April 02, 2019
Ozlem Kilic speaks with Pope Francis

Ozlem Kilic, center, speaks with Pope Francis

“I just get goosebumps talking about it,” says Ozlem Kilic, director of Catholic University’s Engineering Center for Care of Earth (ECCE). Who could blame her, when in the time span of just two weeks, Kilic and her colleagues were granted audiences with Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Kilic, along with John Judge, engineering dean, and other University officials, first traveled to Rome in February to deliver Pope Francis both a letter reinforcing ECCE’s continued commitment to climate change initiatives and responsible care of earth and the most recent issue of Catholic University Engineer magazine. For Kilic, this was a full circle moment, “Pope Francis published Laudato Si in 2015, in response to that, we established this center.”

John Judge, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Ozlem Kilic

KilicThe meeting was organized by the Archbishop Angelo Spina of Ancona-Osima who was so moved by the mission of the program that when he and Kilic met in the summer of 2018, along with Francesco Corvaro (Polytechnic University of Marche) and Barbara Marchetti (eCampus University) who arranged for the meeting, he asked her on the spot when she would like to meet Pope Francis. Only 6 days after meeting Pope Francis, Kilic and her group found themselves in Istanbul at the residence of Patriarch Bartholomew. The patriarch discussed working together to combat climate change, as he and Pope Francis have done since they released their joint declaration on this issue a few years ago.

The attention from these global leaders speaks volumes about the importance of the work that ECCE is doing, but Kilic believes that it is the passion of the people working on the ECCE initiatives that sets them apart.

“It’s hard for us to technologically compete with the bigger institutions, because we might not have the same resources,” Kilic says, “but we have the bigger hearts.”

Kilic sees the potential for Catholic University to become a leading force on the topic of environmental stewardship. “My plan is that Catholic University must own this issue. Laudato Si is our driving force, and this is an institution of faith, and this is about our future.”

Kilic sees a future for the school that will engage all students in the University community. “Our objective is to responsibly take care of Earth and to ingrain that in our students, in our education,” she says. She hopes that one day all students will be required to take a class about caring for the planet.

This month ECCE will host its second annual Climate Change Workshop on April 17 as part of a the “Eleventh International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses.” Along with a panel and workshop sessions, there will be a myriad of prominent speakers, including Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley; Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Walmart, Inc.; Admiral David W Titley, former deputy undersecretary of commerce for Operations, NOAA, and director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State; in addition to delegates appointed from both Istanbul and Rome.

Kilic thinks the future is looking bright for ECCE, “We have the team, we have the confidence, and we have the recognition so we are now strategically ready to do something bigger.” For more information on the conference and ECCE, visit https://engineering.catholic.edu/climate-change.