The role played by pastoral care in higher education for the promotion of Laudato si’ and the Sustainable Development Goals

A nossa Casa Comum
By: iStock

Ana Marta Aleixo

                                                                                              CADOS, Universidade Católica Portuguesa

     © 2022

The National Service of Pastoral Care for Higher Education (SNPES)[1] was created under the auspices of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, within the episcopal commission for the laity and the family. It aims to coordinate and support the university and higher education pastoral services working in the different dioceses across the country, which rely on the collaboration of diverse ecclesial organizations and groups. There are currently 29 nuclei of the SNPES in Portugal and the islands, 21 in dioceses, 5 in religious orders or prelatures and 3 in other services.

The SNPES seeks to promote and dynamise, in the variety of its areas (dimensions), everything that can bring about dialogue and synthesis between faith and culture among the entire academic communities. It is therefore relevant to glean a clear understanding of the specific actions promoted in the context of this relationship between faith and culture in higher education.

An analysis of the different SNPES websites reveals a range of dynamics; moreover, the strategic (2015/2016) and action (2016/2017) plans defined, which include guided actions that can be developed by the different services.

Among the cross-cutting actions known to take place across the pastoral ministries, special mention goes to the National Meeting of Students and the National Meeting of Teachers and Researchers. However, and given that university students are the next generation of leaders who will be the decision-makers and spearheads of new attitudes and values, it is essential to understand how the encyclical Laudato si’[2] and its objectives (Laudato si’ goals) have been disseminated in higher education with a view to building an integral ecology that promotes the common good.

This raises the following questions:

  • What actions leading to an integral ecology, have taken place within the SNPES?
  • Are these actions coordinated across all Portuguese higher education institutions (public/private, polytechnics and universities; Catholic and other religious universities)?

These questions can be answered through the Ecological Conversion Focus Groups[3] (ECFG) that have taken place in the project entitled Caring for our Common Home: the church at the service of Integral Ecology[4], which is open to all those who wish to hold sessions to disseminate the encyclical Laudato si’ with a view to raising awareness on issues such as environmental pollution, climate change, loss of biodiversity, inequality, and social exclusion. These Focus Groups take the form of small groups and aim to respond to Pope Francis’ call for ecological conversion within the community. According to the encyclical Laudato si’, the ecological crisis calls for an inner conversion, based on the recognition of one’s own mistakes, vices, or negligence, leading to an inner change signifying individual and community ecological conversion for the common good.

In light of this, the Polytechnic of Leiria organized, in 2021, a project in partnership with the Pastoral Service of Higher Education of Leiria, to set up a ECFG at that Polytechnic[5], directed by its teachers, researchers and collaborators.

It is, therefore, timely to investigate whether these ECFG or similar models, have been set up or already implemented by other Pastoral Centres to deepen the understanding of and spread ideas related to ecological conversion based on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’ on the Care of the Common Home and the seven Laudato si’ Goals (LsGs)[6]. In particular, ECFG focuses on the scope of LsG 5 – Ecological Education as well as LsG 6 – Ecological Spirituality, which “is born from a deep ecological conversion …”[7].


Laudato si’ Goals (LsGs)
LsG 1 Response to the cry of the earth  “Protect the common home for the good of all people”
LsG 2 Response to the cry of the poor  ” Promote eco justice in the awareness that we are called on to defend human life from conception to death and all forms of life on earth”
LsG 3 Ecological economics  ” The economy is a subsystem of human society, which is, in turn, embedded in the biosphere – our common home”
LsG 4 Adoption of sustainable lifestyles “Idea of sufficiency and promoting sobriety in the use of resources and energy”
LsG 5 Ecological education  ” Rethink and redifine curricular and institutonal reform in the spirity of integral ecology to cultivate ecological awareness and transformation action”
LsG 6 Ecological spiritually “Born of a profound ecological conversation”
LsG 7 Community resilience and empowerment ” Envisage a synodal journey of community involvement and participatory action at various levels”

Source: Adapted from  Laudato si’ Platform for Action


It is particularly relevant to identify how the relationship with ECFG´s can be fostered and enhanced for the promotion and achievement of sustainable and integral human development, in university and polytechnic institutions.


[1] National Pastoral Service for Higher Education (SNPES), available at, accessed on 18 April 2022

[2] Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on the care of the Common House, available at, acessed on 18, 2022

[3] The Ecological Conversion Focus Groups at Caring for our Common Home, available at, accessed on 18 April 2022

[4]  Caring for our Common Home, available at, accessed on 18 April 2022

[5], accessed on 18 April 2022

[6] Laudato si’ Platform for Action, available at Laudato si’ Goals – Laudato si’ Platform for Action (, accessed on 18 April 2022

[7] Laudato si’ Platform for Action, available at Laudato si’ Goals – Laudato si’ Platform for Action (, accessed on 18 April 2022


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