NEW YORK — If the ecology-conscious St. Francis lived today, Earth Day would probably make him smile, as would the ways Province ministries marked the April 22 event, including displays, Webinars, clean-ups and gardening.
Here is a look at some of the activities taking place around the Province, where community members were reminded to reduce, reuse and recycle.
In Western New York
Three St. Bonaventure University students in Allegany, N.Y., presented a talk on “Climate Change Awareness” April 21 at the William F. Walsh Science Center on campus.
Sponsored by the Franciscan Center for Social Concern, Alyssa Sparatta, ’09, Morgan Beacker, ’10, and Johnathan Nuttall, ’09, facilitated a discussion on people’s relationships with the environment and how to make them more sustainable.
“We believe that climate change is an important issue facing the world today. Universities in the United States have a special responsibility to address the issue,” Sparatta said.
In New England
St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Conn., encourages parishioners to eat more locally grown foods. The church’s bulletin says: “Our parish community is exploring ways to save energy and conserve our planet’s resources. Each week, the Committee for Social Justice will suggest easy but powerful ways to do this — and save money, as well. Become a locavore, eating food produced locally, whenever you can. This is hard to do in early spring, but soon we will be surrounded by the bounty of farmers’ markets and pick-your-own strawberry fields. Eating locally cuts down on the energy used to ship food vast distances, and the food tastes much fresher.”
In New Jersey
Parishioners of St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson were up to their ankles in water on Earth Day, cleaning trash that collects in the stream running through the church property, and were also considering planting a parish garden.
At Mass on the Sunday before Earth Day, worshippers prayed a “Good Stewards Today” prayer, and took the St. Francis Pledge to Protect Creation and the Poor. Informational handouts on green topics were also distributed.
St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., one of the Province’s most ecologically-conscious parishes, celebrated Earth Day with sustainability displays last Sunday after Mass. Parishioners were invited to visit the displays set up in the courtyard.
In conjunction with GreenFaith, New Jersey’s interfaith coalition on the environment, St. Mary assembled demonstrations and displays on solar energy, recycling, composting, energy-saving light bulbs, water conservation, the environment, and other green issues.
The bulletin announcement read: “We have one earthly home and we are its only caretakers — let us get together and do whatever it takes to keep it healthy — for us and for generations to come.”
Observing Earth Day is not the only way St. Mary cares for the planet. The parish is planning to install solar energy panels on its Carnevale Center, and its St. Mary’s School is listed by GreenFaith as a green school.
In addition, the church’s JustFaith social justice program often participates in GreenFaith projects, recently discussing with community leaders cleaning up toxic sites in poor communities. The parish also supports Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., and lobbies Congress about important climate change legislation.
In the Nation’s Capital
The Franciscan Action Network in Washington, D.C., sponsors a Campaign on Climate Change that encourages the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions over time to sustainable levels in the environment. In addition, FAN wants people to recognize that this lowering may result in short-term increases in energy costs, so leaders must find ways to safeguard people who are poor, both at home and abroad.
This campaign comes after a report by two U.S. congressmen discussing legislation to promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse emissions.
To help explain the campaign, FAN is offering seven free Webinars, April 21 to 23, including several on Earth Day. To participate, churches must sign up, watch the Webinar on the Internet, and have a phone nearby to discuss the presentation.
Franciscan-hearted people, as FAN refers to its supporters, are encouraged to participate in the campaign by:
• Writing e-mails
• Mailing postcards to ministries
• Sending postcards to local members of Congress
For more information, visit the climate change section of FAN’s Web site.
In the South
St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., has been offering “Earth Day Tuesdays” throughout April. The description in the bulletin says parishioners meet to “study, explore and celebrate the Earth as our most valued and vulnerable resource. Come and see how God is calling us to engage more fully as partners in this glorious celebration of life.”
Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., held its second Earth Day fair this weekend, focusing on The Canticle of Creation by St. Francis. Tables in the gathering space after Mass included nature artwork by Immaculata students, eco-friendly snacks, and educational materials.
The Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, N.C., has the Caretakers of Creation advocacy team working throughout the year to restore a connection between God and the earth. To celebrate Earth Day, the team set up displays and provided information about earth care after all Masses this weekend. In addition, some parishioners were replacing their flower gardens with vegetable patches.
In photo above: Daniel McLellan, OFM, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, takes his turn pledging what he will do to be kinder to the environment at the Earth Day fair.
In photo “behind”: William McIntyre, OFM, observes a display with parishoners at Immaculate Conception’s Earth Day fair.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Rebecca Doel, communications coordinator, contributed to this story.