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Former head of CRS to speak at Vermont conference on "Laudato Si'"

A former head of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will be in Vermont in September to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at Saint Michael's College on September 30th. The conference will be the main event of the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation, a yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”

Hosted by the Catholic Church in Vermont, sponsors for the event include Catholic Relief Services, Oregon Catholic Press, Saint Michael's College, Sisters of Mercy, Catholic Climate Covenant,  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Peace, Justice and Human Development, Courtyard Burlington Harbor Hotel, Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, and Green Mountain Monastery.

General registration is $35 per person and includes morning pastries, lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. Students can register for free.

To register or learn more, visit: vermontcatholic.org/actionforecojustice.
 
Dr. Carolyn Woo, who from 2012-2016 was president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. Catholic Church's official, international humanitarian and development aid agency, will present a personal look at the encyclical she helped Pope Francis present in Rome, at environmental degradation and its effect on the poor and at measures to minimize further environmental harm from carbon emissions and remediate damage already done.
 
With perspectives from scientists, politicians, activists, economists, professionals, academics and people of various faiths, the conference will offer the opportunity for dynamic conversations about the state of creation and how people can work together for a sustainable future.
 
CRS staff “works face to face every day with the effects of climate warming,” Woo said. These include working with farmers whose livelihood is negatively impacted by erratic rainfall, which causes problems like drought on one extreme and soil erosion from deluges of rain on the other.
 
Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Since then, it has expanded to reach more than 100 million people in over 100 countries on five continents.
 
Its mission is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. With that mission rooted in the Catholic faith, CRS operations serve people based solely on need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. In the United States, CRS engages Catholics to live their faith in solidarity with the poor and suffering people of the world.
 
The conference at St. Michael’s College will be open to people of all faiths.
 
For more information, call Stephanie Clary at 802-846-5822.

To learn more about the Year of Creation please visit: vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation.
 

Companion planting with Bible herbs

With roots in Scripture, these popular plants can help your garden grow.
 
Companion planting is not a new idea in the gardening world. There is evidence of farmers using these same techniques dating back to biblical times. Growing healthy produce and flowers with companion plants makes for exceptional growth and nutrition.
 
Since people grew and preserved just about everything they ate or drank, having healthy crops was a necessity for eating well through the seasons. What they knew instinctively and what has passed down through generations is the knowledge that certain plants grown together act as helpmates. Like people, plants need good “friends,” or companions, to thrive.
 
Today there’s a renaissance of sorts going on with companion planting in the garden. Corn, beans, and squash are grown together as “sisters.” Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. As the corn grows, the beans find support by climbing up the stalk. As legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil, and that supports the nutritional needs of corn. The squash are quick growers, and their large leaves shade out weeds. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.
 
I learned early on that Bible herbs are good flower and vegetable companions. My mom would take a clove of garlic—a common Bible herb—and push it into the soil near the roses. The garlic helped deter bugs. There’s a bonus when planting Bible herbs among your garden plants. Pests find them more difficult to seek out, since the scent, color and texture of herbs are thought to confuse them. Certain herbs attract beneficial insects to your garden as well.
 
A companion planting plan integrates Mother Nature’s traits as well as your choice of what you want to grow. Here are some of my favorite plants grown and used during biblical times and what they can do to help your garden grow better. If you have little ones in your life, have them help. They will enjoy digging up God’s good earth and learning how Bible plants make good friends in the garden.
 
BASIL
 
Of all the herbs I grow that have biblical significance, basil is my favorite. It’s not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but legend has it that basil was first seen springing up outside Christ’s tomb after the resurrection.
 
The basil of the Bible was probably what is known as sweet basil. It’s the common green basil easily grown. Basil is a good companion for tomatoes. It makes tomatoes taste better, acts as a fungicide and is also good for peppers. Basil grows well next to oregano. Because bees love basil, good pollination is assured for anything planted near it. Basil’s aroma repels flies and mosquitoes: place some potted basil on your outside decks and by house entrances, and you will also be protected.
 
CHIVES/GARLIC
 
When the Israelites fled Egypt, they missed the vegetables grown in their home gardens. In Numbers 11:5, the Israelites cry out to Moses in hunger, “We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic.”
 
Chives and garlic are members of the same onion family. Chives help carrots, tomatoes, and members of the cabbage family thrive. Chives also repel cabbage worms. You can make a spray out of chives steeped in water to kill powdery mildew. Butterflies, good pollinators, are attracted to the flowers of chives.
 
Garlic improves growth on roses and raspberries, deterring Japanese beetles. It’s also a good companion to carrots, cucumbers, peas, beets, and lettuce. Garlic is especially beneficial when planted near apple, pear, and peach trees. It also repels ants.
 
CILANTRO/CORIANDER
 
Coriander is referenced several times in the Old Testament, and many of us are familiar with the verse in Exodus 16:31: “The Israelites called this food manna [meaning ‘food from heaven’]. It was like coriander seed, but white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.”
 
Cilantro is one of the herbs that I know of as a spice, too. The leaves are called cilantro and the seeds coriander. Cilantro helps spinach and repels or distracts white flies and aphids. When it’s grown alongside anise, they act together as a good deterrent for snails and slugs, common pests on plants during early spring, when there’s a lot of moisture in the ground.
 
DILL
 
Dill is mentioned only once in the New Testament, in Matthew 23:23–24. It tells about the Pharisees paying tithes of herbs, including dill: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees… You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity… [You] strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”
 
Scholars believe that dill was wrongly translated as anise in English-language Bibles. Dill improves the growth and health of vegetables in the cabbage family, repelling those nasty squash bugs and cabbage loopers. Cucumbers, lettuce, and onions grow better with dill planted nearby.
 
The flower heads of dill are among the best nectar sources for beneficial insects in the garden. Plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on. Even their caterpillars are beautiful. They become orange-yellow and black butterflies.
 
FENNEL
 
The name fennel is not used, but the word galbanum is mentioned in Exodus 30:34–38. Botanists believe this is a giant fennel, which is native to the Mediterranean region and southern Europe. Here’s the Bible passage: “The Lord told Moses: ‘Take these aromatic substances: storax and onycha and galbanum, these and pure frankincense in equal parts; and blend them into incense. This fragrant powder, expertly prepared, is to be salted and so kept pure and sacred.’”
 
Fennel attracts ladybugs and repels aphids. It’s also a host for beneficial pollinators and insects.
 
MINT
 
As in Matthew 23, mint is also mentioned in Luke 11:42 as a tithing herb: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.”
 
Peppermint helps members of the cabbage family, including kales. It repels the cabbage fly. Plant a container near the kitchen door to keep ants away. The white flowers of peppermint attract pollinators like bees, and beneficial insects love mint.
 
MARIGOLDS
 
This is another beautiful, useful flower not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Marigolds are a flower that I always include when teaching little ones how to plant a Bible garden. The reason? Think of the name and you’ll see why I call these flowers “Mary’s Gold,” which reminds us of the bright yellow sunshine that surrounds our Blessed Mother, along with her halo of golden hue.
 
Tomatoes love marigolds, and so do peppers, cucumbers, and even cabbage. Plant them everywhere! Certain varieties of marigolds, like the French marigold, produce a pesticidal chemical from their roots, so strong it lasts years after they are gone.
 
One of the reasons marigolds are so good as companion plants is their scent. Pests don’t like their aroma at all.
 
OREGANO
 
In Exodus 12:22, Moses tells the Israelites to prepare for the 10th biblical plague by dipping a branch of hyssop in lamb’s blood to mark their doorposts, thus sparing the lives of their firstborn. Some scholars believe hyssop to be a type of oregano. This makes sense to me, since hyssop was not known as a native plant in the Mediterranean area during biblical times.
 
Oregano provides general pest protection. Cucumber beetles will stay away if oregano is grown close by and aphids won’t bother your tomatoes. You’ll have good melon production with oregano growing near.
 
 
Rita Nader Heikenfeld is an award-winning syndicated journalist, inductee into Escoffier Hall of Fame, President’s Medal ACF, Appalachian herbal scholar, accredited family herbalist, author and the founding editor of AboutEating.com.
 
Published in St. Anthony Messenger, April 2017

 
 

Catholic college graduations

Vermont’s two Catholic colleges conducted commencement ceremonies this month.
 
Seventy students received degrees at the College of St. Joseph’s 58th commencement ceremony May 13.
 
St. Michael’s College in Colchester marked its 110th commencement on May 14 in the Ross Sports Center; it included 456 undergraduates and 30 graduate degree recipients.
 
“It’s never about you,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford ’77, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the St. Michael’s College Class of 2017 that moral courage and a commitment to serving others are essential qualities for “leaders of consequence.”
 
The nation’s highest-ranking military figure, Dunford told graduates that being a leader means doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular, and that “the greatest call is to serve.”
 
“What I’ve learned in 40 years is that extraordinary leaders are actually ordinary men and women who make a commitment to excellence” and dig down deep, he said, adding that the world will need the new graduates’ leadership given that “from a security perspective alone, the challenges we face are as complex as any we’ve faced since World War II,” while the pace of change is unprecedented. As St. Michael’s graduates, he told the class, “you are uniquely equipped” to meet those challenges.
 
Dunford called upon the graduates to “go forth to be leaders of consequence.”
 
At the College of St. Joseph, former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas spoke of some of Vermont’s greatest challenges and how graduates can help to confront them, including the state’s declining population and its effects.
 
“So, here’s my pitch: We need each of you to be a part of our state’s future. We need you to live and work here, to make Vermont your home,” Douglas said. “To use your education to find meaningful work and perhaps create additional jobs. We need you to raise your families here and to contribute to your community and state.”
 
Douglas, the commencement speaker, also discussed his views on the decline of civil discourse and how graduates can best use their voices in discussions with others whose opinions with which they may not agree.
 
“I urge each of you to listen to different voices, to respect others when they speak and to weigh objectively the arguments they put forth. You may not be persuaded. You may become more confident in your own views,” Douglas said. “But, in a democracy, we can’t delegitimize the thoughts of others. We must allow them to be expressed. As many have said through the years, the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech.”
 
  • Published in Schools

Greening a parish center

Three women from Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction are on a mission to make their parish center a fully "green" operation that composts, recycles and reduces its waste to near-zero levels.

Audrey Dawson, a senior at Essex High School; her grandmother, Joyce Dawson; and Lindsey Sullivan, an engineer at Global Foundries, represent three generations of women deeply committed to environmental stewardship as an essential part of the Christian call.

Green kitchen guidelines

The trio recently implemented "Green Kitchen Guidelines" that all parish groups and outside organizations renting the upstairs parish hall will need to comply with beginning this month.

Styrofoam, cheap to purchase and effective at keeping beverages hot, will no longer be allowed in the facility. Those hosting events will be asked to utilize the ceramic dishware and utensils provided and clean them in the nochemical, water-saving dishwashers on site. Or, they will need to purchase their own paper and plastic products that meet compostable and recyclable standards. The overarching goal is to reduce the stream of solid waste going into the landfill and to raise the consciousness of parishioners around environmental issues.

"We have been entrusted by God to protect the planet we live on," said Sullivan, 32, a recycler since kindergarten. "Millennials have been taught by their teachers since very young that landfills are an important resource."

The Holy Family-St. Lawrence parish center, an airy, timber; frame structure with a fireplace and sweeping views of Essex Junction, opened in 2014. The previous building was hit by lightening and burned to the ground in 2011. The Parish Council decided to outfit the new hall with an industrial-grade kitchen that could be used for parish activities and also serve as a kind of outreach to the larger community.

Parishioner Mike Dowling books events at the hall and said the facility is in "constant motion," utilized by the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, Essex Eats Out, the Diocese of Burlington and local schools and non-profit organizations hosting workshops.

Some 500 people are serviced through the kitchen per month, he pointed out, enough volume to make waste production a concern.

Dowling joined both Dawson women and Sullivan on a tour of the kitchen to determine where newly purchased sorter bins for compost, recycled materials and waste will be situated. The Green Kitchen Committee, as they refer to themselves, has ordered bins that slip into a caddy on wheels to make transporting byproducts to an outer shed an easy exercise. A grant through the Chittenden Solid Waste District will offset half the cost of the bins.

The elder Dawson shared with the committee that some pushback has come her way from people that want to continue buying paper products at discount stores. But those items include wax-coated paper plates and plastic silverware, which cannot be recycled or composted and will end up in the waste stream.

"There's been some initial resistance," explained Joyce Dawson, a 38-year parishioner, "which is why we have to make participation as easy as possible with a communication plan that educates people and creates buy-in."

The committee plans a "Green Grand Opening" event for parishioners and interested community members on Sunday, March 19, after the 11 a.m. Mass, to learn about the new Green Kitchen protocols, as well as to enjoy some Earth Day-themed refreshments.

"Laudato Si'" study group

The Green Kitchen initiative was born after 25 parishioners engaged in a study of Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home."

Faith formation director John McMahon, had heard interest expressed by parishioners about the pope's publication, released in 2015. That October, McMahon facilitated a study group to delve into the six chapters, one week at a time.

McMahon described the study group, which also drew participants from the Essex Catholic Community's third parish, St. Pius X in Essex Center, as a balance of people with both conservative and liberal politics.

Dawson and her granddaughter Audrey, 17, both walked into the first session not knowing the other was planning to attend.

Through spirited dialogue and communal prayer, the group explored the pope's invitation to become "protectors of God's handiwork" as "not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience."

"I felt the way the encyclical was written was a call to action," said Audrey, who participated in World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil and witnessed the detrimental impacts of air and water pollution on poor families living in slums. "Seeing how interconnected environmental and economic issues were for these people piqued my interest to do something in my own church community."

At the conclusion of the "Laudato Si'" study group, McMahon said, there was enough interest to continue meeting to consider a project that would represent the parish's good-faith effort to do its fair share.

Greening parish events

Essex Eats Out, a weekly community dinner for residents sponsored by five local churches was ramping up. Holy Family Parish Hall was hosting the event on the second Friday of the month, serving healthy dinners to 140-170 people per seating.

"Working on the meal teams and seeing all the waste generated was eye-opening," McMahon recalled. "The scale of these dinners and the parish center going into full operational mode, frankly, made us get more serious about creating an overall green initiative."

Meanwhile, Sullivan was dreaming up a new strategy for the parish's twice-annual Serve Our Neighbor Day. The prayer and service event that sends 150 parishioners of all ages into the local community to rake lawns and clean gutters for the elderly and sick of Essex Junction was generating four 35-gallon bags of garbage at its concluding picnic.

Sullivan was aiming to decrease waste creation to near-zero levels. "If you want to reduce the amount of trash you generate then you have to reduce the amount of trash you buy in the first place," she advised. That meant no longer purchasing individual packs of chips and drinks and buying food in bulk at Costco with minimal, recyclable packaging.

At the Serve Our Neighbor Day event last October, Sullivan removed the trash bins from view as a way to "interrupt the behavior" of volunteers. She sat herself beside the sorter bins and helped folks discern where to put what.

"A couple of people grouched about having to sort their trash," Sullivan recalled. "But through a 10-second interaction with each person to explain the process, we had 100-percent compliance." Once the food service was set up, there was zero-waste created. The initial food preparation phase resulted in only one-half of a 35-gallon bag headed to the landfill.

Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor, has been an advocate of environmental stewardship and energy-efficiency efforts (see sidebar) in the parish from the get-go. "My pastoral philosophy is to get the people of God to have a sense of ownership for their faith community, the programs and buildings and to encourage them to stay involved," he said.

Father Ranges recently approved a separate weekly pickup for compost by the parish's hauling company. He includes Sunday Prayers of the Faithful that connect to the diocese's Year of Creation and writes occasionally about ecological justice themes in his weekly letter from the pastor.

"The beauty of the earth is a reflection of the goodness of God," he said. "Taking care of our natural environment and the planet we live on is Christ-like."


Making church buildings sustainable for future generations

Years before the Green Kitchen initiative, Dave Robideau and the parish finance council were working methodically to increase the energy-efficiency of all church buildings on the Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish campuses in Essex Junction.

Robideau, an engineer at IBM for 35 years, recalled attending Sunday morning Mass at Holy Family Church in 2009 and struggling to hear then-Burlington Bishop Salvatore R. Matano's voice over the clanging pipes, the boiler working hard to heat the cavernous space.

Robideau knew the time had come for a new heating system.

The following year, he organized an energy assessment of Holy Family Church to establish baseline measurements. The steam furnace heating the 120-year-old church was in need of constant repair, costing the parish thousands of dollars per year, and technicians to fix an increasingly antiquated boiler system were harder to find.

With the blessings of their pastor, Edmundite Father Charles Ranges and the finance council, and input from several contractors, Robideau embarked on a project to have the church air-sealed and insulated as well as have a high-tech radiator system installed that preserved architectural aesthetics. The retrofit was offset by incentives from Vermont Gas, resulting in a more affordable price tag of $25,000.

Robideau called the project one of his most rewarding. "We essentially brought a church constructed in 1893 up to modern energy standards," he said. Air leakage numbers for Holy Family Church were cut in half, and the gas bill was cut by 66 percent to $2,500 per year.

"Part of our responsibility as good stewards is to reduce the cost of ownership on our buildings with the longer-term goal of reducing their footprint and expense for future generations," he said.

Likewise, an energy audit at St. Lawrence Church revealed opportunities to save on both electricity and natural gas usage. The initial work focused on projects that required minimal investment with the highest immediate payback.

By replacing sanctuary light bulbs with LEDs, installing wireless thermostats, eliminating a compressor that drove the heating controls for the boiler and turning off parking lot lights after 10 p.m., the church achieved a $600-$800 savings per year.

"The moral of the story is that there are numerous low-tech solutions that almost all parishes can take advantage of right away," Robideau said. "An essential way of giving back to the Church is to help it spend its limited resources as wisely as possible."

How to host a zero-waste event

It's very satisfying to host an event and generate NO garbage. It's also easier than it sounds.

Here are some ideas to help achieve that goal:

• Reduce garbage generated at the source. Purchase as many foods and raw materials in recyclable or compostable packaging as possible. This could also mean buying in bulk instead of individual packages.

• Use plates/silverware that you wash, dry and reuse.

• You cannot recycle paper or plastic plates/dishes with food stuck to them; if you don't want to rinse off food scraps, then go with compostable plates like Chinet.

• Leftover foods, plates (i.e. paper, cardboard), utensils (i.e. bamboo) and almost everything left behind after a meal is compostable. Napkins and paper towels often make up the bulk of compost even if you use recyclable items or durables. Any amount of compost you decide to collect contributes to less trash production.

• Eliminate all use of Styrofoam containers.

• Identify a Green Leader or Green Team or someone who is in charge of making sure everything gets thrown in the right bin at your event.

• Hide the trash can.

If you'd like a comprehensive copy of the Holy Family-St. Lawrence Green Kitchen Guidelines,

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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By Marybeth Christie Redmond

 
  • Published in Parish
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