Catholic Relief Services Sells Eco-Palms for Palm Sunday

HNP Communications Franciscan World

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is partnering with Lutheran World Relief and Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in supporting the sale and distribution of Eco-Palms throughout the country. The organization encourages making social and environmental justice part of parish Lenten observances.

Orders for this Palm Sunday must be received by March 12.

The purchase of these palms will ensure that palm harvesters in Mexico and Guatemala are earning a fair income for their labor, and that palms are being harvested in an environmentally sustainable way, according to Catholic Relief Services. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has long supported Fair Trade Programs in which a trading partnership aims at sustainable development for excluded and disadvantaged producers.

Harvesting palm products is an important course of supplemental income for many indigenous families and communities in Guatemala and Mexico. Profits from the sale of the eco-palms will support impoverished communities in Guatemala and Mexico.

Each palm frond costs 24 cents or less, depending on the quantity — slightly higher than the palms customarily used which are really a grass grown in Texas and  Florida. Each palm frond is approximately 18 inches long and 10 to 12 inches wide.

Eco Palms can  be purchased through Eco Palms at the University of  Minnesota. Order forms are available at    Distribution will be though Forest Foundation in Durham, N.C.

HNP’s friars support many social and environmental justice programs.

Jacek Orzechowski of Durham points out that the Province’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate approved the Declaration on the Forest Conservation five years ago which  “grounds the fair-trade palm tree branches in the Franciscan vision and reinforces something that we’ve already done”

Below are excerpts of the statement issued in November 2001.

Around the world, there remain only about 20% of Earth’s original forests, with greatest losses occurring within the past 3 decades.  Healthy forests stabilize the climate, provide clean air and water, prevent erosion and landslides and buffer the planet against global warming.  Moreover, they provide habitat for about two-thirds of the world’s animal and plant species.  Finally, forests have always provided people with a sacred space where they could more deeply encounter God in the diversity and beauty of creation.

In spite of all this, God’s forests are rapidly disappearing.  Furthermore, at the current rates, an estimated two-thirds of the world’s plant and animal species that rely on these forests for their habitat will become extinct by the year 2100.  These forest ecosystems are being sacrificed on the altar of unbridled consumerism and greed. It is especially the poor and the future generations that will pay the full price of our shortsighted actions.

 The seriousness and urgency of this problem is one of the signs of the times to which the Holy Spirit calls us to respond.  Our Franciscan traditionchallenges us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who came to heal and reconcile not only people, but also all of creation.  Francis forbade his followers to cut down a whole tree so that it might grow up again.  With a great gladness he exhorted the forests to love God and serve Him joyfully.  His awareness of the profound interconnectedness and kinship with the creation led St. Francis to experience all life as being upheld and embraced by a loving God.  The poor, the lepers, the birds and the forests were all Francis’s brothers and sisters. Each was worth to him far more than the limited value ascribed to them by his contemporary society. 

Mindful that the way we live in relation to God’s creation is the way we live in relation to God, we, Franciscans, commit ourselves to raising the issue of forest conservation among our brothers and sisters and to advocating for better public policy.