Nearly 35 years after St. Francis was named the patron saint of ecology, his followers are calling for greater care for creation. Many ministries used Earth Day on April 22 to educate about the effect that even a small change can have on the environment.
In Virginia, county, state and federal officials joined friars and partners-in-ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle for the parish’s second annual “St. Francis Earth Day” on April 27. A variety of presentations, question-and-answer sessions, resources and displays were available to both parishioners and the public throughout the day.
“We thought this would be a great way to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the designation of St. Francis as patron of ecology,” noted pastor Kevin Downey, OFM. “This was also an opportunity to showcase all the good going on in the community, not to mention to get resources out to everyone, so we can all do our part to care for and protect the environment even better.”
St. Francis Earth Day was sponsored by the parish’s GreenFaith Green Team. In 2012, the parish was accepted into the GreenFaith Certification Program, the country’s first interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship.
In New Jersey, at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, “lights out” catalyzed the monthly Youth Mass. The “no energy” Mass was celebrated without electricity or microphones in order to raise awareness of the small steps the parish could take to make an environmental impact. The parish also encouraged parishioners to take the St. Francis Pledge that outlines what Catholics can do to protect God’s creation.
After Mass, sunflowers were distributed for people to plant. The celebration was “a complete success,” according to information provided by pastor Frank Sevola, OFM.
In Camden, parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua Parish and members of the community made a special planting in Br. Jerry’s Garden. The Monarca garden was planted April 14 in solidarity with Franciscan Action Network’s Day of Contemplation, according to Kristen Zielinski Nalen, of the parish’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office. The plants will raise consciousness to protect bee and butterfly populations that pollinate vegetation and are at risk from use of agrichemicals and loss of habitat, she said.
In the northern region of the Province, friars and students at St. Bonaventure University also did some recent planting on the Western New York campus. Kevin Kriso, OFM, and other staff and students have planted trees around campus annually, as part of the school’s Tree Campus USA designation.
The program, run by the Arbor Day Foundation, recognizes college communities that effectively manage their campus trees, develop a connection with the community beyond the campus to foster healthy forests, and strive to engage the students in service learning opportunities focused on forestry efforts. A photo of F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, blessing a newly planted sugar maple tree, was posted on the university’s Instagram.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. The above image is courtesy of St. Bonaventure University.