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LA Archdiocese Launches Creation Sustainability Ministry
Doris Benavides
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, October 6, 2010
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LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Parishioners and students in the Los Angeles Archdiocese will soon begin hearing more frequently about the importance of their involvement and commitment to keeping a clean environment, in alignment with Catholic social teaching.

"We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan; it is a requirement of our faith," it states on the website of the U.S. bishops' environmental justice program, "Caring for God's Creation."

"We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation," it continues. "This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored."

In that spirit, the archdiocese launched its creation sustainability ministry Oct. 4. Its mission: "educating and inspiring Catholics and others in the broader community to act out of reverence and respect for God's creation."

Directly involved in establishing the ministry were the archdiocesan Offices of Justice and Peace and Synod Implementation/Stewardship.

In a letter introducing the effort, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles cited Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 World Day of Peace message: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation." Cardinal Mahony urged parishioners not to remain indifferent to "environmental issues and their profound impact on humanity."

Oct. 4 was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the ecology, and the day after Respect Life Sunday designated by the U.S. bishops. Respecting creation, St. Francis believed, is an essential step in addressing poverty and all attacks on life.

In his letter, Cardinal Mahony asked parishioners to take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. It which urges Catholics to pray, learn, assess, act and advocate for the poor and vulnerable around the world by learn about how climate change is affected "by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc."

The pledge is part of an initiative launched in April 2009 by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change to make U.S. Catholics more aware of what they can do to stem climate change and its effects.

At designated churches and five high schools, the ministry will assist parishioners in reflecting on God's creation and in starting a dialogue with the community that leads to finding ways to contribute in the sustainability of a clean environment, thus becoming proper stewards of the church and of the community.

A user-friendly tool kit to learn more about the topic will be available for parishioners.

"Sustainability is an outgrowth of stewardship," said Deacon David Estrada, executive director of the Office of Synod Implementation/Stewardship. "If you have a parish that's really involved in stewardship, they're evangelized. If they're evangelized, they're doing stewardship and so you've taught them how to integrate both of them."

The creation sustainability ministry will help people and parishes learn how to conserve resources by making better choices, such as using energy-efficient tools and appliances.

"When you use the appropriate resources that are available today, you can save a considerable amount of money, which is certainly what this is all about," noted Deacon Estrada.

"From our perspective, creation is a statement of faith," said Ramon Posada, ministry chairman and philosophy and religion professor at East Los Angeles College. "It implies that there is a loving Creator from which we came ... and who calls us to participate in this loving action in the world we live in."

At a practical level, changing bulbs or installing solar panels help change the environment, but the ministry's perspective goes further, reminding people that they have been endowed with gifts by God to be "co-creators," participating in the community not just for themselves, but for those around them.

The ministry includes three subcommittees:
  • Justice: Assists people in finding solutions to their own environmental problems through networking with established organizations already working in that field.
  • Formation: Provides information on the environment and empower and help nurture parishioners so they can become aware and open to the call to be loving stewards of God's creation.
  • Development: Finds ways to assist parishes in dealing with practical concerns, such as energy efficiency, or gas and water conservation.
"So the very nature of this ministry is community-building," said Posada, "because not just one person can come with the solution; it has to be the action of the community.

"Yes, I can change my light bulbs at home. I can change my sprinkler system, but if my example doesn't encourage my neighbors, well, I've saved a few pennies, but it's not going to be much of the solution."

"We have to think not only of the immediate benefits that we can derive," said Deacon Estrada. "It's not just about us. It's about the future, about what legacy can we leave to all my brothers and sisters who will follow in our footsteps."

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