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Essex parishes continue 'green' efforts

Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction is continuing its efforts to care for the Earth, shedding light on the possibilities churches have to save money and to reduce their energy consumption.
 
Parking lot lights at Holy Family Church and St. Lawrence Church were converted to LED lights.
 
The new bulbs require 14 watts of power to operate; the old ones took at least 100 watts. By implementing this change St. Lawrence Church will reduce the cost to light the parking lot by 85; Holy Family will reduce its cost by 67 percent.
 
“These were very simple changes to make. Both projects were completed in less than a half day of time,” commented David Robideau, a Parish Council member. “It's important to realize that big savings to energy usage can happen without spending a lot of time. LED lights bulbs are extremely efficient, and there is a conversion kit available that will modify existing light fixtures to LED to meet most applications.”
 
The parish worked to make church buildings more energy efficient and has implemented "Green Kitchen Guidelines" for all parish groups and outside organizations renting the parish hall as well as recycling and composting programs.
 
“We are constantly working on becoming more energy efficient,” said Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor. “Besides protecting our environment, it just makes sense and is saving us money.  We need to be good stewards of the financial resources that come our way and, of course, we need to be good to ‘Mother Earth.’”
 
He said the parish’s buildings are generally energy efficient, but there is always room for improvement.  “With the improvement on our buildings, our gas and electricity bills are lower,” he noted.
 
St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, also under the pastoral care of Father Ranges, is becoming energy efficient. “The parking lot lights are LED. The church building will soon become undergo an energy audit. In our parish hall, we have stopped using disposable coffee cups, glasses and dishes,” he said. “St. Pius is onboard our move to become environmental friendly.”
 
“Everyone has a responsibility to be good stewards for the natural resources that God has provided,” Robideau said.
 
 
  • 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

Vatican concerned about U.S. policies

The Vatican hopes that U.S. bishops and others will continue to raise their voices in defense of the obligation to fight climate change and, in time, can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to change his position, a top Vatican official said.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told a group of reporters March 30 that there is concern at the Vatican over Trump's policies, including on the environment.

Trump's position on immigration and his efforts to roll back U.S. commitments on environmental regulations are "a challenge for us," said the cardinal, whose office works on both questions and is charged with assisting bishops around the world as they promote Catholic social teaching. 

Still, he said, "we are full of hope that things can change."

The first sign of hope, he said, is the growing number of "dissenting voices," who are calling attention to the scientific facts surrounding climate change and the ethical obligation to act to protect the environment for current and future generations.

"This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge, and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions," the cardinal said.

"Various American bishops have already spoken about the president's position, and this could have an influence," he said. Perhaps, Trump will come to see that not all the promises he made in the campaign would be good for the country, he added.

A change in position is not impossible, Cardinal Turkson said. "There is another superpower -- China -- that is rethinking its position" and has allocated funds for programs to reduce dangerous emissions. "One hopes it is not only because it is a country with ever more smog and pollution."

The cardinal's remarks came a day after the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Trump's executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the committee, said in a statement March 29 the order fails to offer a "sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation."

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.
  • Published in Vatican

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
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