By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
A half-dozen faith communities gathered last week at St. Francis of Assisi Church to discuss how they have successfully adopted sustainable practices in their parishes and communities.
“Caring for Creation: Stories of Success from Several Faith Communities” included the stories of seven groups — Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church, Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, Crescent Hill United Methodist Church, Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church; the Catholic parishes of St. James, St. Brigid and St. Francis of Assisi; and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Nazareth, Ky.
Each of the participating groups shared examples and stories chronicling their efforts to do what Pope Francis calls “care for our common home.”
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth said during the event on Sept. 12 that they have made significant strides in developing and implementing green initiatives since they added a commitment to care for creation to their mission statement in the mid-1990s.
The statement reads in part: “Sisters and Associates are committed to work for justice in solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially the economically poor and women, and to care for the earth.”
More recently, the governing body of the SCNs approved a proposal to reduce their green house gas emissions to zero by the year 2037 for the U.S. and Belize and by 2047 for India, Botswana and Nepal –— the five countries where the SCNs serve.
“Yes, we realize this is a very ambitious goal. However, we feel like we are in a great position to be the leaders in this and we have a commitment, we have resources, we have desire. If nothing else, we feel like our effort will send out huge ripple effects to others around the world,” said Carolyn Cromer, director of ecological sustainability for the SCNs.
Cromer, who began work with the SCNs in April, said the zero emissions goal is not extreme. It is right in line, she said, with the recommendations made by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Paris Treaty.
The Sisters of Charity have also committed to becoming a “zero waste campus,” meaning that everything is either compostable or recyclable and nothing is sent to a landfill.
Cromer is completing a series of waste audits, where she and others on the recycling committee take an inventory of the SCNs’ waste.
“It’s a way to create a baseline for ourselves. We are literally separating waste and auditing. We are weighing what gets put into recycling and what gets put in trash cans,” she said.
By inspecting the trash, Cromer said, observations can be made about what’s being used and how to reduce it.
“We’ve been here on this land for 195 years, so we’ve always treated the land with care. We’ve always felt like it was sacred,” said Diane Curtis, director of communications for the SCNs. “It’s a natural extension to care for the land here and every country we are engaged in.”
Many of the faith communities that shared their stories at the Sept. 12 event, including St. James, St. Brigid and St. Francis of Assisi, noted efforts to educate parishioners about the importance of sustainable initiatives. They’ve also held discussions centered on Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
Dr. Mil Thompson, professor emeritus at Bellarmine University and St. Francis of Assisi parishioner, said his parish’s ecological efforts have been well received.
The parish has created an Ecological Stewardship Committee that has held educational presentations on ecological sustainability.
The committee also provided funds to convert lights at the St. John Center for homeless men from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). The center is currently in the process of switching from CFL to LED.
The committee has also encouraged recycling and reusing cups, instead of using foam cups, at parish events.
For the future, Thompson said, the committee will explore solar energy.
“The solar panel project is a priority of the committee, but we realize it will take time and sacrifice from the parish,” he said.
The parish cluster of St. James and St. Brigid reported at the Sept. 12 event that parishioners created a Creation Care Team last year under the guidance of the Catholic Climate Covenant.
The Creation Care Team has focused on decreasing overall energy usage, expanding recycling and supporting the St. James School Green Club, which tends an organic vegetable and pollinator garden on campus, said Cynthia Dumas, one of the members of the Creation Care Team.
The parish bulletin also includes weekly articles on environmental issues and updates about what the care team is doing, Dumas said.
The event was jointly sponsored by St. Francis and Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light, a non-profit organization centered on environmental justice and education.