Friars’ Care for Creation Captures Media Attention

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

Two HNP friars were in the news recently for their environmental work: one in New York City and one outside the nation’s capital. In advocating for the values of St. Francis and the teachings of Pope Francis by caring for creation, the efforts of Brian Jordan, OFM, and Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, caught the attention of two media outlets.

On Earth Day, Brian led a blessing of the polluted Gowanus Canal in New York City. He and others concerned about the waterway gathered on a bridge on April 22 to ask for God’s help in cleaning up the canal, according to an article published in The New York Times. The April 23 story titled “Invoking a Higher Power to Clean Up a Filthy Canal” described the afternoon event that attracted participation of friars and nuns as well as students and faculty members of St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights and local residents.

“It was an odd pilgrimage on Friday afternoon,” wrote Corey Kilgannon. “Peering down from the Carroll Street Bridge at the putrid waters of the Gowanus, they offered words of devotion for a miracle.”

“From the bridge, bottles of holy water were poured down into the decidedly unholy waters of the Gowanus,” according to The New York Times. “Some of the drops splattered onto the filmy surface and clumps of trash floating in the canal.”

Brian, chaplain of St. Francis College since 2012, was quoted in the article as saying “that if people with money wanted to move to Brooklyn, ‘then God bless them,’ adding, ‘If they really want to live by the Gowanus Canal, really God bless them.’”

The polluted waters of the Gowanus Canal. Photo courtesy of Missy S./Flickr

The polluted waters of the Gowanus Canal. Photo courtesy of Missy S./Flickr

Last month’s blessing was organized by the St. Francis College Environmental Club and Campus Ministry, which Brian directs, in partnership with Our Lady of Peace Parish in Brooklyn, staffed by Immaculate Conception Province.  The afternoon gathering was, according to Brian, one in which “Earth Day meets Pope Francis’ Laudato Si.’”

In the Washington, D.C., area, National Catholic Reporter featured the efforts of religious leaders in its April 22 issue. The story, titled “Maryland Takes Lead in Climate Action,” described the work being done by Catholic organizations to encourage the Maryland government to sign a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., testified March 3 in Annapolis, Md., in support of the new emissions reduction law at the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee.

“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide can be drastically reduced by substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy,” Jacek said at the hearing, according to NCR. “Pope Francis also calls upon ordinary citizens to get involved in the political process to promote the common good.”

The Maryland House of Delegates approved the legislation March 17.

Jacek, who was recognized by Bethesda magazine as one of its five 2015 Green Award winners, added in his testimony that the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016 had the support of Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden as well as the support of bishops and senior leaders from many faith backgrounds. Jacek, chair of the HNP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, emphasized the impact of clean energy. “Many members of our faith communities are aware of the hidden cost of dirty energy: debilitating asthma attacks in our children and elderly parents, the increasingly disturbing pattern of the extreme weather events,” he said in the NCR article.

Recently, Jacek said, “nearly 600 Latino members of St. Camillus spent most of the day reflecting on the message of Pope Francis and learning about the Clean Energy Jobs Act.  They have expressed their enthusiastic support for this legislation.”


Members of the Latino community at St. Camillus Church who supported the Clean Energy Jobs Act. (Photo courtesy of Jacek)

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Resources about care for creation can be found in the Justice and Peace section of 

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