Ministries, Friars Lead Earth Day and Laudato Si’ Activities

Karen Karaszewski Around the Province


Embracing Pope Francis’ call to care for creation, Franciscan ministries are inviting people of all walks of life to live the message of Laudato Si’. As Earth Day approaches on April 22, friars and partners-in ministry are offering a variety of programs to emphasize the need to care for the environment.

In New Jersey
At St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., the social justice ministry is in the midst of a series of Laudato Si’ presentations. St. Mary’s Advocates for Justice have offered the program at St. Mary’s, St. Anne Church in Fair Lawn, N.J., and Cedar Crest Retirement Community in nearby Pompton Plains.

“Our presentation has become a hit because we inject humor, stories, pictures, a game and have worked very hard to highlight and weave the main themes as if Pope Francis is with us. We even have some tango music,” said Jackie Schramm, director of St. Mary’s social justice ministry.

The team will visit St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln Park, N.J., at the invitation of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace, on April 24.

Carrying through with the motto “Earth Day is every day,” members of Franciscan Response to Fracking and Advocates for Justice are participating in and planning rallies and marches in New Jersey, New York City and Albany related to climate change, fracking, and the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline.

On May 3, St. Mary’s Parish will be showing the film “Global Meltdown” at 7 p.m. Hosted by Bill Nye and featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie focuses on the five stages of climate change grief, environmental problems and how the current situation can be improved.

Jud Weiksnar offers a reading at the Sister Water celebration on April 9. (Photo courtesy of Jud)

Jud Weiksnar offers a reading at the Sister Water celebration on April 9. (Photo courtesy of Jud)

Near Buffalo
A series of workshops on Laudato Si’ with Jud Weiksnar, OFM, guardian St. Patrick Friary, Sr. Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, and Carol Anne Cornelius, energy manager for the Diocese of Buffalo, were held at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, N.Y. The program, which ended on April 13, discussed the spiritual and Franciscan foundations of Laudato Si’ as well as how to put them into practice.

“We do it in the context of prayer, including the sung version of Brother Sun, Sister Moon (Hermano Sol, Hermana Luna) that I first performed with first graders in Mateo Pumacahua at a school where Christopher Dunn, OFM, of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lima, Peru, had sent me during my pastoral internship,” said Jud, a member of the HNP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate.

The workshop presenters along with Steven Pavignano, OFM, pastor of St. Clare Parish, are members of the diocesan Care for Creation team.


Hundreds of attendees at the Latino Lenten retreat discussed Laudato Si’, the Year of Mercy and a call to conversion. (Photo courtesy of Jacek)

Recently, St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring sponsored a Latino Lenten retreat that discussed the connection between the Christian call to conversion, the Year of Mercy and the message of Pope Francis to care for our common home. A skit featuring Christopher Posch, OFM, highlighted for the Latino community the importance of taking action in support of caring for the earth. Chris served for nearly 15 years as director of the Wilmington, Del., Diocese Office for Hispanic Ministry.

To celebrate Earth Day, parish and community volunteers are planning to plant and conduct soil enhancements to ensure the long-term health of the oak trees on the St. Camillus campus. The event will take place on April 30.

Members of St. Camillus, led by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, guardian of St. Camillus Church Friary, continue to work with various faith-based and environmental groups such as Interfaith Power and Light, the League of Conservation Voters and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network on environmental projects.

Parishioners were active in lobbying for the recently-approved Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act which will require that 25 percent of electricity come from clean sources like wind and solar by 2020. The bill will help keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground while creating thousands of new jobs in the wind and solar industry.

On March 3, Jacek testified in Annapolis in support of the new emission reduction law at the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee.

In North Carolina
This week, an Earth Day Fair was presented by Immaculate Conception Parish and Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, N.C. Held from April 16 through 18, the event featured exhibits from the school, parish ministries and community groups. Topics included Eno River and state parks, the newly installed church cistern and ideas for recycling and composting. Attendees had opportunities to sign petitions regarding climate change and the Green Power Fund.

In December 2014, Immaculate Conception was accepted into the GreenFaith Certification Program, the nation’s first interfaith environmental certification program of houses of worship. The parish is the first religious organization in Durham to join this prestigious national program to which several other HNP parishes belong.

Campus Activities
Promoting awareness of the earth is important to the Province-sponsored colleges.

Outside Albany, N.Y., Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of the Province’s post-novitiate formation, led a campus conversation “On Care of Our Common Home” at Siena College on March 10. He urged students and faculty to listen to Laudato Si’ and follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi. Joe, who served as director of the Order’s JPIC Office in Rome from 2005 to 2015, reflected on his 30 years of work to raise awareness of ecological sustainability and environmental justice. Details about the program are available on Siena’s website.

In Allegany, N.Y., St. Bonaventure University students participated in Recyclemania during February and March to improve recycling efforts on campus. A “Trashion” Fashion show featured designs created by St. Bonaventure and area high school students using 90 percent post-consumer goods.

Learning About Climate Change
To learn how to effectively engage in climate change action, all are welcome to participate in the webinar being offered by Citizens Climate Lobby. Pre-registration is required for the April 27 program, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.  Those who are interested are asked to contact the Province’s JPIC Office at

More information about HNP Creation Care and Laudato Si’ efforts, as well as Climate Change action, may be found on the Justice and Peace section of the Province’s website.  Resources are also available on, the website created last fall as a response to the message delivered by Pope Francis.

Karen Karaszewski is a freelance writer based in Western New York. Jocelyn Thomas provided research for this story.

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