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.
- Published in Diocesan