Pope Francis and Earth Day

By | April 10, 2013

The twist, as you might have guessed, is the election of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. As the stewardship director for the diocese, there is no doubt that my mind and heart have been smiling with delight at the selection of his name (after St. Francis of Assisi) and his ongoing call to guard and protect the environment.

In an interview with the media following his election, Pope Francis explained his choice: “For me, Francis is the man of poverty, of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.” In this case, the question of what’s in a name has an obvious answer. As one of many people who have a great admiration and love for this beloved saint of our church, the papacy of Pope Francis will always remind me of my ongoing call to be a steward of the earth.

After all, stewardship of the earth is foundational. Though it seems like a simple concept, without being guardians of the earth by expressing gratitude, nurturing, sharing and returning in abundance, we will not be able to support all of life today and in future generations as well as the ongoing mission of our church. The question for us will be the same in regard to creation as it is time for prayer, talents for service and treasure for sharing. When the master returns one day he will ask: What have you done with the beautiful world I left in your care?

Pope Francis officially began his papacy with his inaugural Mass on March 19. In his homily, the subject of creation was not only mentioned but a heartfelt plea came from the pontiff: “Please, I would like to ask all of those who have positions of responsibility in economics, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

In light of Pope Francis’ plea, I’m happy to say that with Bishop David Ricken’s approval in 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay supported The St. Francis Pledge to Protect Creation and the Poor, an initiative by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. At that time, a parish resource was created entitled, “Blessed Are You, Lord, God of all Creation!” (Download the PDF document at this link: www.gbdioc.org/sfpledge.

Many prayers and ideas were included in the resource as to how we all can be better stewards of this beautiful world that God has placed in our care. Perhaps it is time to revisit, recommit and take a step forward in our efforts.

One of the endearing stories of Pope Francis’ own everyday habits of living stewardship is how, as a cardinal in Argentina, he would return to his newspaper carrier all the rubber bands that were used to contain his daily edition. Already making himself known as a man of simplicity, I’m sure we will be treated to more stories of care for God’s creation on behalf of our Holy Father. The Holy Spirit has blessed our church with yet another model steward.

Happy Easter! Happy Earth Day! Thank you, Pope Francis!

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

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