N.J. Parish Participates in Climate Change Efforts

Shirley Boardman Around the Province

POMPTON LAKES, N.J. — Parishioners of St. Mary’s Church here recently joined the Franciscan Action Network’s (FAN) efforts to help influence U.S. legislation addressing climate change.

The parish’s Climate Change Weekend, June 13 to 14, sponsored by the church’s Environmental Advocacy Group, focused on HR Bill 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act. Among the bill’s positive measures is a proposal to directly distribute 15 percent of the bill’s emission allowance proceeds to low- and moderate-income American families.

In the Franciscan Tradition
Homilies that weekend emphasized the Christian obligation, specifically, the Franciscan tradition of respecting and protecting the environment. Mass attendees were asked to see themselves as part of, and to take responsibility for caring for, creation. Prior to the homilies, a short film titled “Who’s Under Your Carbon Footprint?” was shown. The film shows how abuse of the environment takes its heaviest toll on the poor in developing countries.

As parishioners left the church after Mass, adults were invited to sign postcards urging their congressmen to support and strengthen the bill to ensure that it will best care for the earth and its people, especially the poor. More than 1,200 postcards were sent to three congressmen.

The legislators were asked to increase the resources committed to poor areas from 1 percent to 3.5 percent in the first year, and to increase funding levels more quickly. Legislators were also asked to improve the cap and trade system to achieve a more rapid rate of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. FAN said that human activity is one cause of climate change and has urged that by 2020, greenhouse gas emissions be 20 percent less than they were in 2005.

Collective Action Most Effective
Jackie Schramm, director of St. Mary’s Social Justice Ministry and organizer of the Climate Change weekend, believes programs like this one are vital in a democracy. “Our sustained collective action is the most effective means of keeping our political leaders faithful to their mandate to serve the interest of the communities they represent,” she said.

pompton-bKevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s, said he was happy to join his Franciscan brothers and sisters in bringing attention to the challenge of climate change.

“I’m really so proud that we at St. Mary’s are playing an active, positive role in addressing this issue of climate change, by educating others about the danger the planet may be facing if we don’t address it, and by working as concerned citizens to not only focus on climate change itself but also to bring a Franciscan-grounded message to the climate-change conversation,” Kevin said.

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to have the bill ready for consideration by the end of July or early August. Whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that St. Mary’s has spearheaded a local community effort with wide-ranging national ramifications.

— Shirley Boardman is a parishioner at St. Mary Church.