Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., was one of several Holy Name Province parishes that commemorated Earth Day last month. Care of creation is an important focus of the friars and their partners in ministry.
DURHAM, N.C. — “I show my respect for God’s gifts to us by recycling,” said 7-year-old Francis, as she and her mother learned how plastic pollutes the ocean at the Immaculate Parish Earth Day Fair held April 20 here. One of the displays showed how trash harms marine life and affects people far from where the garbage was dumped.
“It is important that, as Christians, we realize our interconnectedness,” said her mother.
This family event was organized by the parish’s environmental stewardship committee; the youth and adult faith formation ministries; and the Latino justice, peace and IIntegrity of creation (JPIC) group to help the community understand its role as caretaker of the earth.
Hundreds of parishioners attended the event, some coming from out of state. “My wife and I are visiting our daughter and grandchildren in Durham and we’re thrilled to see this parish being so proactive in addressing issues such as global climate change,” said one visitor from Florida. “As a retired scientist, I believe that this is one of the central issues facing humanity in this century and beyond. I’m very concerned about the future of my grandchildren, but seeing a church taking action on this issue gives me real hope.”
A Call to Ecological Conversion
The fair offered eight educational displays highlighting ways people could protect God’s creation. Organizers of the fair said they were motivated by their conviction that being responsible stewards of the earth’s resources is an indispensable element of one’s commitment to God. “We hope to encourage others to adopt specific ways in which they can act on the call to an ecological conversion in their daily lives,” said one volunteer.
The water conservation display was especially popular, given the recent extended drought in North Carolina. “I found out that by taking a five-minute shower, rather than a bath, I can save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month,” said Michelle Minah.
An exhibit on energy conservation provided parishioners with information on how to purchase alternative energy to supplement fossil fuel. Canvas bags, compact fluorescent light bulbs and books on eco-theology were available for purchase.
Other displays provided information on organic foods, local farmers markets, native plants and backyard nature habitats. Parishioners Katie and Kevin Reily staffed the Home Green Home table with their children. They shared their experience on toxin-free cleaning and how natural materials enhance well-being. “While raising four children, we have learned to start small and think simple, and we are so excited about being able to share it with others,” said Kevin.
Sharing in God’s Creation
Children were most welcomed at the fair. The church’s youth ministry created a display explaining the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Copies of the Franciscan Declaration on Forest Conservation were given to parishioners, along with information on preserving bio-diversity. Children created sun catchers and were given small seed packets to take home.
The faith formation office displayed a “creation timeline,” illustrating billions of years of evolutionary history, ensuing diversity of life forms, and how humans share a common origin with God’s creation and a destiny hidden in God. “The aim of our instruction is to help children respond to the gifts of the earth with awe and wonder, and to sensitize them to our great responsibility to treat God’s creation with respect and care,” said Maryann Crea, catechist and minister to the community.
The Latino JPIC committee prepared table displays focusing on pollution caused by the billions of tons of plastic bottles, bags and other waste that end up in landfills and oceans. In addition to showing photos of environmental devastation, members of the JPIC committee encouraged others to limit purchasing bottled water, plastic cups and utensils, and to use canvas bags instead of the plastic.
The members of the Spanish-speaking youth program RESPETO sponsored a display on the benefits of energy-saving light bulbs and low-flow showerheads. Rolling up their sleeves, adolescent young men and women took turns demonstrating how to make and use eco-friendly cleaning products, and how to save water and electricity when washing dishes. Animated by the positive response of the Latino community to their presentations, the youth are planning an activity to educate and promote environmental stewardship in one of the area’s Latino neighborhoods.
Immaculate Conception also offers an adult faith formation seminar series on environmental issues in light of Scripture, the writings of Christian saints, a Franciscan view of creation, the Catholic social teachings, and statements made by Pope John II on the environment.
To see photos from the parish’s Earth Day Fair and the access the brochure with the Earth Fair pledges, go to www.icdurham.org and click on photo gallery or on Earth Fair Pledge in the area to the right.
— Parishioner Susan Concannon teaches a course with Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, called Keepers of the Earth.”