10 Ways You Can Celebrate Earth Day!

three women extend their armfulls of green leaves with white text: "Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone." (93) #LaudatoSi Photo from Jennifer Hardy, CRSEarth Day (April 22)  is the perfect time to help Catholics in your area respond to Pope Francis’ call to “be ‘protectors’ of creation”!

Here are ten ways you can celebrate Earth Day!

1. Get Catholic Climate Covenant’s free, downloadable Earth Day 2016 Program Guide.

2. Watch the video on Care for God’s Creation from the Catholic Social Teaching 101 video series by Catholic Relief Servics and USCCB.

3. With family or friends, pray this Laudato Si’ prayer in English  and Spanish.

4. Use these resources for liturgy and preaching on the Sunday before or after Earth Day to call attention to our role in caring for God’s creation.

preschool children at a Catholic school use a watering can to water seedlings as they learn about Care for creation

5. Learn how local community organizations, including those funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, are addressing environmental issues. Join their efforts!

6. Gather with a group of friends and reflect on Laudato Si’ using USCCB’s discussion guide in English and Spanish.

bright and colorful covers of two illustrated children's books "Green Street Park" and "Drop by Drop" with URL loyolapress.com/twofeetoflove7. Gift Green Street Park or Drop by Drop to your parish’s religious education program or school.  Both of these children’s books are about kids caring for creation.

8. Get inspired by what others are doing to Act Together to care for creation.

Pope Francis carries his crosier held together with a splint and tape as he arrives in procession to celebrate Mass at Kosevo stadium in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 6. The photo is accompanied by white text: "We are not faced with two separate crises, one envronmental and the other social, but one rather complex crisis which is both social and environmental." Laudato Si #139 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

9. Share this Laudato Si’ bullet insert, in English and Spanish, in your parish.

10. Advocate! Participate in this current action alert.

 

How will you celebrate Earth Day? Let us know in the comments below.

Vaviroa’s story

Photo by Heidi Yanulis for Catholic Relief Services

Photo by Heidi Yanulis for Catholic Relief Services

Vaviroa is a smart, hardworking woman — with four children to feed. Though she had been raising her children alone for many years, their family was doing very well. They ate crops grown from Vaviroa’s family farm, and they even made money selling extra vegetables in nearby villages.

Then, in 2013, Cyclone Haruna hit, destroying most of northern Tulear, the part of Madagascar where Vaviroa and her children lived. Her fields flooded, and her crops died. With no way to feed her family, Vaviroa needed some help. She was already a great farmer — she just needed extra support to get back on her feet. And that extra support came in the form of seeds.

CRS’ seed fair program gives vouchers to farmers and their families so they can buy seeds, farm tools and livestock at local seed fairs. The goods they buy help them replant and rebuild their communities. The fairs also give farmers a chance to sell their crops in a safe place to people who need them. And these seed fairs help the environment by giving farmers the tools they need to care for God’s creation.

With the seeds she received at a CRS seed fair, Vaviroa has been able to replant her fields. Once again, her children are receiving the nutrients they need to grow and are able to attend school. Vaviroa is proud of all she’s accomplished-and looking forward to the next planting season.

Read more stories about how Lenten alms become lifesaving aid at crsricebowl.org.

Eric ClaytonEric Clayton is CRS Rice Bowl Program Officer at Catholic Relief Services (CRS).


This Lent, USCCB is partnering with CRS to bring you Stories of Hope from CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor.

Mayra’s story: Hungering to Learn in Honduras

Mayra Martinez, 11, and her grandmother Lucía Mancía, 62, showing her math and language diplomas from the Peer to Peer Tutoring program given by her tutor, Elías Fabricio. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services

Mayra Martinez, 11, and her grandmother Lucía Mancía, 62, showing her math and language diplomas from the Peer to Peer Tutoring program given by her tutor, Elías Fabricio. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for Catholic Relief Services

Two years ago, Mayra was not a star student. She was very shy in the classroom and struggled with simple math and reading lessons. She often missed homework assignments and, some days, did not go to school.

Her teacher noticed and enrolled Mayra in the school’s tutoring program. In the months that followed, Mayra and Fabricio, her tutor and classmate, spent many afternoons practicing reading and writing stories together. They made up games to practice math. And when they were done, they jumped rope and played in their neighborhood. In the process, the two became good friends.

“Fabricio never looked down on me because I had trouble learning,” says Mayra. “He always treated me well.”

The extra attention was what Mayra really needed. She lives with her grandmother, Lucia, who works hard to take care of Mayra. She picks coffee on a nearby farm and does laundry to earn money to put food on the table. But this means she doesn’t always have time to help Mayra with her school work. In fact, like many people her age, Lucia cannot read.

That’s why Fabricio’s help was so important. Today, Mayra is proud of her reading and math skills. She does her homework and goes to class on time. She is more confident and has a new group of friends.

Mayra wants to be a teacher one day. But first, she will become a tutor so she can help her classmates-just as Fabricio helped her.

Read more stories about how Lenten alms become lifesaving aid at crsricebowl.org.

Eric ClaytonEric Clayton is CRS Rice Bowl Program Officer at Catholic Relief Services (CRS).


This Lent, USCCB is partnering with CRS to bring you Stories of Hope from CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor.

The Catholic Relief Services Collection: Helping Jesus in Disguise

crs-facebook-2-403x504Each time we encounter a suffering person, we encounter Jesus in disguise. The Catholic Relief Services Collection (CRSC) funds six Catholic agencies that serve the disguised Jesus in our suffering brothers and sisters around the world. His disguise might be that of those suffering from natural disaster, those displaced by violence or war, or those migrants searching for a better life.

In the developing world, it is often hard for families to support themselves and their children. Sophie, a widow working in a village in Burkina Faso, was struggling to feed her family and pay for schooling for her children. Thanks to the help of Catholic Relief Services, one of the CRSC supported organizations, her village was able to set up a Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC). Through the SILC, members contribute what they can afford, allowing them to pool their resources and save collectively. Members can then borrow money to meet pressing needs or develop business opportunities. Through the SILC, Sophie was able to take out a $200 loan to cover startup costs for her own canteen, a sum that would be nearly impossible for her to save. Her canteen has been very successful and began to pay off in only six months. Her community has benefited too, as she has been able to hire three assistants to work with her. Without the SILC and the work of CRS, it would have been nearly impossible for her, and others like her, to create a sustainable life for her and her family.

2016-crs-montage-text-270x200Even in the developed world, it is difficult for immigrants to navigate the American justice system and to know their rights. Another organization that receives funds from the Catholic Relief Services Collection is CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. The BIA Pro Bono Project that CLINIC manages uses funds from the CRSC to provide support and legal representation to immigrants facing the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Pedro entered the United States to provide a better life for his family and to flee violence and persecution. He entered the United States without inspection, but nearly 20 years later, Pedro was taken to an immigration detention facility away from his wife and three children while the BIA decided whether he could stay in the country. Thanks to the BIA Pro Bono Project, law students discovered that he had never been considered for Temporary Protected Status, and local legal counsel represented him. This counsel helped determine that he was in fact eligible for this legal status. After a year in a detention facility, separated from his family, Pedro was able to return home.

This Lent, remember our suffering brothers and sisters and Jesus in Disguise.

Funds acquired from the CRS Collection are also distributed to these organizations: USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services for refugee resettlement USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for advocacy The Holy Father’s Relief Fund for emergency relief USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for evangelization and ministry

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (mt 25:40)

Bevin Kennedy, Office of National Collections at the USCCB

Bevin Kennedy, Office of National Collections at the USCCB

Bevin Kennedy is the Assistant Director for Promotions in the Office of National Collections at the USCCB.

Odette’s story: Hungering for a Healthy Start in Rwanda

Jeanne Uwimbabazi smiles at her daughter Elissa Izibyose while feeding her porridge during a health and nutrition screening near Buruba Village, Muhanga District, Rwanda. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Catholic Relief Services

Jeanne Uwimbabazi smiles at her daughter Elissa Izibyose while feeding her porridge during a health and nutrition screening near Buruba Village, Muhanga District, Rwanda. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Catholic Relief Services

Odette’s daughter Olga could have easily become one of the many children in Rwanda who don’t receive the nutrients they need to develop and grow.

But Odette started working with Catholic Relief Services even before she gave birth to ensure her child would get the care she needed during the crucial first 1,000 days of life. The nutrition a child receives from the time he or she is in the womb until his or her second birthday can mean the difference between a promising future and one of poor health and limited opportunities.

Catholic Relief Services is working with communities in Rwanda to end child malnutrition by supporting health and nutrition programs, and teaching families to grow crops that add nutritious variety to their meals.

Because poverty is a major cause of malnutrition, CRS helps families find opportunities to earn an income. With a loan from her microfinance group, Odette started a business selling agricultural fertilizer so she could support her family.

Odette attends weekly classes that are helping her grow healthy crops on her farm. She’s also taking courses on how to prepare nutritious meals from those crops. And she takes Olga to regular well-baby visits to measure her weight and growth, and ensure she is healthy.

This year, Olga will reach a milestone: Her second birthday. Because Odette has been feeding her a variety of nutritious foods-many of which were grown in the family garden-Olga is growing up strong and healthy.

Read more stories about how Lenten alms become lifesaving aid at crsricebowl.org.

Eric ClaytonEric Clayton is CRS Rice Bowl Program Officer at Catholic Relief Services (CRS).


This Lent, USCCB is partnering with CRS to bring you Stories of Hope from CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor.

Now is the time for peace!

Pic 1 posterA poster with the message, “Now is the time for Peace,” greeted bishops from Europe, South Africa, Canada and the United States when they arrived in Jordan for a solidarity visit. The “peace now” theme permeated meetings with Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces represented the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the meetings in Jordan. Then the Bishop and I went on to Lebanon to meet with the local Church and more refugees.  The situation in both Jordan and Lebanon is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions.

In Jordan, we learned that they are hosting about 1 million Syrian refugees and 60,000 Iraqi refugees. This is a heavy burden for relatively small country of modest means with about 7 million people.

In Lebanon, the statistics are even more startling. With a native population of only 4.5 million, Lebanon is hosting about 2 million refugees, mostly Syrians, but also some Iraqis.  That would be the equivalent of the United States taking in some 140 million refugees over five years!  We are scheduled to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, not exactly our fair share.

pic 2 mass for migrants refugees

Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Cardinal Raï distributes Communion at Mass for Migrants and Refugees at the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Beirut.

But statistics only tell part of the story of the suffering that war, violence and persecution have brought to the region. Caritas Jordan and Caritas Lebanon are doing amazing work assisting both refugees and local people.  With the support of Catholic Relief Services and others, they serve Muslims and Christians.  It makes you proud to be Catholic.  They enabled us to meet with refugees, to hear their stories.

An Iraqi Christian family told us they had good relations with their Muslim neighbors before they fled the Nineveh plains in the wake of so-called Islamic State. They found refuge in Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, and now Jordan.  They hope to be resettled in a country of refuge.  They cannot contemplate going back to Iraq.

We also met a woman who had fled Mosul. Her family left in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their backs.  She, a teacher and her husband is a hospital worker, escaped with their three daughters, ages 28 to 24.  It took them ten tense hours at night in constant fear to reach nearby Erbil. Protecting their daughters from being raped or kidnapped was a challenge.  They witnessed killings and saw young women who were taken hostage as they fled.

Another woman reported that her father was kidnapped in Syria because Christians are being persecuted. When her brother reported the kidnapping he was put in jail for two days.

Refugees struggle in Lebanon where everything is expensive. One man said he works long hours but barely makes enough for them to live in Lebanon.  Life was better in Syria.  They want to go to Australia where they have been accepted, but their UN file is not moving.  A mother reported that her children only get milk once a day.  She is willing to go back to Syria if the situation improves because her son needs medical assistance.  Originally, they thought they’d be in Lebanon for two months.  It has been years.

These encounters and many others give a face to the statistics. There are lives and families behind the numbers.  At these and many other encounters, Bishop Cantú assured the refugees that they are not forgotten.  And he affirmed what we heard time and time again, “Now is the time for peace.”  For only peace can alleviate the refugee crisis.  I hope all sides realize that at the peace talks in Geneva.

Colecchi headshot

Stephen M. Colecchi is director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Go deeper:

Read Archbishop Kurtz’s statement regarding refugees fleeing Syria.

Learn about the work of Migration and Refugee Services/USCCB in resettling an supporting refugees in the United States.

Join Catholics Confront Global Poverty, an initiative of USCCB and Catholic Relief Services, in advocating to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people worldwide.

 

Hongkham’s story: Hungering to Give Back in Laos

Hongkham Phengsaphone, age 36, holds a bowl of lentils at the Nahangnoy Primary School, where CRS’ LEAPS program provides students with a free school lunch. Photo by Jim Stipe/Catholic Relief Services

Hongkham Phengsaphone, age 36, holds a bowl of lentils at the Nahangnoy Primary School, where CRS’ LEAPS program provides students with a free school lunch. Photo by Jim Stipe/Catholic Relief Services

Hongkham lives close to where she grew up in Nongdeune, Laos, with her husband and their five boys. Her husband is a farmer, and her family relied on his crops for food and income. When Hongkham’s husband got sick, the family had to sell a lot of what they owned-including their land-to pay for medicine. Soon, the family faced real hunger.

Then Hongkham found an opportunity to use her love of cooking to help her family and community through CRS’ school literacy and hunger program. She volunteers as a cook at her children’s school, which provides free school lunches for students, literacy training for teachers and principals, and nutrition training. Hongkham uses that training in the school kitchen-and when she’s cooking for her family at home.

She also receives a monthly ration of food to take home, which helps her family grow and thrive. But the best part about CRS’ program is that students are learning to read and write. Hongkham says that before the program started, students would go home and often wouldn’t return for afternoon classes, but now, students return to school after morning classes to receive their free and nutritious lunch. She even sees the change in her own children-in their studies and their health.

Good nutrition has made a real difference in the lives of the people of Laos.

Read more stories about how Lenten alms become lifesaving aid at crsricebowl.org.

Eric ClaytonEric Clayton is CRS Rice Bowl Program Officer at Catholic Relief Services (CRS).


 

This Lent, USCCB is partnering with CRS to bring you Stories of Hope from CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor.