GREEN CONGREGATIONS – A GROWING MOVEMENT
By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
Catholic Bishops and leaders of many other faith
traditions have talk about care for the earth as a moral
responsibility. That call is often supported by Scripture where all
of creation is seen as a gift to be protected for the benefit of
all. Often the earth has been abused and misused for profit and
gain, especially in our western culture.
Degrading the environment is not just an
environmental issue. It is a moral imperative of our faith. The
gifts of creation are not meant to be bought and sold or exploited
for profit and personal gain, not for our greed but to meet our
needs. The one who suffer the most as a result of such abuse are the
poorest around us and even those far away from us.
Caring for the earth is not something we just
think about on Earth Day celebrated each year, but must be a concern
every day of the year. Pope John Paul 11 emphasized the need to come
to grips with how many of our habits can lead to ecological
disaster. Climate change affects the poorest around the world. It
calls us evaluate our lifestyles and make needed changes in our
wasteful habits, our over consumption and use of goods that
contaminate water and leave millions without safe water to drink.
Fr,. Pete Henriot, SJ, in a recent talk in the US, tells us that
climate is a sign of the times that calls us to deep reflection and
conversion. It will call for substantial changes in lifestyles and
Care for the environment is not an option . It is
an integral part of our lives, which are all interconnected. It
calls us to concern for the entire human family, especially the poor
who experience the worst adverse effects of global warming.
What can congregations and faith communities do to
address this issue? Five years ago, the Racine Dominican Sisters
established an Eco-Justice Center. It is dedicated to environmental
education and care of the earth. The Center demonstrates
sustainable, simple living in the context of community,
contemplation, creativity and cultivation. The Center is located on
a 15 acre site that includes wetland, woodland, pasture, gardens,
outbuilding, an "Education Station," and a residence for the
community of sisters who live and work at the Eco-Justice Center.
Youth and adults experience hands-on learning as they participate in
day camps, field trips, education programs, workshops and volunteer
activities. Organic gardening, raising araucana chickens, geese,
ducks and caring for alpacas are some ways those at the Eco-Justice
Center live in harmony with Earth. Visitors have the opportunity to
touch the natural world and develop a deeper appreciation and
respect for our Earth’s precious resources. Thousands of children
and adults have visited the Center and learned about ways to care
for the earth. The Center also has a hermitage where adults can come
to rest, relax and reflect on the beauty of creation.
Other ways faith communities can respond are
- Pastors and leaders can preach and teach
about care for the earth as a requirement of our faith.
- Establish groups to learn about environmental
issues and care for the earth, needed lifestyle changes,
reducing wastefulness, recycling and the possibility of
establishing a green congregation.
- Join with other local congregations who have
an interest in the movement.
- Share everyday examples of green living such
as using washable dishes instead of paper products, exploring
other energy sources, minimizing use of pesticides and
fertilizers use of biodegradable cups and dishes.
- Do an energy audit on building owned by the
congregation, explore the use of fluorescent lights, and make
necessary changes when and where possible .
- Shop for and use organic fruits and
- Participate in clean up endeavors and
- Teach children, even at a very young age what
it means to care for the environment. Adults could study a book
on the subject.
- Share ideas about what can be done to reduce
We are all
called to respect and care for all of creation – God’s gift to us to
be enjoyed and used wisely for the benefit of all. We can all
continue to study this topic, make needed lifestyle changes, and
invite others to do the same.