NEW YORK — The spirit of Earth Day is always felt heartily in the Province, where friars and ministries remember their roots in the patron saint of ecology, founder St. Francis.
Ministries, churches and schools marked Earth Day on April 22 — which this year celebrated its 40th anniversary — with events that included campus clean-ups, recycling efforts and a fast from modern communication technology.
At St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, a campus-wide Eco-Fest took place April 19 to 24. The school’s Recycling Club, BonaVoyageurs, BonaResponds, Voices and the Sustainability Coordinating Committee all sponsored events.
Eco-Fest began with a talk on energy usage by Philip Winger, associate vice president for facilities. He encouraged students to reduce power consumption by paying attention to opening blinds for natural light and turning off lights in unused rooms.
A coffeehouse and Recycled-Craft Fair also took place in the Thomas Merton Center, where fair trade coffee was served. Butler Gym was the site of a clothing swap, and Francis Hall was the location of a campout and tent drive for Haitian relief. After their overnight campout, students left their tents to be shipped by BonaResponds to Haiti and other needy locations. The Recycling Club sold reuasable aluminum water bottles, shown in the photo.
At Siena College
Students at Siena College in Upstate New York, students marked Earth Day with a campus clean-up on April 20.
In addition to bringing people together to serve, Campus Clean-Up Day allowed the community to live its Franciscan tradition of respecting the environment, according to Kenneth Paulli, OFM, chief of staff.
“We need to understand that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. Events like these help people to connect and go beyond their boundaries so that they notice there’s a bigger world here,” said Kenneth.
In addition to cleaning up, students were encouraged to unplug for the day by putting away electronic devices. Laptops, iPods and Blackberries were turned off as students experienced life without electronic gadgets.
“Not only did we go back in time and live without technology as Earth Day celebrants did 40 years ago, but we reduced our carbon footprint as well,” said Environmental Club president Emily Merritt, class of 2012. ”It is an awesome challenge to see how we could survive the day without the technology we are so dependent upon.”
Many Province parishes recognized Earth Day, several focused on helping youth in their communities commemorate the day.
The religious education profram at St. Mary Church in Obernberg, N.Y., distributed Blue Spruce saplings after Masses on the weekend of April 25 — beteween Earth and Arbor days. The CCD glasses also watched “The Man Who Planted Trees”, the story of a single shepherd who takes it upon himself to reseed an entire barren valley.
The directors of religious education and youth ministry at St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., developed care for creation programs for young people at a variety of age levels.
Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., where Daniel McLellan, OFM, is pastor, honored the gifts of the kingdom of God by hosting a display of crafts, artwork and educational materials for Earth Day. After Mass on April 18, families were encouraged to peruse the displays and visit a booth from Durham Farmers’ Market.
The Care for Creation Ministry and Franciscan School at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., acted on their care for creation through a variety of programs, from reducing waste and composting to science lessons and a school social justice fair.
Larger Franciscan World
The recent Webinar offerec by the Province’s JPIC Office in conjunction with the Evangelization Directorate provided resources for religious educators to incorporate ecological themes in their programs. The ideas, resources and a link to view the Webinar are available on the website of the Franciscan Action Network.
The FAN Action Center staff also planned a neighborhood clean-up during the week of Earth Day and were monitoring Congressional legislation in order to be able to advise members on opportunities to contact elected officials.
Franciscans and their partners-in-ministry will continue to advocate for the care of the earth and of all creation. A list of behaviors that can be adopted is provided in the April 23 issue of Weekly re:Cap, the publication of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph.