This family framed the message perfectly at the Earth Day Festival at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham.

Care for Creation Is on Full Display at Durham Parish’s Annual Earth Day Festival

HNP Communications HNPNow

Making backyard birdfeeders, planting seeds, learning about composting and reusable household items, and playing a quiz game based on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical were just some of the interactive activities at this year’s annual Earth Day Festival of Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina, according to Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, pastor. The event, he said, was designed to raise awareness about care for creation and being good stewards of the environment.

The annual Earth Day Festival at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham was bustling with activity.

“The annual celebration of Earth Day has become a well-established tradition at Immaculate Conception and at our parish school. The fact that it overlaps with the Easter season provides a wonderful opportunity to connect our Christian faith with our collective efforts of caring for our common home,” said Jacek, who has served as an Animator for the Order’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Animation Committee.

The Girl Scouts staffed a station about air quality at the Durham parish’s Earth Day Festival.

“The risen Christ calls and empowers us to take up His mission of building up God’s Kingdom of justice, peace, and healing of earth’s community of life. Our Earth Day Festival helps our parishioners to become more aware of that intimate connection between their Christian/Catholic identity and the call to care for creation,” added Jacek, who was a member of the Holy Name Province JPIC Committee for 18 years.

Youngster participates in one of the crafts at the Earth Day event.

The festival, held on the weekend of April 22 (Earth Day) and 23 in the parish gathering space outside the sanctuary after all Masses, attracted hundreds of parishioners, Immaculata Catholic School students, and the Durham community. It was organized by the Care for Creation Green Team, which is part of the parish’s JPIC ministry.

Parish organizations and local community partners staffed more than a dozen stations, according to Jeanne Bernacki, campus minister of Immaculata and facilitator of the parish’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform.

A biodiversity mural comprised of written reflections and artwork by Immaculata students was featured on one of the walls in the gathering space where the Earth Day Festival took place.

Among the stations – which were multilingual for the parish’s large Hispanic population that attended after the Spanish language Masses – were Care for Creation, which featured a worm bin demonstration and provided information about the parish’s Care for Creation Team, solar panels, advocacy efforts, and promotional items from local organizations; Leave No Trace and Improving Indoor Air Quality, demonstrations sponsored by the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, respectively; and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a timeline of words and artifacts that illustrated the history of creation as a long procession of gifts from God. There were also welcome, food, and craft tables. A biodiversity mural comprised of written reflections and artwork by Immaculata students was featured on one of the walls in the gathering space.

“Coming out of Mass and stepping into our Earth Day Festival was a wonderful way for people to connect the liturgy with understanding our role in caring for the earth and one another. It also brought the community together and got everyone thinking about the urgency of environmental concerns and what we can do to care for the earth,” said Ms. Bernacki, who is also a parishioner of Immaculate Conception.


These parents deliver an important message, although visiting all of the stations at the Immaculate Conception festival seemed a little tiring for their infant child.

“Climate messaging can sometimes be stark, so this was a fun way of delivering important lessons to children and adults about our responsibility, as individuals and as a community, to protect the environment,” she added.

The Earth Day Festival is both a culmination and a beginning of the year-round ecological efforts of Immaculate Conception parishioners and Immaculata students – which can be found in things such as the installation of solar panels on the school’s roof; hosting presentations by prominent conservationists to raise awareness about biodiversity, and in the teaching and preaching of Franciscan values by Jacek and the parish’s friar fraternity – parochial vicars Hugh Macsherry, OFM, and Gonzalo Torres, OFM – who consistently encourage their multicultural parish community to learn more about climate justice.

Ms. Bernacki said parishioners and students will maintain the momentum of the Earth Day Festival by partnering with the Care for Creation Green Team to achieve the seven goals of their Laudato Si’ Action Platform – goals which include responding to the cry of the poor and cry of the earth, following sustainable lifestyles, and practicing ecological spirituality. She said the parish and school communities are engaged in a number of actions that include providing meals for the hungry, a student-cultivated courtyard garden, recycling and composting initiatives, and a youth ministry tree planting program.


Children at one of the craft tables write their ideas about what it will take to protect our environment.

“This fits into the ethos of Immaculate Conception and our parish school – a deep sense of care for creation and our earth. It’s part of the curriculum at Immaculata and it’s one of the foundational principles of the Franciscans,” Ms. Bernacki said.

A compilation of the Durham parish’s 2023 Earth Day Festival can be found in the following video link: