Summer is a great time for your parish to “go green,” and going green can be a very effective way of inviting young adults to explore their faith. Caring for the planet is an issue of great importance to young people, who increasingly view institutional religion as irrelevant and out of touch with important issues. In an article for America magazine (June 18, 2015), author and speaker Kerry Weber laid out an argument for why Laudato Si is the perfect encyclical for millennials primarily because the issue of climate change addresses one of this generation’s top concerns. Weber points out that the Holy Father himself sees this as a crucial issue for reaching out to young adults when he says, “Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded” (Laudato Si, 13).
With that in mind, here are some things that a parish might pursue in order to “go green.”
- Establish a parish creation-care group to oversee all parish efforts to protect the environment. Focus efforts on recruiting young adults to serve.
- Place recycling receptacles in all parish gathering areas.
- Initiate an annual or ongoing beautification effort, with an emphasis on planting trees not only on parish grounds but throughout the parish community.
- Encourage a parish carpool ministry that invites people to cut down on the number of cars needed to bring people to Mass and other parish functions.
- Encourage a variety of encounters with nature—outdoor activities such as hiking and camping—that include time for prayer and meditation.
- Conduct a “green” audit of the parish facilities, looking at water-use efficiency and energy-use efficiency.
- For smaller parish gatherings, replace disposable cups, plates, and utensils with reusable items.
- Have some “green” liturgies, perhaps tied to Earth Day or the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
- Create a “Laudato Si/Go Green” bulletin board or table in a public space on parish grounds, or create a page on the parish website.
- Create reusable shopping bags with the parish logo on them and sell them, with all profits going for “green” activities in the parish.
- Devise strategies for households in the parish to participate in protecting the environment; bring in an expert to talk about composting, growing vegetables in pots or small gardens, using rain barrels, or winterizing homes for greater energy efficiency.
Pope Francis’s call to protect our planet is not some call to political correctness. Rather, it is a call to deepen our relationship with God and one another by focusing on the great gift of creation God has given us to share with one another. In his Jesuit Post article, “An Overview of Laudato Si,” (June 18, 2015), Henry Longbottom, SJ explains that the Holy Father’s encyclical is all about relationships—our familial relationship with our planet and our relationship with other humans, both of which we are damaging. Longbottom states that “we are forgetting our interconnectedness with the earth and with those around and ahead of us who depend on our good stewardship of the gift of creation.”
Use the upcoming summer months as an opportunity to build your parish’s relationship with our common home!