From their plane windows, people traveling to and from Chicago may notice the shape of a cross in a field outside the city. This cross is made entirely of rows of solar panels that help power a Catholic seminary.

“The shape of it is really something I think is special,” says Father John Kartje, the rector and president of Mundelein Seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.

He says the 300-kilowatt array, which went online in December, is the first solar installation at a U.S. Catholic seminary.

The project is saving the seminary money on electricity bills. And Kartje says it represents the environmental stewardship that’s central to Catholic teaching.

Six years ago, Pope Francis wrote an encyclical – a formal letter – that called upon the world to reduce its use of fossil fuels and limit global warming.

“And long even before Pope Francis, it’s been part of the Catholic social justice tradition, recognizing that care for the Earth isn’t just sort of one amongst many good tasks we should take on, but it really is central to Creation, which we receive as a gift from God,” Kartje says.

So he says going solar made sense financially and as an expression of the Catholic faith.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.