By Barb Arland-Fye
Autumn’s crimson, gold and orange colors serve up warm memories for me whether I’m running outdoors, driving along the Mississippi River bluffs or admiring entries to The Catholic Messenger’s fall photo feature. (The deadline is Nov. 4, so you still have time to submit entries.)
Even though I claim spring as my favorite season, the beauty of God’s creation is most profound for me during autumn. Giving thanks to God in prayer for allowing me to savor this beauty is a daily occurrence.
But appreciating God’s creation also reminds me of my obligation to strive to be a good steward of it. So I reuse and recycle, keep the lights off when they’re not needed, try not to run the water while brushing my teeth and avoid overconsumption. I’m not perfect. The space heater stays on more often than off in my office and I probably contribute more trash than I should to the landfill.
I’m not as diligent about contacting my legislators to encourage them to enact laws that would benefit the environment as I could be, and I didn’t make it to several recent events that focused on environmental stewardship.
With so many priorities demanding attention, it’s easier to talk about stewardship of God’s creation than to take the time to get involved. Last Saturday morning, though, I squeezed in a half-hour to attend a prayer service in the Magnificat Chapel at the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport.
The prayer service was one of two events religious communities in our diocese hosted Oct. 24 to observe “350 Day.” The other was a free concert and workshop featuring “Earth Mama” that the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton and their Clinton Franciscan Center for Active Nonviolence presented.
Scientists say 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s where 350 Day got its name. But the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 390 parts per million, according to 350.org, an international campaign to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis.
“Everyone who is involved shares at least one thing: the deep conviction that it is up to us, at this exact moment in our history, to come together in defense of this planet and the people on it.” That observation was part of a written explanation that appeared in the prayer service program at the Humility of Mary Center.
Sister Johanna Rickl, CHM, vice president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, chose a variety of prayers and reflections for the service, to remind us of our interconnectedness and obligation to one another.
After the prayer service, Lisa Martin Bellomy, the congregation’s communications director, gathered the Sisters and their guests for a 350 photograph. (See the photo on our Web site at www.catholicmessenger.org).
It was one of thousands taken that day as part of a collective effort by 350 gatherings to demonstrate that the sum is greater than their parts. The images were to be featured on giant video screens in Times Square and submitted Oct. 26 to the United Nations as it prepares for the Climate Summit on Dec. 7 in Copenhagen.
“We don’t have all the money like the coal industry and the powerful voices with the big backing that say we don’t need to do anything about global warming,” Martin Bellomy says. “They have been heard by legislators. This (350 movement) is for people without the money to have their voices heard.”
Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church have made it clear that we must work to protect the earth and the least among us. The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, whose members include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has launched an unprecedented and historical campaign to “take responsibility for our contribution to climate change and do what we do best: be advocates for those who will be left out of the public policy debate on climate change.”