as well as prayer walks in nature.
A historian and philosopher, and professor of European Enlightenment Studies at the University of Queensland, Knox Peden is one of over 10 thousand Laudato si’ Animators throughout the world formed by the Global Catholic Climate Movement. These are people who, for the most part, were already dedicated in their own local parishes, associations, or religious traditions and who feel particularly called to live integral ecology and Laudato si’, committing themselves to service in their own communities.
Peden grew up in the United States as a Presbyterian. Later on, he did not practice his faith for many years. Among the various aspects that Peden highlights regarding his conversion to Catholicism, which came about in July 2019, is that of the Pope’s “perspective” regarding the climate crisis and his teaching in general: “the more I read, the more I was drawn into his teaching,” he recounts. Talking about the course of his conversion, Peden says, “It had been coming on for several years, through developments in my academic work and also in my personal life. Convergence all around, no doubt due to God’s grace.” Becoming a father, he confesses “was a catalyst for change.”
During a trip to Paris in 2018 with his family, Peden crossed the threshold of a Catholic Church to attend a Eucharistic Celebration. “I found the experience intoxicating, and for the remainder of our trip I went to as many Masses as I could. I’d lived in Paris for four years as a PhD student and walked by all these churches countless times without ever going in. It was a new world for me, a new discovery.”
When he discovered Laudato si’, he felt a “shock of recognition”, he explains, recognizing himself in the critique the Pope made regarding modernity and the current crisis. Based on his experience, the University of Queensland professor reads Laudato si’ as a means of ecological conversion as well as a resource for evangelization. “Ecological conversion is a matter of opening and expanding our sense of dependency. Spiritual conversion tells us we depend on God; ecological conversion extends the idea to tell us we depend on creation, what God has made.” Today, “having everything at hand gives us an illusion of self-sufficiency. But,” he emphasizes, “it’s still just that: an illusion. We do depend on others, even if we don’t realize it.”
First published in https://www.vaticannews.va/