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Action for Ecological Justice conference

A former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, brought a message of hope to the Diocese of Burlington, telling more than 200 people at a conference on ecological justice that though “we are in the midst of a crisis,” it is important to focus on what can be done to take better care of the Earth.
 
“Our actions do matter, and there are things we can do to make a difference,” said Dr. Carolyn Woo, the keynote speaker at Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation, Sept. 30 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. The Year of Creation is a yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
“Hope is where you believe that action can make a difference,” Woo said.
 
The Catholic Church in Vermont presented the conference, the signature event of the Year of Creation called for by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
Among the responses to climate change, which disproportionately affects the world’s poor, Woo suggested responses such as land and crop adaptations, watershed management, alternative farming techniques, alternative crops, water service and community capacity building.
 
She also suggested socially responsible investing with companies that have good ratings for healthy living, clean water, renewable energy, zero waste and disease eradication. “You don’t have to sacrifice [financial] returns,” she added.
 
Woo said there is momentum in the area of clean energy, noting that 21 states score in the top 10 in at least three of the 12 Union of Concerned Scientists metrics that include energy savings, power plant pollution reduction, clean energy jobs and electric vehicle adoption.
 
Vermont is number two in that overall scoring, second only to California.
 
Woo encouraged the creation of “green jobs” in areas such as wind and solar power and sustainable issues, and she asked her listeners to encourage young people to pursue careers in this industry.
 
To reduce carbon emissions in the environment, she suggested the use of wind turbines, plant-rich diets, solar farms, natural family planning, reduced food waste and refrigerant management.
 
Care of the Earth, she emphasized, “transcends politics.”
 
"The state of creation affects everyone. We must work together to create a more sustainable future for all," said Stephanie Clary, manager of mission outreach and communication for the Diocese of Burlington and coordinator of the conference.

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne opened the conference with a moment of silence for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 
 
The daylong conference included various workshops including one titled, “Engaging the Parish: How Do I Invite Others to Join Me,” facilitated by Chris West who directs the Partnership, Training and Engagement Unit of Catholic Relief Services and David Mullin, executive director of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity in Northwestern Vermont.
 
They emphasized the importance of using inviting language when encouraging others to join in parish ministries, rather than telling people they “should” get involved.
 
Identify, invite, and encourage -- three steps West said bring more people into ministries.
 
Mullin said that if people are “interested in moving a cause forward, expose your passion for it” to attract others to it.
 
In his breakout session, “Can Economics Save the World?” St. Michael’s College Associate Professor of Economics Patrick Walsh asked participants, “Why are we hurting the environment?”
 
Answers included: to accommodate a growing population, because people are disconnected from nature, market forces, cultural and lifestyle expectations, ignorance and greed.
 
A way to explain people’s behavior is to know what incentives they face, he explained.
 
For example, shoppers might shy away from one item that is too expensive, considering “the price told me not to” buy it. But they might purchase a sale item because “the price made me do it.”
 
Incentives for reducing carbon emissions include carbon taxes and limited government permits for carbon emitters. “If it’s costly to ‘go green,’ it’s going to be an uphill struggle,” Walsh said.

Allison Croce, a sophomore at St. Michael's College from Abingdon, Md., said her Catholic faith and her passion for the environment were the reasons she attended the daylong conference. "We all share the Earth, so we should all conserve [resources] and promote justice for all," said the environmental studies major.
 
Musician and songwriter Bob Hurd concluded the day with a variety of songs related to justice, caring for the Earth, the sanctity of life and peace, some based on “Laudato Si’.”
 
He connected Jesus’ living, dying and rising to healing and the glorification of all creation. “Every celebration of the Eucharist acknowledges creation,” he said.
 
Carolyn Meub, executive director of the Rutland-based Pure Water for the World, said attending the conference “really motivated me to look at my own actions because I believe my actions are making a moral statement” – like composting and doing business with ethical companies.
 
Rose-Marie Santarcangelo of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington drove nearly the length of Vermont to attend the conference because of its subject matter. “More people need to be involved…to save this planet,” she said.
 
Lisa Gibbons, a member of St. Francis Xavier Church in Winooski, said the conference offered her a “great opportunity” to bring together two important parts of her life: her Catholic faith and care for the Earth.

"This Diocese is a light to help us understand what a Diocese can do in a holistic way to respond to climate change," Woo told Vermont Catholic. She praised the work being done in parishes and schools to educate, reduce, reuse and recycle and acknowledged the Diocese's efforts to collaborate with other faith groups and government organizations. "This is an inspiring example," she said.

Clary said the conference a success, commenting, "It's encouraging that so many people hold care for creation as an important part of their lives --whether Catholic or not. Hopefully today is just one of many collaborative efforts to work together in caring for our common home."
 
For more information about the Action for Ecological Justice conference, see the Year of Creation website.

 

New tool to use 'Laudato Si'' to measure, rank nations' development

A Catholic university, the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation and a Latin American foundation working on sustainable development have developed a tool to measure and rank countries' efforts in human and environmental development.
 
The idea is to have an effective tool that measures using Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" as the basis for the initiative.
 
The "Laudato Si'" Observatory will be launched at the closing of the Ratzinger Foundation's international symposium, scheduled Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in San Jose, said Fernando Sanchez, head of the Catholic University of Costa Rica.
 
Sanchez, a former Costa Rican ambassador to the Vatican, said the observatory hopes to prompt research and "to provide nations' governments an absolutely academic tool ... to promote positive change, which is what the pope is asking us to do, and it would be our major contribution with this symposium."
 
The observatory "stems from taking the encyclical, dividing it into measurable topics -- measurable indicators -- and drawing up a human and environmental index," all of which concern "human development and environmental development," he added.
 
In the 2015 encyclical, Pope Francis urged a conversation that includes everyone and the need for a conversion to bring about lasting change on how people view the environment.
 
Sanchez said the papal encyclical is the framework for the observatory and its output and, compared to other measurements already implemented, "the great difference is that this index will have the church's social doctrine as its anchor."
 
"The possibilities to prompt change with this index are enormous," he said.
 
The symposium, "On Care for Our Common Home, a Necessary Conversion to Human Ecology," aims to make it "utterly clear that the struggle for human, social, environmental development is not an ideological issue," Sanchez said.
 
"It's an issue of survival, it's an issue of responsibility, it's an issue of conscience. That's essential, and it's what the Holy Father tells us. Besides, it's not for some, it's for all," said Sanchez.
 
"And also, he clearly says that it's a real issue ... climate change," although "some new leaders have tried to say it's an invention," said Sanchez, who reaffirmed that "it's real, it's urgent, it's global and it's not ideological."
 
The three-day event, to be held at a luxury hotel on the outskirts of this capital city, features presentations by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, retired head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Brazilian bishops' Commission for the Amazon; Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, head of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education; and Tomas Insua, research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
 
Sanchez said there is high expectation about general participation in the symposium, because scholars, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and students have been invited.
 
"The great challenge we have here is to take an issue, which is for all an important issue, discuss around it and do it in a simple way, as the pope is doing," he said.
In his view, "one of the pope's marvels ... is that he has managed to 'democratize' the Holy See's message, because everyone understands him. You may be in favor or against him, but you undoubtedly understand him, and this encyclical is a good example," he said.
 
Related:
A former head of Catholic Relief Services will be in Vermont to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at St. Michael's College on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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.”
 
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.
 
The conference at St. Michael’s College will be open to people of all faiths.
 
General registration is $35 per person and includes morning pastries, lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. Students can register for free.
 
For more information, call Stephanie Clary at 802-846-5822.
 

 
  • Published in World

Dr. Carolyn Woo to speak at diocesan conference

A former head of Catholic Relief Services will be in Vermont to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at St. Michael's College on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 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.”
 
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.
 
Before working for CRS, Woo served from 1997 to 2011 as dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. During her tenure, the Mendoza College was recognized frequently as the nation’s leading business school in ethics education and research. It received and has retained top ranking from Bloomberg BusinessWeek since 2010 for its undergraduate business program.
 
Prior to the University of Notre Dame, Woo served as associate executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue University.
 
She was one of five presenters in Rome at the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in 2015.
 
Her faith journey and work at CRS are recounted in her book, “Working for a Better World,” published in 2015 by Our Sunday Visitor.
 
Representing CRS, Woo was featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Foreign Policy as one of the 500 most powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of “a force for good.” Her Catholic News Service monthly column took first place in the 2013 Catholic Press Association Awards in the category of Best Regular Column—Spiritual Life.
 
Woo was born and raised in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States to attend Purdue University where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.
 
She is married to Dr. David E. Bartkus; they have two sons. Her parish is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.
 
The Vermont event at which she will be the keynote speaker is hosted by the Catholic Church in Vermont. Sponsors for the event include Catholic Relief Services; Oregon Catholic Press; St. Michael's College; the 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.
 
The conference at St. Michael’s College will be open to people of all faiths.
 
General registration is $35 per person and includes morning pastries, lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. Students can register for free.
 
For more information, call Stephanie Clary at 802-846-5822.

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

'Integral ecology'

Catholic social teaching has developed over the past century as new problems — human, social, economic and environmental — come clearer into focus and call out for a faith-based response.
 
Pope Francis’ contribution, with his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” is to emphasize just how closely entwined those problems are.
 
“After Laudato Si’, for the Catholic Church, these are connected. You cannot try to tackle poverty without caring for the Earth and equally you cannot care for the Earth without caring for the people who live on the Earth,” said Father Augusto Zampini Davies, an official at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
 
One of the biggest challenges of Pope Francis’ approach is a spiritual one, the Argentine priest said. It involves conversion.
 
The poor are impacted most by climate change, yet they have done the least to contribute to it, he said. “We must convert and change our lifestyles and help others cope with the climate change we’ve caused.”
 
People in wealthy countries may think they are “ecologically friendly” because they recycle and “like trees and gardening,” he said, “but the way we produce, trade, consume and waste” is not offset by separating plastic from paper.
 
In addition, wealthy countries “have the resources to mitigate the effects of climate change,” for example, in building infrastructure to control flooding and providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters and drought. But in poor countries, thousands of people die in floods and tens of thousands are forced to migrate because of drought and famine.
 
“If you cannot grow your crops and feed your children, who wouldn’t migrate?” he asked.
 
In richer countries, the conversion Pope Francis is calling for includes learning to face fear with a Gospel-based attitude toward others and toward future generations, the priest said.
 
The connections between environmental damage, the global economy and migration are clear, he said. And so are the motives underlying reactions like climate-change denial, isolationism and anti-migrant sentiments.
 
“What Pope Francis does is say, ‘OK, here are the symptoms, let’s find the roots,'” Father Zampini Davies said. “The roots are the same: selfishness or indifference or greed or this mentality of thinking that if I have more I will be more important.”
 
In many ways, he said, fear appears to be spreading among people in the wealthiest nations, and “politicians play on people’s fears. If I feel I am not benefiting from the global economy and I live in a democracy, I will vote for someone who says they will get us out of that.”
 
Christians can find in their faith a healthy way to handle their fears, he said, “because we have a different approach to the quality of life, to what it means to have a better life, because our understanding of life is relational and our understanding of redemption and salvation is that it is for all of creation.”
 
Transforming the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace into the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Pope Francis specified that the office is an expression of the Church’s “concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation.”
 
In other words, for Pope Francis, all those issues together are key components of “integral human development.”
 
Father Zampini Davies, a priest of the Diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, is one of the newest officials at the dicastery. He moved to Rome from London where he spent the last four years serving as a theological adviser to CAFOD, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales.
 
His focus is “integral ecology,” which includes development, the environment and spirituality.
 
Early development efforts focused almost exclusively on material growth, Father Zampini Davies said, but over time it became obvious that increasing income and purchasing power was not enough. Progress also meant access to education and health care and greater social and political inclusion.
 
Thanks also to the social teaching of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, he said, Catholic development experts began insisting that respect for human dignity, strengthening families and religious freedom also were markers of progress.
 
For many of the development models, he said, environmental degradation was accepted as collateral damage in the drive to increase production and consumption, thereby raising GDPs.
 
Now it is clear to scientists, economists, development experts and theologians that care for the environment and reducing the factors that contribute to climate change are essential for making development sustainable and truly caring for the poor, Father Zampini Davies said.
 
  • Published in World

In the likeness of God

The human, unlike other creations, is distinctly made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26-27). Though we can forever discuss exactly what that means, I propose that at least part of what that means is that in a way which is far more complex than in any other creature, the self-aware human being possesses the ability to make decisions informed by reflecting on the past and reasoning through the possible future. The presence of the human within the rest of the created world makes a huge difference because human beings can know the effect of our own existence.
 
What effect is humanity having on creation right now? No human has made a greater impact on the world of life (and death) than the Spirit made flesh, the human being called Jesus of Nazareth. Some may argue that glorifying all creation diminishes the significance of the Incarnation in the form of human flesh. But, the significance of the Incarnation is in no way lessened by glorifying all creation. In
fact, employing the capacities for reflection and self awareness that are indicative of humanity, we see that the Incarnation of God as human further supports glorifying creation in its entirety.
 
The Word made flesh manifested itself in the specific flesh of the human, but that human did not exist in a vacuum. That human existed in and among and in relation to the rest of the created world. Jesus “was able to invite others to be attentive to the beauty that there is in the world because he himself was in constant touch with nature, lending it attention full of fondness and wonder” (“Laudato Si’”).
 
By stating that God became human, one states that God became part of the intricate
web of life that exists on this planet and in which humanity takes part. God became
subject to the ecosystems and relationships of this world — whether they were in right relation or whether they were crooked, broken and disturbed. “One Person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross” (“Laudato Si’”). Not only did God dwell among creation, but in the person of Jesus Christ, God became embedded in the genetic, scientific history of life on this planet.
 
Pope Francis reflects on the cosmic significance of Christ as exemplified in the Eucharist: “The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to
reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter … he comes that we might find him in this world of ours. In the Eucharist … is the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life…. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love. ... Thus, the Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation
for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation” (“Laudato Si’”).
 
Motivated by our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist and in the world, we must utilize our unique, human “capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility” (“Laudato Si’”) to have an effect on the world that is truly life-giving. Being made in the image and likeness of God demands nothing less.
 

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

People's Climate March

Carrying banners and signs with quotes from Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'," hundreds of Catholics joined the People's Climate March to call for moral and prayerful action to protect creation.
 
On a sweltering day that reinforced the message about the need to respond to climate change -- the 91-degree temperature at 3 p.m. April 29 tied a 43-year-old Washington record for the date -- many in the Catholic contingent said they had a moral obligation to witness in the streets.
 
"We march for our grandchildren. Stop global warming," read one sign propped up in the back of St. Dominic Church in Washington, where about 300 people gathered before the march for Mass celebrated by Dominican Father Hyacinth Marie Cordell, the parish's parochial vicar.
 
Underlying the messages on the signs and banners were people who shared a heartfelt concern to carry out Pope Francis' call in his 2015 encyclical to live responsibly with the planet, remember the needs of others around the world and to reduce consumption and energy usage for the sake of God's creation.
 
The 300 people at the Mass heard Father Cordell call for an "ecological conversion" during his homily. He said each person must act in any way possible to protect God's creation: reducing energy usage; limiting waste; choosing carpooling or biking and walking more; and buying less.
 
"We can learn increasingly to act not only with our own good and convenience in mind, but above all to think and choose according to what is best for all, especially for the poor and for future generations," he said. "This ecological conversion calls us to self-examination, to make an inventory of our lives and habits so that we can learn to be better stewards of our common home and its resources, which are meant for the good of all."
 
Sister Kathy Sherman, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park, Ill., was pleased to hear Father Cordell stress the encyclical's themes.
"I feel like I'm marching for the children, for the future," she told Catholic News Service. "Earth is getting bad for us. If we don't do something there's not going to be anything like we've known for the future generations, and it breaks my heart."
 
Along the march route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, Nancy Lorence, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New York City, said personal actions are crucial if people of faith are going to make a difference.
 
"We feel like 'Laudato Si'' calls us to be in the streets, as Pope Francis says, and be active on the social justice issues and climate change," Lorence told CNS.
 
In Vermont, about 2,000 people gathered outside the Statehouse in Montpelier for the People's Climate Rally, one of 300 protests expected throughout the country.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Pro-growth and pro-environment

President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on March 28, 2017 that rescinds and weakens numerous environmental protections, and effectively dismantles the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the national program designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 32% in relation to 2015 levels by the year 2030. Fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest pollution emitting sector, making up just under one-third of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions. 

"The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for 'our own country to curtail carbon emissions,'" said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in response to the order. "This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation. Yesterday's action means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals." 

The USCCB has voiced support for a national carbon emission standard in recent years, though the Church does not privilege one set of technical, economic, or political approaches over another.  Bishop Dewane stresses that, although the CPP is not the only possible mechanism for reducing carbon emissions, the lack of a current viable alternative is a serious concern.    

"The EPA Administrator has repeatedly stated that policies must be pro-growth and pro-environment.  An integral approach can respect human and natural concerns and still achieve these aims, if properly done.  Many states have already made great progress toward carbon mitigation goals under the CPP, and this momentum ought to be encouraged and not hindered. Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato si', focuses on both the 'the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.'  With this recent order, the Administration risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, without proposing a concrete and adequate approach to meet our stewardship obligations as a nation."
  • Published in Nation
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