Log in
    

Elliott Curtin lives faith through energy efficiency work

Elliott Curtin of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier makes part of his living caring for the Earth.
 
But it’s more of a way of life and an expression of faith for the owner of Weatherization and Renovation of Montpelier.
 
He said Pope Francis, author of the encyclical “Laudato Si': On Care For Our Common Home,” is his “favorite pope because he is the most environmental pope we’ve had.”
 
Through his business, the Gulf War veteran helps people make their homes and commercial buildings more weather tight and more energy efficient. “We make people more comfortable in their buildings and save them money on their heating and cooling costs,” he said.
 
This is done through energy audits and recommendations for making the buildings tighter and more energy efficient.
 
“It’s my faith that helps me temper my business decisions,” said Curtin who also is a landlord. “It’s my faith that helps me to put people first. My faith helps me to try to see how other people are living.”
 
Many people are taking care for the environment seriously, but, sadly, some cannot afford to make helpful changes to their buildings. For them, Curtin recommends seeking help from organizations like Efficiency Vermont. “Most people would do more but have limited budgets,” he said.
 
The married father of four children ages 9 to 16, Curtin also helps those in need by volunteering in the soup kitchen at St. Augustine Church, where he is a religious education teacher.
 
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., and 1999 graduate of the University of Lowell (Massachusetts) with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management, he said he enjoys doing the energy audits and making energy recommendations because it gives him “an awesome” way to help others.
 
“The more homes and commercial buildings are insulated and air sealed, the more it reduces consumption of fossil fuels and benefits the environment,” he said.
 
Weatherization and Renovation of Montpelier employs five people, including Curtin.
 
“He wouldn’t be involved in a business that didn’t help people. He wants to help them as individuals … and to be a better steward of the environment,” commented Jo Ann Gibbons, operations and finance director for Weatherization and Renovation of Montpelier who attends St. Augustine Church. “Everything he does is to help and care for everyone. That’s his nature. Being a steward of the environment in his work is a natural.”

How does your Catholic faith inform your lifestyle and decisions? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your story or to nominate another to share their story with Vermont Catholic.
 
 
 

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.
 

Vatican conserving water

While Rome reels from one of its worst droughts in decades, the Vatican is doing its part to conserve water by shutting down the city-state's 100 fountains.
 
The office governing Vatican City State announced July 25 that the drought has "led the Holy See to take measures aimed at saving water" by shutting down fountains in St. Peter's Square, throughout the Vatican Gardens and in the territory of the state.
 
"The decision is in line with the teachings of Pope Francis, who reminds us in his encyclical 'Laudato Si'' how 'the habit of wasting and discarding' has reached 'unprecedented levels' while 'fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,'" the office said.
 
The prolonged drought has forced officials from the Lazio region of Italy to halt pumping water from Lake Bracciano, located roughly 19 miles north of Rome. Less than usual rainfalls in the past two years have steadily depleted the lake, which provides 8 percent of the city's water supply.
 
In an interview with Italian news outlet Tgcom24, Nicola Zingaretti, the region's president, said the lake's water level has "fallen too much and we risk an environmental disaster."
 
While the drought already forced Rome city officials to shut down some of Rome's public drinking fountains in June, it may lead to strict water rationing for the city's estimated 1.5 million residents.
 
City officials may also take the Vatican's lead and shut down water pouring down from Rome's many ancient fountains.
 
Pilgrims and visitors alike have marveled at the majestic fountains of St. Peter's Square that have cascaded water for centuries since their construction in the 17th century.
 
While the source of water was once provided from an ancient Roman aqueduct, the two fountains, as well as 10 percent of Vatican City State's 100 fountains "recirculate water currently," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service in a July 25 email.
 
Others, he added, "will eventually be transformed in order to recirculate" the same water rather than let it be wasted by running into the drainage or sewer system.
Burke told CNS that the Vatican's move to switch off the fountains located within its territory is "a way to show a good example" in conserving water as the city deals with the crisis.
 
"We're not going to be able to solve Rome's water problem this summer, but we can do our part," Burke said. "This is the Vatican putting 'Laudato Si'' into action. Let's not waste water."
 
  • Published in World

Restoring Right Relation

Often, Christians find Pope Francis’ promotion of integral ecology at odds with the biblical command to subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures. Yet, a careful look at the Book of Genesis offers much to consider in regard to relationships among creation and how God intended creation to exist.

Ecologically-relevant verses are found throughout scripture, but as Pope Francis asserts in “Laudato Si’,” there is reason to start at the beginning: “The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality.”

“Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth” (Gn 1:28). Upon an uncritical reading, this verse seems to support human control over non-human creation. But, when placed in context with other biblical narratives, the verse no longer reads as a God-given mandate for human superiority. A critical look at the words from which “subdue” and “dominion” are translated paired with awareness of how these words are used elsewhere in scripture yields a different interpretation.

Elsewhere in scripture, the word translated into English as “subdue” describes cultivation of land and preparation of space for worship. There is great significance in this interpretative shift from subdue as meaning to overpower and control to subdue as meaning to cultivate for sustainability and ease of worship. Knowing this broader biblical context allows for reconsideration of the way in which humanity is asked to interact with non-human creation. Instead of exercising superiority over the earth with exploitation and destruction, humanity is called to cultivate a sustainable living space that allows for worship of God.

The word translated as “dominion” can also support a holistic, interconnected and mutually-dependent relationship among creation when the command to “have dominion” is considered in conjunction with scripture stories that elaborate upon its meaning. For example, the story of the great flood shows humanity tasked with “dominion” of creation.

Humanity must ensure survival of all.

Considered within this context, “dominion” transforms from a word conveying a relationship of domination and control into a word conveying a relationship of care, concern and respect. The survival of non-human creation is prioritized not because of any value or benefit it holds for humanity but simply because all creation is of God and deserves to live. Furthermore, when considered within the context of the great flood story, God’s command to humans about the relationship between human and non-human creation does not present a passive relationship, where human and non-human creation merely coexist, or even a relationship in which humans consciously refrain from destroying or harming non-human creation. What God’s command calls for is conscious, compassionate action on the part of humanity to see to the survival, livelihood and flourishing of non-human creation. This is quite a big responsibility, of which the failure to fulfill has disastrous consequences.

Pope Francis reflects, “The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole [is] disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God.” When humans act as if humanity is other than creation instead of an integral part of it, all of creation suffers, including humans. 

He continues, “Responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world. ... The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings.”

Creation was designed in a way that allows it to survive, to grow, to adapt, to flourish!

The human, in the image and likeness of God and as part of that design, is called to cultivate creation for life and worship (subdue) and ensure its ongoing survival (have dominion). While this relationship between human and non-human creation (and God) is often abused — even ruptured — reconciliation, a return to right relation, is always possible.

As demonstrated by the story of the great flood and exclaimed by Pope Francis, “All it takes is one good person to restore hope!”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________
This article was originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.

Show Mercy to Our Common Home

Joyce Dawson, a member of the Green Committee at Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction, says “going green” is “as easy as one, two, three: desire, information, planning.”
 
She was one of the presenters at the April 23 “Mercy for Our Common Home” event at the Holy Family-St. Lawrence parish center, preceded by evening vespers in Holy Family Church.

The event was held as part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement's Mercy2Earth Weekend, a global initiative combining Earth Day and Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations to encourage Catholics to reflect upon Pope Francis' "Mercy to Earth" message and put it into action.
 
About 35 people attended the 2-hour event that focused on caring for the Earth as part of the Diocese of Burlington’s observance of the Year of Creation called for by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
As she spoke to persons at her presentation, Dawson sat at a table with a picture of Kermit the Frog with the words “It’s so easy being green.” And though it does take some effort to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, she said the effort is worthwhile not only from a cost-saving perspective but also because such actions show care and respect for the Earth as called for by Pope Francis in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.”
 
Ernie Clerihew of St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Pittsford expressed concern about getting people to separate trash from recycling and composting at events like bingo. “A lot of people don’t want to be bothered,” he lamented. “Everybody should care.”
 
Linda Hemond of Holy Family Parish said the effort is worthwhile and made easier by products like biodegradable compost bags.
 
Dawson said parishes need to be leaders in the effort to care for creation. “We want to lead by example. We want our parishioners to do this and their families and their neighbors.”
 
In a workshop on “living simply,” presenter Marybeth Redmond, a writer and parishioner of Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish, said for her living simply “is about disconnecting from the consumerist society we live in and finding more time for meaningful things, creating more space and time in my life for experiences, relationships with people and activities that bring meaning to my life.”
 
Many people, she said, are looking to have a less stressful existence with a higher quality of life, deeper spiritual/faith lives and more meaningful relationships.
 
Other topics of roundtable discussions were renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean water, impacts on communities and eco-spirituality.
 
Anita Wellman, a Secular Franciscan from Corpus Christi Parish in St. Johnsbury, attended the “Mercy for Our Common Home” event. “It is so Franciscan,” she enthused. “It fits into our way of life.”
 
She said the event helped her to continue to grow; “it’s called that ‘ongoing conversion,’” she said.
 

Catholic Schools Care for Creation

In response to Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne's call for a Year of Creation focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home," Catholic schools in Vermont immediately sprang to action planning a statewide day of creation education, action and prayer. On April 12, each Catholic school participated in Catholic Schools Care for Creation Day. Initiatives included immediate tasks and long-term projects.
 
Responding to the call to care for creation is part of the Catholic schools’ mission “to instill faith values in students and to create a desire to make a positive difference in the world.” Some schools began the day of service with Mass or another form of prayer. Others read and reflected upon quotes from “Laudato Si’” throughout the day. It was important for students to understand that this day wasn’t just in service to the world, but to their neighbors and to God as well.
 
“Care for creation is a matter of social justice because the ones who are most affected by pollution and climate change are the poor of the world,” Bishop Coyne said. “I hope many Catholics will take advantage of the opportunities being offered throughout the diocese to celebrate this Year of Creation.”
 
Vermont Catholic schools emphatically embraced the opportunity to spend some extra time beholding God’s creation and ensuring that it remains bountiful for generations to come.
 
Read about each school’s Care for Creation Day projects below. For more about the Year of Creation: vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation.
 
Students at St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre learned about reusing and recycling materials with an eco-fashion show, where students designed and modeled clothing creations made from materials found in recycle bins. As part of an ongoing project, students planted seeds in recyclable containers that will later be transferred to the school garden. Once in the earth, the seedlings will grow into food that sustains bodies. Students and their families share in the cultivation, growth, harvest and consumption.
 
Students at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington used old newspapers to create biodegradable flower vases. The potted plants will be gifted to elderly individuals in the area and can be placed directly into the ground.
 
Everyone who attends St. Michael School in Brattleboro was encouraged to use sustainable transportation on April 12. Many walked, biked or carpooled to school. Members of the school community worked together on waste reduction strategies that could be implemented, with specific grades focusing on recycling and compost efficiency. Other grades focused on area beautification with litter pick-up and gardening. Others created an awareness and education bulletin board for visitors and as a reminder for everyone at the school.
 
Each classroom at The Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville has prominent recycle and compost bins with a smaller trash bin alongside them. The school no longer provides single-use plastic straws or water bottles. There are water-bottle filling stations for reusable water bottles. Lunch trays are biodegradable. All of this is part of the school’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Rutland led a prayer service designed to help people understand how they can contribute to ecological justice. Throughout the year, students will work with Marble Valley Grows to plant a garden and participate in tastings to promote the Farm to School programs. They will also learn about and begin a composting program for the lunch room.
 
Students at Christ the King School in Burlington and Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland spent their mornings cleaning up local parks and beautifying creation for area residents to enjoy.
 
Good Shepherd Catholic School in St. Johnsbury recently received a grant that allows them to begin construction on an outdoor nature classroom. After “greening up” the local area on April 12, students and staff gathered in the gym to plant seeds. Later in the spring, flower seedlings will be donated to the local eldercare home and vegetable seedlings to the community garden. Some of each will be reserved to plant in the outdoor nature classroom upon its completion.
 
Students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington helped to return the local ecosystem to balance by removing invasive species from a trail on school grounds and cultivating the land for new growth. Money collected from a dress-down day on the April 12 was donated to Pure Water for the World, a Rutland-based non-profit dedicated to sustainable, safe water solutions.
 
At St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, students learned about the impact of separating food waste and began implementing a compost program in their cafeteria and classrooms.
 
  • Published in Schools

Eco-friendly Easter

The co-opting of holy days into secular holidays often results in an emphasis on consumerism, which is contrary to the teachings of the Christian faith and has negative effects on the environment and those who call it home. Keep your Easter celebration a little more holistic this year with these simple suggestions.
 
Dyeing Easter Eggs
  •  Buy eggs from a local farm with pasture-raised chickens.
  •  Look for biodegradable cardboard cartons instead of plastic or Styrofoam.
  •  Instead of using chemical dyes, create natural dyes from vegetables and spices.
  •  Don’t waste food! Use dyed eggs in recipes once you’re finished enjoying them as décor.
 
Easter Egg Baskets
  •  Reuse plastic eggs and grass if you already own them. Most facilities can’t recycle these items.
  •  If purchasing new items, seek biodegradable options, like ecoeggs™ and ecograss™, which are made in the United States from plants. They look like plastic and are reusable.
  •  Use existing baskets, buckets or jars. If buying new, consider local artisans.
  •  Avoid useless trinkets and fill eggs with Fairtrade chocolates (support sustainable living), jellybeans and nuts (they don’t require individual wrappers), seeds to plant a garden, coins, and inspirational messages.
 
Easter Meal
  •  Shop for local ingredients, which require less packaging and shipping.
  •  Use up dyed Easter eggs with a new recipe.
  •  Try to prepare the meal with zero-waste.
  •  Avoid single-use dishes and utensils.
  •  Separate food scraps for composting.
  •  Donate excess food or extra money not used on excess food to charity.

------------
Originally published in the 2017 Spring Issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.

Live "Laudato Si'" this Lent

Fast. Give. Pray.


Fast
 
…from meat. Learn about connections between meat consumption and ecological justice at Fast for Climate Justice: Global Catholic Climate Movement.
 
…from carbon by making responsible lifestyle choices. Instead of driving alone, join or organize a carpool. Have an energy-efficiency audit done on your home and follow through with suggestions. Explore renewable energy opportunities for your home or workplace. Try to reduce your overall use and consumption of goods.
 
…from plastic. While much plastic is recyclable, producing plastic requires use of crude oils, which depletes the Earth of natural resources. Instead, opt for glass, metal, ceramic, wooden or clay re-useable replacements.
 
…from waste. Even if it’s just for one day or one meal, attempt a zero-waste lifestyle. (Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction hosts two zero-waste events each year!)
 
 
Give
 
…to local farmers and artisans buy purchasing their products instead of purchasing from big businesses, which require excess packaging materials and fossil fuels for shipping and often don’t observe Fairtrade practices.
 
…to a community garden (or organize planting one) to help address local hunger.
 
…to local, state and national parks to help protect God’s creation and provide areas to behold natural beauty.
 
…time to learn about living more ecologically and socially conscious, then put what you learn into practice.
 
…togetherness. Shop for, prepare and eat a family meal together, instead of purchasing fast food or ready-made meals, which require excessive, single-use packaging.
 
 
 Pray
 
…for ecological justice, that we may return to right relationship with all creation.
 
…for the grace to grow in virtue, which helps us to make more ecologically and socially conscious decisions.
 
…for the vulnerable, especially those affected by disease and severe weather due to climate change.
 
…for the Church, that it may use its prophetic voice to encourage action for ecological justice.
 
…in thanksgiving for food; for those who grow, raise, prepare, transport and distribute it; and for healthy and clean soil, water, air and environments required for its growth.
 
…in praise for something beautiful that inspires wonder and awe.


--------------------
Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 
Subscribe to this RSS feed
Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal