Parishes around the globe work to implement pope's eco-encyclical

This story appears in the Francis: The Environment Encyclical feature series. View the full series.

by Elizabeth A. Elliott

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With the one-year anniversary of "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home" looming, parishes around the world have been working on implementing Pope Francis' environmental encyclical into their programs.

St. Thomas More Parish in Kansas City, Mo., established a parish green team last fall in response to the encyclical.

The parish "replaced all the lighting with LED lighting by the end of March, installed solar panels on the church and school, and have newly acquired recycle bins for all the meeting spaces," said Jody Craig, a member of the green team.

Craig said St. Thomas More was set to hold a Green Mass June 12, in which the pastor and associate priests planned to talk about Laudato Si' in their homilies and watch a video from Pope Francis titled "Care for Creation," after which there will be a discussion with doughnuts and coffee in biodegradable cups.

The parish also plans to send parishioners home with ideas on how to live eco-friendly and a calendar of suggested activities to commemorate the anniversary, including:

  • Taking a walk in nature;
  • Reading a section of the encyclical and discussing it with a friend or family;
  • Reducing food waste;
  • Sending a donation to to bring clean water to others;
  • Carpooling or walking to an event;
  • Turning up the thermostat at home.

"We are trying to use Laudato Si' as the real source for what we're doing and how we go about it," said Craig. "We are making sure the moral imperative that Pope Francis talks about in terms of the impact of climate change on the poor is one of the things that we're focused on."

St. Mary Star of Sea Parish in Port Townsend, Wash., also formed an environmental committee in response to the encyclical. Frank Handler, a member of the committee, said it has passed recommendations to the parish council and they have been included in the parish's four-year plan.

"Highlights of our recommendations include changing all lighting to LEDs or fluorescent. Most of the exterior lighting floods have been changed," he said.

The parish will also look into the use of "rain gardens to mitigate storm water runoff," along with "investigating solar power and developing a sustainable use policy for all functions held at the parish. This will eliminate use of plastic materials to the largest extent possible. Reusable or recyclable will be the norm," Handler said. He added that the parish is working on replacing their appliances with Energy-Star-rated appliances.

A round-up from the Jesuit Conference in Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network highlighted how many Jesuit parishes in the two countries have implemented the encyclical.

St. Ignatius Parish in Baltimore, Md., co-sponsored with a neighboring parish a three-part series titled "The Cry of the Earth," which brought in nationally known speakers to discuss issues of climate change and the role Catholics can play in the ongoing debate. At St. Leo Catholic Church in Tacoma, Wash., they began a sustainable beekeeping program, and at St. Therese Catholic Church, in Mooresville, N.C., they used their parish bulletin to publish summaries of Laudato Si', which then spurred small group conversations. According to the conference, all 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities have taken steps to respond to Francis' call in the encyclical, as well as a number of their high schools.

The website, facilitated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, has provided a place for local groups to share their plans to mark the anniversary of the encyclical. Among the events listed were:

  • Three parishes in Suva City, Fiji -- St. Pius X Parish in Raiwaqa, Holy Family Parish in Labasa, and Christ the King Parish in Ba -- were to cohost a weeklong event June 13-19, focusing on discussions of the encyclical; community action, such as a recycling project and tree planting; and a Mass for creation.
  • The St. John Neumann Creation Care Team of the Atlanta archdiocese was to introduce its mission at all Masses June 11-12. The team is using "The Laudato Si' Action Plan for Georgia," created by University of Georgia professors and staff, as a model for implementing the encyclical in parishes across the archdiocese.
  • Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Tucson, Ariz., was planning an anniversary event June 19, where participants will learn about the "Francis effect" on Catholics' view of climate change. The event will include Scripture, video, a presentation and discussion.
  • During three weeks of celebration beginning June 8, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Ballyboden, Dublin, Ireland, parishioners were to be encouraged to read the encyclical and given seeds to plant. The parish planned a discussion on the impact of Laudato Si' and about how to continue to work to save the Earth.

[Elizabeth A. Elliott is an NCR Bertelsen intern.]

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A version of this story appeared in the June 17-30, 2016 print issue under the headline: Parishes work to implement eco-encyclical.

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