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Big boost to diocese’s creation care ministry

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SAN DIEGO — The Diocese of San Diego now has a full-time staff member devoted exclusively to environmental stewardship and care for our common home.

Christina Bagaglio Slentz, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado, joined the staff of the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice on July 15 as associate director for Creation Care Ministry.

This ministry was started in early 2017 by Father Emmet Farrell, a retired priest who has led it with a team of volunteers. The ministry’s accomplishments include the publication of a 55-page diocesan climate action plan, as well as an ongoing tree-planting campaign.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the new associate director position is fully funded for the next five years.

Paz Artaza-Regan, of the Catholic Climate Covenant in Washington, D.C., hailed the creation of the new position as “incredibly significant.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops helped form that organization, which helps Catholics to respond to the Church’s call to care for creation and the poor.

Artaza-Regan noted that, in most dioceses that have a creation care ministry, it is either one of several issues handled by the same staffer or has been entrusted to volunteers.

“San Diego joins only a handful of dioceses with full-time creation-care staffing,” she said. “San Diego has been a leader on creation care with Father Emmet and with a vibrant and robust creation care ministry, but having a full-time staff person will truly propel it to the front of diocesan efforts.”

Michael Lovette-Colyer, vice president for Mission Integration at the University of San Diego, similarly greeted the creation of the new position as an “exciting development.”

“I hope, and expect, that Christina will continue and expand the excellent work begun by Father Emmet Farrell and the Creation Care Team over the past five years,” he said. “They have done tremendous work, establishing a firm foundation that Christina will be able to build upon.”

Father Farrell, who will continue to be involved in the ministry, acknowledged that the new position is a big deal for a ministry that, until now, had been entirely volunteer-run. He expressed hope that having a full-time staffer entrusted with this ministry will give it greater “legitimacy” in the eyes of pastors.

Born in the Bay Area, Slentz grew up in a Navy family and moved around a lot. She later served in the Navy herself, for five years as an active-duty naval intelligence officer and another five years in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Slentz earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1995, double-majoring in Government and Russian. She earned a master’s degree and a PhD in International Studies from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2012 and 2021, respectively.

Her doctoral dissertation was on environmentally related human movement and potential for socio-political instability. 

In 2019, Slentz helped to start the local nonprofit Emerald Keepers, which educates Coronado residents on sustainability practices and encourages environmental activism. She continues to serve as a board member.

She is a member of the Coronado Climate Action Group, advising the City of Coronado on its climate action plan.

Slentz also has ministry experience, having served for almost 25 years as a catechist and, since 2018, as the marriage preparation coordinator at Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado. With her husband, Tim, and their three children — Gabby, Grayson and Matthew — she has been a member of the parish since moving to San Diego six years ago.

This past June, she completed the Laudato Si’ Animators program, an online leadership training course offered through the Laudato Si Movement. The program, which prepares participants to become environmental leaders in their communities, is named after Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.”

Slentz said one of her goals as associate director for Creation Care Ministry is “not to create another silo of activity” in the local Church, but to present the ministry as “a lens through which all of us can approach our day-to-day lives.”

In other words, creation care ministry isn’t something “just for the tree-huggers at the parish,” she explained, but rather should guide all parish decisions, including everything from construction projects to grocery shopping for pancake breakfasts.

“I would hope that … by establishing this ministry, that it actually becomes part of what everybody does,” she said. “Maybe the goal should be that I put myself out of work at some point in time, because everyone (will have) taken on these practices.”

Artaza-Regan said she is “excited to … see where (Slentz) might be able to take the Diocese of San Diego in its ‘Laudato Si’ journey. She will be, in some ways, a ‘pioneer’ in laying the foundations for how creation care issues can be woven into the fabric of all ministries of a diocese.”

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