Virginia Parish a Leader in Green Efforts, New Programming

HNP Communications In the Headlines

TRIANGLE, Va. — St. Francis of Assisi Church has been recognized both for its environmental initiatives and for launching a program that promises to make parishioners into “good news people.”

“As a result of these programs, our parish is alive with renewed parishioner engagement and activity,” said Rob Goraieb, the parish’s coordinator of Franciscan action and advocacy.

New Jersey-based GreenFaith, an internationally recognized interfaith environmental coalition, has accepted the church into its certification program, the country’s first interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship.

The first house of worship in Virginia in the certification program, St. Francis is a leader in green initiatives and has completed more than two dozen environmental activities over two years. From eco-themed worship services and religious education on the environment, to reducing consumption in their buildings and engaging in environmental justice advocacy, the church has made distinct efforts in being “more green.”

“In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, our parish community is called to manifest a reverent attitude toward our environment, recognizing it as God’s creation,” said Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor. “Based on our Christian faith and the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, we can make our lifestyle more sustainable by the choices we make.”

“This is a parish/school-wide activity, so many people are involved,” said Goraieb.

The parish intends to take what it has learned from its GreenFaith experience to be a leader in other areas of environmental justice in the community.

In addition, JustFaith Ministries recently selected the parish as one of 25 in the country to help launch its newGood News People program.

The small-group program teaches people new ways of understanding their faith, themselves, and the needs of the world, so they can become “good news people.” Participants become more familiar with the biblical witness of Jesus, awaken the call to discipleship, and explore the richness of the Catholic faith to inspire new passion for and engagement in the Church’s mission, according to Goraieb.

The program began Oct. 6, under the guidance of Kevin and Francis Critch, OFM.

The 14-session pilot program, which takes place in the fall and spring, is designed for 10 groups of 10 participants each. Groups from the school, Knights of Columbus, youth, Spanish community, Bible study, religious education, missioners, small-faith communities, music ministry, and the Columbiettes have agreed to participate over the next three years, according to Goraieb.

Recently, the parish hosted a dinner/program introduction for group facilitators. Goraieb said: “Everyone is very much looking forward to all that God is going to do in our parish and community as we, honestly and genuinely, become Good News People. We’re so appreciative of Fr. Kevin and Br. Frank for bringing us Good News People and taking our parish to a deeper level. The blessings of their vision for us are already upon us.”

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut based freelance writer, is the author of Life is Too Short: Stories of Transformation & Renewal After 9/11. The photo above was provided by Goraieb.