Parishioners of St. John Paul II Church have been praying “A Prayer for the Earth” found in the pope’s 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
The parish started looking for ways to care for the environment this year and decided they would start with prayer, said Patsy Meyer, who serves on the environmental concerns committee. She was inspired to make prayer the focus by Pope Francis’ message for the worldwide observance of the Season of Creation.
“The pope’s message emphasized prayer,” she said.
The Season of Creation kicked off Sept. 1 with the observance of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and runs through Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.
The prayer was recited during Sunday and daily Masses and at school Masses at St. John Paul II Academy, she said.
Other than praying, the parish has taken some small action steps, she said. An e-waste recycling event will take place Oct. 8 at the church, 3539 Goldsmith Lane. The community is invited to bring items such as computers, hard drives/floppy disks, printers, fax machines, phones, chargers and more.
She’s now working on a community medication drop-off event for later in the year.
“We’re just in baby steps,” said Meyer. “There are so many things we can do, but we’re being realistic.”
The environmental concerns committee also encouraged parishioners to think about recycling. They handed out a score sheet asking people to rate themselves based on the steps they were taking to care for creation. People responded well, Meyer said.
“Recycling is one of the first things you can get people excited about,” said Meyer.
While some parishes are just embarking on this journey and taking small steps to care for creation, others have been doing it longer and have made bigger strides.
Take Epiphany Church as an example — the environmental concerns committee has a goal of bringing awareness to the congregation throughout the year.
And that’s paid off, said Mark Reilly, who chairs the committee.
The parish holds yearly seminars on environmental justice and climate change. The parish also provided an eight-week seminar this year to help parishioners better understand how to apply the teachings of the pope’s encyclical to daily life.
Epiphany recently completed renovation work — part of a $2 million campus-wide project — to replace the floor-to-ceiling windows in the church as well as the windows in the parish office building with energy-efficient ones, said Reilly.
Epiphany wants to bring awareness to the community as well, he said.
To that end, the parish will host its second Creation Care Fair on the parish grounds, located at 914 Old Harrods Creek Road, Oct. 8. Reilly said they want to let people know that “it’s not too late” and that damage to the environment is “not too severe” for something to be done about it.
The fair, he noted, aims at showing people that there are “small changes that aren’t a burden that can make a difference,” he said. “How can we fashion our lives so we’re in sync with the environment?”
The fair will include:
- Professionals who will discuss the benefits and advantages of installing solar panels.
- An electric vehicle for participants to drive, and a consultant will be on hand to answer questions.
- A master gardener to teach individuals how to properly plant trees and keep a garden.
- A demonstration on composting and information on avoiding food waste.
- A display including examples of household products that are safe for the environment.
- Craft-making opportunities for children to use recyclable materials.
Reilly said he hopes the fair will remind individuals that “we all have an obligation to protect God’s creation.”
It’s important for faith communities, such as St. John Paul II and Epiphany, to be leaders in caring for creation, said Elisa Owen, executive director of Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light (KIPL).
The nonprofit is composed of parishes, faith-based organizations and individuals of faith responding to climate change.
Owen said that one of the best indicators of whether people will take steps to care for the environment is whether their neighbor is already doing so.
“If we can show our neighbors the steps we’re taking to protect the planet, maybe they will see and follow us along,” she said. “If people of faith don’t step forward, who will?”
KIPL is there to offer support as parishes take these steps, she said.
One of the biggest obstacles facing churches is a small staff, noted Owen.
“KIPL wants to be the sustainability team for any church that wants to do this work,” she said.
The group provides support to parishes in various ways, including making recommendations to reduce energy consumption, teaching churches how to do an energy audit, applying for energy rebates on behalf of parishes and answering questions about how to finance projects, said Owen.
The organization is currently using a grant to help parishes update their lighting energy efficiency. For parishes wishing to undertake that project, KIPL pays for energy-efficient bulbs and handles the disposal of fluorescent bulbs, Owen said.
Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs is a good place to start, she noted.
“You get a whole lot of savings for the dollars you put in. … It allows you to see the savings” in a short period of time while immediately reducing the carbon in the air, she said.