Mister Rogers said we should look for the helpers. I have to remind myself of that when I get overwhelmed by man’s inhumanity to man. Last month we ran a piece on the Go Green project at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which made ripples across the country with its energy savings and decreased carbon footprint. Gene Murphy, then the parish business manager and the spark for this green business, ended up traveling around not just Arizona but the whole country, speaking on the benefits of going green. Gene has since moved away, but the work to promote environmental education and action continues at Sacred Heart.
It is especially interesting that Gene undertook the green initiative (replacing windows, changing to LED lighting and low-flush toilets, installing an extensive solar system and other changes) just before Pope Francis issued his epic Laudato Si encyclical, calling on all Roman Catholics to step up to preserve and protect the earth as God’s stewards. The Laudato Si Action Platform launched just last month, providing a seven-year program with seven goals across seven sectors of the church, including education, health care and economics. Implementing this level of organized environmental activism on a global scale is a massive undertaking, and the planning has taken several years.
During the development of the Action Platform members of the Sacred Heart community took up the work Gene started to care for the earth in our own back yards. Sister Anne Fitzsimons, a longtime member of the SH community, started the Care for the Earth ministry. This group focuses on what people can do in their daily lives and habits to protect the environment.
A school garden was created at Sacred Heart School. Church members have joined the community composting project started by the Prescott Farmers Market. Representatives from CFE attend Prescott City Council meetings to keep informed and comment on issues pertaining to the environment. Char Hoffman, an active member of the Care for the Earth ministry, writes a column on CFE in the Sacred Heart weekly bulletin, encouraging readers to take action in their own daily lives, such as composting, recycling and becoming more conscious about resource consumption.
With the Action Platform now released, the CFE group will be working with even more focus to encourage more engagement from both church members and leadership. Father Raj Britto, pastor of Sacred Heart, suggested that the church dedicate a whole week on environmental action and education, and this is now planned to take place in April during Earth Week.
Sacred Heart’s Care for the Earth group works with a number of other area groups that share the same goals. Along with nine other faith communities it is part of the Interfaith Climate Action Team, working to promote the Planning for the Resilience of Our Towns, Environment, Climate and Tourism (PROTECT) campaign.
This initiative seeks to create and implement a climate-impact risk assessment/study for our area. The goal of PROTECT is to assess issues like drought, increasing temperatures and fire risk, and plan around those factors in in development, tourism, renewable energy, emergency planning and preparedness and other areas. Sedona, the Verde Valley and Flagstaff already have such plans in place, and CFE is among those pressuring our city councils to begin developing our own plans.
While many organized faith groups have diminished in membership and remain relevant for a predominantly aging population, the size and scope of the Roman Catholic Church makes this call from the Pope for environmental stewardship all the more potentially impactful in this turbulent time. His message resonates around the world among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, opening the way for meaningful global action to push for policies that will implement real change. Sacred Heart parish includes 1,800 families, and so touches many lives. The Care for the Earth ministry is working to educate and encourage church members to take up this work to ensure a stable and healthy future.
To learn more about Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical and the Action Platform, visit laudatosiactionplatform.org.To learn more about the Care for the Earth ministry at Sacred Heart, contact Char Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.