When Pope Francis talks about care for creation, he almost always pairs it with conversations of unity amongst humanity. In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, he makes strong statements about the necessity of Christians, theists, and all humans working together to care for our common home. Furthermore, since the encyclical’s release, Pope Francis has consistently modeled how creation care provides a common-ground initiative on which people of faith can and must collaborate.
In the fall of 2015, a few months after Laudato Si’s release, the Catholic Church officially joined the Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in their tradition of a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1st, with a Season of Creation that extends from that day until the feast day of the patron of ecology, St. Francis of Assisi, on October 4th. This year, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued the first ever joint message on the World Day of Prayer for Creation.
The collaboration that Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew call for reaches beyond faith communities to include social, economic, political, and cultural spheres. “The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development,” say the faith leaders. “We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”
During 2017, Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington invited the faithful of Vermont to celebrate a Year of Creation, an intentional, heightened focus on embracing the message of Laudato Si’. The initiative began with the convening of an interfaith and professionally diverse Year of Creation committee that would meet monthly to discuss, plan, and reflect upon events that would be welcoming and encouraging to all. Through these events and initiatives, the Diocese of Burlington collaborated with other community groups that are working toward a common goal of sustainability.
As we move forward from this year’s Season of Creation, consider ways that your church can engage with the local community in caring for the earth and all who call it home. Here are a few ideas of ways to get started:
1. Form a relationship with a public purpose energy service company.
The Diocese of Burlington works with Commons Energy to bring affordable energy efficiency audits and projects to diocesan buildings.
2. Connect with local faith and ecology organizations and affiliates.
Vermont Catholic communities are encouraged to apply for a matching grant from Vermont Interfaith Power and Light’s Katy Gerke Memorial Program to help fund energy efficiency audits and projects.
3. Learn from your solid waste management district.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District taught Vermont diocesan staff about what happens to something after it’s thrown in the trash and how properly disposing of materials saves time, money, resources, and the planet! Staff learned how to properly use the new compost bins around the office and the importance of reaching for re-useable options (metal silverware, ceramic coffee mugs, etc.), rather than disposable ones, to counteract “throwaway culture.”
4. Eat locally.
Local restaurants and bakeries supported the Diocese of Burlington’s efforts to highlight the impact that dietary choices have on the state of creation. By serving and promoting a combination of meat-free, dairy-free, locally-sourced, and organic options during presentations on the history of fasting in the Catholic faith and fasting for justice, the Church was able to support choosing local restaurants, bakeries, and farms as well.
Stephanie Clary is Manager of Mission Outreach and Communication at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.