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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 27, 2009
VOL. 47, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
International relief facing downturn
Comments begin on NIH draft guidelines on stem cell research
Parishes invited to work on environment through promises of St. Francis covenant
The St. Francis Pledge to Protect Creation and the Poor was developed to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal to care for creation and the lives of poor people, those most affected by climate change.
CNS graphic/Emily Thompson

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Parishioners at Presentation Parish in Stockton are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint.

From recycling and distributing 2,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to promoting biking and walking to Mass on Sundays and conserving water as much as possible, the parish’s environmental justice ministry has made caring for God’s creation a priority in parish life.

“(We) encourage people to think about the environmental impacts of the actions they do and pray about it,” said Deacon Scott Johnson, a member of the parish.

Moving beyond the parish, Deacon Johnson said parishioners were influential in helping pass a 2006 bill that mandated statewide reductions in greenhouse gases, which accumulate in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

The parish’s three-year effort followed in the footsteps of Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, who convened religious, business, education and environmental leaders in 2005 to discuss the community’s responsibility to the environment and to act on climate change. Since then, a diocesan-wide effort has placed Stockton in the forefront of the faith-based environmental justice movement nationwide.

Betsy Reif Snider, environmental justice coordinator for the Stockton Diocese, explained that numerous programs have been developed since that first meeting to address water pollution, air quality, land use and the sustainability of agriculture in the rich San Joaquin Valley.

The actions in the Stockton Diocese fall in line with the goals of the Catholic Climate Covenant introduced April 22, Earth Day, by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. Catholics are being invited to take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor, which offers a series of steps that people can follow to reduce their impact on the environment.

Daniel Misleh, the coalition’s executive director, said campaign materials were sent to the country’s 19,000 parishes and 6,150 Catholic elementary schools during Holy Week. The resources focus on the slogan “Who’s under your carbon footprint?”

A poster in the packet depicts a footprint with the stark image of a poor African mother and her starving child with the slogan prominently displayed.

“Too few Catholics know what the Church’s teaching on environmental stewardship is, particularly in light of climate change,” Misleh said. “It’s a major issue impacting people in this country and around the world.”

The effort revolves in large part around the St. Francis pledge, which is modeled on the life of St. Francis of Assisi who often praised God’s creation, including earth, water and creatures. The pledge was developed to respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal to care for creation and the lives of poor people, those most affected by climate change.

The pledge asks Catholics to commit to five steps:

• Pray and reflect on the duty to care for God’s creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.

• Learn about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.

• Assess how each person and organization contributes to climate change both in terms of consumption and conservation.

• Act to “change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.”

• Advocate for Catholic principles and priorities in discussions and decisions about climate change, especially their impact on the world’s poor and vulnerable people.

“I think the St. Francis pledge is such a wonderful hook for parishes and for people because it gives people something tangible and a bit of a road map to start to do things,” Reif Snider said.

Bishop Blaire is one of the first bishops to endorse the pledge. He has been joined by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cinncinati and Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, La.

Misleh said the campaign is being funded through a grant from the National Religious Partnership on the Environment. More than two dozen organizations have endorsed or are supporting it, he said.
“The scope and the breadth of support for this is unprecedented,” said Misleh.

The coalition includes the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services and Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development; the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Catholic Charities USA; the Carmelite Nongovernmental Organization; the Catholic Health Association; Catholic Relief Services; the Conference of Major Superiors of Men; the Leadership Conference of Women Religious; the Franciscan Action Network; the National Catholic Rural Life Conference; and the National Council of Catholic Women.

More information is available at www.CatholicClimateCovenant.org.

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