By Anne Marie Amacher
“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.” — Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”
Kent Ferris, social action director for the Diocese of Davenport, said while attending a symposium last fall in Des Moines, he heard Archbishop Celestino Migliore “make a clear distinction between creation and the environment.” The apostolic nuncio and permanent observer to the United Nations spoke of “how such words as creation and procreation are dangerous words at the U.N. because they imply a creator. … He stressed that we must respect the environment and human life and that our responsibility is to protect all of creation rather than merely defending the environment.”
Efforts to protect the environment include “Earth Day,” which is celebrating its 40th anniversary today as a nationwide grassroots effort. The Catholic Messenger asked parishes in the diocese to share with readers what they are doing to strive to be good stewards of God’s creation. Here are responses from three:
At Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, parishioners will be encouraged to carpool, bike or walk to Mass this weekend — April 24-25. Nancy Roberson, chair of the social action committee at the parish, said she came up with the idea after watching an Iowa Public Television show “Simple Living” a few years ago.
“Our committee believes we first have to model how to be good stewards of the earth. I think our committee takes that very seriously. That’s reflected in our lifestyle.”
When the committee sponsors events for the parish, they try to use fair trade items and “green” or environmentally friendly products. “We have fair trade coffee and disposable/compostable tableware made of recyclable paper for our events. When we can, we purchase the food from local small businesses. We’ve sponsored fair trade sales of coffee, chocolate and gifts.”
Lori Ferris, a committee member, wrote an article for the parish newsletter “Treasures” to explain and promote Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA). She and her husband, Kent, are CSA customers and their home is the drop-off site for a CSA farm. Roberson noted the Ferris’ children are involved in the committee by making posters to promote events, helping with set-up and selling the fair trade items.
Besides encouraging parishioners to carpool, bike or walk to church, a Share Your Care for Creation event is planned after the 9:30 a.m. Mass on April 25. Coffee and food will be served and a prayer for the earth will be offered.
“We have coloring pages for the kids that have pictures about Earth Day,” Roberson said. Claire Ferris, Lori and Kent’s daughter, along with her Girl Scout troop, will help children make sidewalk chalk drawings of their favorite part of the earth. The scouts also will provide outside games for children.
A Care for the Creation jeopardy game will be played. Prizes of fair trade chocolate bars and plants will be awarded.
“We’re having a door prize drawing for those who walked, biked or carpooled to Mass. We have a handout about the St. Francis Pledge available and will post websites where people can go for more information about such things as the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change,” Roberson said.
“I think we use every opportunity we can find to promote good stewardship of God’s creation in our personal lives and in our efforts to serve in our parish.”
A parish in Iowa City and one in Albia are working their way toward “going green.” At St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, “we are trying to be more ‘earth friendly,’” said Gary Busche, parish council president. During coffee and doughnut time after the 8 and 10 a.m. Masses on Sunday “we are using washable coffee cups instead of Styrofoam and recyclable juice cups instead of Styrofoam.” More non-toxic chemicals for everyday church cleaning are being used, he noted and bins in the church hall are available for recycling plastic water bottles and tin cans. The parish recycles cardboard and mixed white paper. Father Mike Phillips, the pastor, recycles his newspapers, too. Many light bulbs have been converted to energy saving CFL type, Busche noted.
Jackie Maddy, pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Albia, said the parish switched from using Styrofoam cups to washable cups about five months ago. “We have already noticed a savings for our Altar and Rosary because we are using the real cups. But we also know we are saving space at the landfill.”