Log in
    

Cry of the Earth; Cry of the Poor

Since the release of the encyclical, “Laudato Si,’” last year, Pope Francis has continued to emphasize the importance of ecological justice.
 
In the document, he demonstrates how “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue.” He reemphasized this point during the Year of Mercy: making care for creation a prayer intention; suggesting that care for creation be added to the traditional lists of works of mercy; and proposing, “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home” as one of six new beatitudes. Pope Francis proclaims that ecological justice is inherently a part of the Christian mission of mercy, service and love.
 
In October, we saw one of the strongest storms ever to hit the Caribbean in Hurricane Matthew. This is a direct effect of reckless human use of natural resources, of disrespect for the world created by God. Yes, storms exist as part of the natural weather patterns on the planet, but rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contribute to the rising temperature of the planet. Warmer oceans produce stronger storms with heavier rains, which in turn contribute to increased flooding in coastal areas.
 
Pope Francis explains, in addition to the immediate dangers of flooding, “many of the poor . . . are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.” The long-term effects of climate change, such as the migration and/or death of animals and plants, also “affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children.” They become ecological refugees, fleeing from poverty caused by environmental degradation. Furthermore, the communities to which they flee often do not greet them with a welcoming embrace or a more beneficial ecology.
 
We often think of climate change as primarily affecting poor communities in other areas of the world, in the future, and this is true, but the distinction is just as much one of socioeconomics as it is of geography. The pope turns to the ecological experiences of the poor in our cities, “which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation and visual pollution and noise.
 
Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water.” Some of us are privileged to reap the benefits of living near a city while retreating to fresh air and open space anytime we wish. Many are not so fortunate.
 
He continues, “Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.”
 
The poor are met with ecological adversity in urban, rural, coastal and inland communities. As people who stand for life and human dignity, we cannot remain blind to this reality, and once informed, we cannot remain complacent. We must “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” as “Laudato Si’” urges us to do.
 
The effects of climate change are vividly present in all of creation’s communities, right now.
 
Pope Francis asserts, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.” Social justice initiatives require attention to ecological justice if we truly wish to better our world and the lives of those who call it home.
 
  • Published in World

2017: "Year of Creation"

Diocese to observe 2017 as "Year of Creation"

Similar to the global Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis last year which entertained a heightened focus on the role of mercy in the Catholic faith, the diocesan wide Year of Creation will entertain an intentional, heightened focus on ecological justice. Various events, initiatives and resources will be made available to parishes and Catholic schools to better educate on and encourage the embracing of Pope Francis’ message in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
This is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. It is addressed to "every person living on this planet" for an inclusive dialogue about how people are shaping the future of the created world. He calls everyone to acknowledge the urgency of pursuing ecological justice and to join him in embarking on a new path based in integral ecology.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne invites all Catholics to join with him in celebrating this “Year of Creation” in the diocese.
 
He noted the pope’s emphasis that concern for the created world is not optional, but an integral part of Church teaching on social justice. “While it has been nearly two years since its publication, I think it is time for the Church here in Vermont to study, ponder and begin to implement much of what the pope calls for” in the document, the bishop said.
 
The diocese also has formed a partnership with Commons Energy that allows for low-cost energy efficiency audits and energy efficiency/renewable energy projects on many church-owned buildings throughout the state. Within the first two months of the year, fifteen buildings have requested to begin the energy efficiency audit process.
 
Additionally, one of the first steps the Diocese of Burlington has taken at 55 Joy Drive in South Burlington, the diocesan headquarters, to counteract a "throwaway culture" and set an example of ecologically responsible practices is to adopt the practice of composting—a simple way to support circular models of production and consumption.
 
“Vermont’s 118,000 Catholics can make a sustainable impact on the state of the created world and its creatures. Furthermore, if the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation is successful in raising awareness of and action toward ecological justice, it can serve as an encouraging example for other Catholic dioceses and communities of faith throughout the country and the globe. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics on Earth—just think of what could be achieved if we committed to caring for the created world together,” said Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator.
 
A Year of Creation Committee comprised of scientists, activists and people of faith has been formed to assist with this initiative. Committee members include:
  • Brian Tokar, Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont and a board member of 350Vermont and the Institute for Social Ecology 
  • David Mullin, Executive Director of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity
  • Dcn. Phil Lawson, Director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
  • Ellen Kane, Executive Director of Development and Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington and the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation
  • Fr. Thomas Houle, OFM Cap., Pastor of St. Peter Church in Rutland (first parish in the diocese to adopt renewable energy) and St. Alphonsus Church in Pittsford
  • Betsy Hardy, Coordinator for Vermont Interfaith Power and Light
  • James Ehlers, Executive Director of Lake Champlain International 
  • Stephanie Clary, Mission Outreach and Communication Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
  • Mary Quinn, RSM, Co-Director of Mercy Farm Eco-Spiritual Center in Benson 
  • Marybeth Christie Redmond, a writer-journalist and communications professional for global and local non-profit organizations  
  • Joseph Gainza, Producer and Host of “Gathering Peace” on WGDR and WGDH 
  • Gina Fiorile, a junior at the University of Vermont studying environmental studies and public communications 
  • Maura Thompson, a senior at Rice Memorial High School, involved in Campus Ministry and Global Unity and Solidarity Group

The committee will be working an awareness campaign and events throughout the year, including:
  • Spring issue of Vermont Catholic dedicated to Year of Creation;
  • "The Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the Path of Ecological Conversion" and Global Catholic Climate Movement's Lenten Fast for Climate Justice on March 3;
  • Statewide Catholic schools care for creation education, prayer and action project on April 12;
  • "Mercy for Our Common Home" evening prayer and "green parish" roundtable discussion for Mercy2Earth Weekend on April 23;
  • Year of Creation Conference with keynote speaker Dr. Carolyn Woo in September;
  • “Laudato Si’ in the Parish” training program offered to pastors, deacons, catechists;
  • Vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation webpage with resources for parishes and anyone interested in learning more. 
 
------------------
Updated: 02.07.17
  • Published in Diocesan

A Catholic Christmas and new year

This will be my second celebration of Christmas as the bishop of the Diocese of Burlington. I feel very much at home here. Over the past two years, I have met a lot of very wonderful and good people, some who share our Catholic faith, others who do not. There is a large network of men and women in our state who are dedicated to doing good works, whether it is helping the neediest and most vulnerable in our midst, striving for affordable housing, feeding the hungry and the homeless, providing resources for people and families who are finding it difficult to make ends meet or working tirelessly to protect our water and our environment. Much of this is reported in the 2016 winter issue of Vermont Catholic in which we acknowledge the good deeds and works that are being carried out by faithful Catholics here in Vermont.
 
This is what we Catholics do. We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the sorrowing, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner and clothe the needy. We do it because we know the meaning of Christmas: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son...” (Jn 3:16). The conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb and His later birth in the manger which we celebrate at Christmas remind us that God was born among us to bring reconciliation between God and man and reconciliation between all of us as brothers and sisters. Jesus’ later preaching of the Kingdom of God was a call to communion with Him and with one another. That communion calls us to be merciful, doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves.
 
So, I wish you all a merry Christmas as we contemplate the merciful love of God for each of us, and I wish you all a new year of faith in which we renew our call to serve God through loving acts of mercy for others.
 
On another note, I invite you to join with me in celebrating 2017 as a “Year of Creation” in our diocese. On May 24, 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical on the environment entitled “Laudato Si’” subtitled, “On care for our common home.” In this encyclical, he states that concern for the natural world is no longer “optional” but is an integral part of Church teaching on social justice. While it has been nearly two years since its publication, I think it is time for the Church here in Vermont to study, ponder and begin to implement much of what the pope calls for in “Laudato Si’.” As such, a number of resources, events and programs have been created for both parish and diocesan venues to help us do so. More will follow over the next few months, but I hope you will join me in this endeavor.
 
Yours in Christ,
 
The Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne
 
Bishop of Burlington
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Behold God’s creation: Season of caring for our common home

This month-long focus on our call to ecological consciousness appropriately begins on the World Day of Prayer for Creation (Sept. 1) and ends on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology (Oct. 4). While the Roman Catholic Church only formally joined this observation in 2015, the World Day of Prayer for Creation was proclaimed by the Orthodox Church in 1989 with other major European Christian churches joining in 2001. 

The Day of Prayer for Creation has since grown into the Season of Creation to promote flexibility for increased involvement through various prayer services and engagement in differing actions of creation care throughout the month. The evolution of this particular prayer intention from a single day in a sole faith community to a season invoking worldwide, ecumenical and interfaith participation calls to mind the sentiments expressed by Pope Francis at the inception of Laudato si’, that care for our common home and glorification of God’s creation are issues of global concern, affecting “every person living on this planet” (LS 3). 

In support of the Season of Creation proclaimed by faith leaders, the following organizations will facilitate awareness and engagement during the 2016 observance: ACT Alliance, Global Catholic Climate Movement, GreenFaith: Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth, Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and World Council of Churches.

SeasonofCreation.org has compiled a hefty list of liturgical resources that can be used for both personal and communal prayer. Consider planning a Eucharistic Adoration service for Creation Day, praying a Guided Rosary on Caring for Creation, organizing a Prayer Vigil for Creation, joining the World Day of Prayer for Creation on Facebook or simply praying “A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation” and “A Prayer for Our Earth” composed by Pope Francis at the conclusion of “Laudato Si’”. 

These resources and more can be found at SeasonofCreation.org/liturgical-resources. Whether in serene, personal contemplation or jubilant, communal gathering, the possibilities for prayer for creation are as numerous as the creatures that call this planet home.

SeasonofCreation.org also provides five simple suggestions for taking action for a lived response to our ecological call: Join nearly 1 million Catholics in signing the Catholic Climate Petition to reduce the negative effects of humanity on the Earth’s climate and aid the poorest and most vulnerable people in coping with the drastic impacts of climate change; promote “Laudato Si’” and its message with a study group in your parish, school or community; encourage your parish to go green; live simply and sustainably by reducing your carbon footprint; and urge your community to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in clean energy solutions. 

The Global Catholic Climate Movement has compiled abundant resources for each of these initiatives, which can be accessed by exploring the Season of Creation: Take Action webpage.

Pope Francis, faith leaders of the world, the poor and vulnerable and creation itself call us to be passionate in prayer and ardent in action during this Season of Creation and all seasons of the year. As human beings entrusted to be caretakers of our common home, we should respond to this call zealously and without hesitation. 

Do you know a person, parish, school or community that is planning something for the the Season of Creation? Let us know. E-mail Mission Outreach and Communication Coordinator, Stephanie Clary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal