Officials urge parishes to change habits to save energy, reduce waste
GREEN BAY — The Diocese of Green Bay is walking the talk this Earth Day, April 22.
Through the collegial efforts of Norbertine Br. Steve Herro, director of social concerns; Mary Ann Otto, director of stewardship; and Tammy Basten, director of facilities and properties, parishes and other organizations throughout the diocese are being asked to consider what "the stewardship of creation" means to them and then strive to make changes that will lessen their carbon footprint.
The guiding principle of this endeavor are words that were penned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1998.
"We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored."
With the support of unprecedented efforts by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, the diocese is urging parishes and their many committees and organizations, as well as other organizations within the diocese, to change habits to save energy and reduce waste.
They are also urging the parishes to mark Earth Day, April 22, by using the "St. Francis Pledge to Protect Creation and the Poor."
"The people behind it see this pledge as a way to energize the troops," said Br. Steve. With its components of prayer, education, assessment, action and advocacy, the St. Francis Pledge can be easily applied to the Catholic life, he said. "I think that's one of the beautiful things about the pledge," he said.
The stewardship of creation is a topic that has long been very close to Br. Steve's heart.
"In your family or in your own personal lifestyle, how are you doing on carbon emission?" asked Br. Steve.
The materials to support diocesan endeavors were recently sent to all parishes. They can be viewed by going to this link.
The response to these practical materials has been enthusiastic, said Br. Steve.
"When we e-mailed it out we got immediate responses from several parishes," he said, such as, "This was the greatest thing you ever e-mailed out."
Earth Day in the United States was originally founded in 1970 by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson to address care of the environment. And though it is officially celebrated on April 22, the commemoration has grown to be celebrated by many as Earth Week, April 19-25.
For Br. Steve, his hope for the Diocese of Green Bay is that the intentions of Earth Day be ever-present on the minds of Catholics here, both within the parish setting as well as in individual's personal lives.
Br. Steve first learned of the St. Francis Pledge to Protect Creation and the Poor back in December. It had been created by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change He took it to Mark Mogilka, director of Stewardship and Pastoral Services, requesting that the diocese endorse it.
On Tuesday, April 21, diocesan employees at Bona Hall will themselves reflect on the Stewardship of Creation during a gathering of prayer and discussion. The St. Francis Pledge and its opportunities for reflection will be used.
The goal of the Bona Hall program is to prayerfully invite employees to consider how to lessen the carbon footprint of the diocesan offices, said Br. Steve.
As director of facilities and properties, Basten said the diocese is striving to make decisions that are better for the environment. They begin with being more energy efficient with such things as lights and computers as well as heating and cooling. And it continues with things like the use of bottled water and paper. Grounds keeping at the four diocesan and 171 parish cemeteries is also a topic of discussion.
"There's so much that each and every person can do in the course of their day," said Basten.
But from the very beginning of the discussions about the St. Francis Pledge endeavor, Basten said, the question was asked, "How do we get more prayerful?"
"That's when Mary Ann came in ... and as we started talking; it really opened us up. We needed to pray to treat our environment better," said Basten.
Care for the environment "is at the very foundation of stewardship," said Otto.
In a joint letter, Br. Steve, Otto and Basten spoke to stewardship. In part, they wrote:
"Future generations are entitled to experience the same quality of natural life that past and present people have enjoyed. Furthermore, we acknowledge that the created world does not belong to us, but to God. We are his stewards. In order for us to honor the Creator, we are to honor God's creation. We recognize that care of God's creation is interwoven in many of our Catholic social action priorities."
"We really have a long ways to go," said Basten.
The goal this Earth Day is to begin the dialogue, she said. "We are trying to create honest change in people's minds," said Basten, adding, "Every person should look within themselves on how they're impacting the environment on a daily basis."
"Ultimately," she said, "it's getting to each person."