Story by Mary Morrell, Correspondent
Inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis has curated an exhibit at Princeton University that will tell the story of the earth, from its earliest beginnings to the present.
“His love for what God has done for us in providing us with such natural beauty moved me to reflect on St. Francis of Assisi’s vision of God’s glory as evidenced in and through nature in his beautiful ‘Canticle of Creation,’” said Father Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic education and chaplain in The Aquinas Institute, Princeton University’s Catholic Campus Ministry.
As such, “Laudato Si: Proclaiming God’s Glory in Nature,” will be on exhibit Nov. 11-Dec. 1 at The Aquinas Institute, 24 Charlton St., Princeton. The earth’s beauty will be revealed through mineral specimens, extraordinary examples of earth’s fossil record, and many other examples of natural history that will allow the viewer to gain a greater appreciation of the glory of God, Father Zeis said.
The exhibit, he explained, originated in an offer from Mark Fleischman, a well-known educator and journalist whose prime area of interest is the study of nature.
Fleischman, of New Hope, Pa., received undergraduate degrees in anthropology and journalism from Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y., and a master’s in education from New York University. He has traveled extensively as a teacher trainer in natural sciences, having trained teachers in more than 300 schools. He spent a year each teaching in Japan and Israel.
“As a naturalist, Mark Fleischman has been instrumental in supporting the careers of future environmentalists, mineralogists and even entomologists. His knowledge of the environment and the earth’s long natural history are impressive,” Father Zeis said, adding that Fleischman provided many of the items that will be on display.
The exhibit will also feature the contributions of local paleontologist John Whitley of Cream Ridge, who has unearthed major finds in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“The evidence of the region’s long natural history is evidenced in the many beautiful fossils he has generously offered from his personal collection found in the state of New Jersey,” Father Zeis said.
He added that four themes will be expressed in the exhibit: the Theology of Nature; the Grandeur of God’s Creation; Humanity’s Inspired Engagement with Nature, and When Human Imagination and Divine Imagination Become One.
The exhibit will be complemented through photography, poetry and other artistic expressions that speak of God’s glory in nature and the human call to cherish and encounter God’s creative expression in the beauty of the world.
“I wanted The Aquinas Institute … to open its doors in welcome to all who wished to experience God’s loving creation from its earliest beginnings to now when we see fully the treasure he has bestowed upon us and we give thanks,” Father Zeis said.
Father Zeis, who has a distinguished background in education including as past president of St. Francis University, Loretto, Pa., was also the creator of the exhibit, “The Printed Word: Faith Aspirations of a Young Nation,” hosted by The Aquinas Institute in November 2016.
To reserve a viewing time or for more information about the exhibit, call The Aquinas Institute at 609-924-1820.