For those interested in forming and participating in a local parish committee or team to promote helping the environment, the diocesan Care for Creation Committee will host an informational workshop at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 16, at Villa Maria Convent, 600 Doat St., in Buffalo. The committee has been reaching out to pastors to see if their parishioners would be interested in having such a group in their parish, as well as seeking feedback from people in diocesan parishes that have them and would like to share their experiences.
According to Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, chair of the diocesan Care for Creation Committee, the informational meeting will mark the beginning of a more formal, organized method, on the part of diocesan representatives, of working with the parishes. Sister Sharon expressed hope that this meeting will offer a chance for people who have already been involved to share their own successes and non-successes.
"We're also approaching pastors personally, because I think a personal touch is important," added Sister Sharon. "(We are) saying to them, 'Are you willing to have a committee, and do you know of anybody in your parish that might be interested in the topic?' Even if they're not going to form a committee, maybe there's a group that would just like to do some projects once in a while. Our goal, as a committee, is to have teachings of the Church on care for creation become an integral part of the parish."
The diocesan Care for Creation Committee regularly studies and promotes Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si," in which the pontiff warned that humanity has an obligation to care for the planet, nurture its brothers and sisters and reduce the size of its carbon footprint. Sister Sharon hopes individual parishes will be able to disseminate small, practical ways people may change their lifestyles. It is not a club or a political movement, but something that is focused on the encyclical and Church teaching.
In "Laudato Si," Pope Francis wrote, "Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it." This is also true for the committee.
Local care for creation teams in individual parishes have already been able to make small changes that have impacted the environment in their areas. At SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Hamburg, its care for creation team was instrumental in getting the parish to stop using pesticides on its lawn. Sandra Kucharski, a parishioner of SS. Peter and Paul, became a founding member of the team in November 2015.
"That has been successful through speaking with the building and maintenance person there," Kucharski said of efforts to nix the chemicals. "There's a New York state education law that prohibits any school from putting any chemical lawn pesticides on any playground, turf, athletic field or any area where children would be running around. We were, and no one knew ... No Catholic school should be doing that."
The parish has been working on setting up related curriculum in its faith formation program for its local public school children, and is planning to plant an organic garden in the spring. Additionally, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Buffalo has a Peace and Justice group that the diocesan Care for Creation Committee had helped organize. In April, they are planning a children's art show on Earth Day topics.
"Last year, our Peace and Justice and the adult faith formation group at Blessed Sacrament held a series of three workshops on 'Laudato Si.' The last workshop generated ideas from parishioners on how to implement 'Laudato Si' in their own family lives, in the community and parish life," said parishioner Mary Lee Sulkowski. "Following up on those suggestions, this fall we decided we would implement a care for creation subcommittee. The first thing we did was come up with a policy for recycling at parish events."
From there, the parish council voted in favor of approving the policy. After this, they began working on a newsletter regarding what the subcommittee has been doing. In the parish's Sunday bulletin, it has included a "Did You Know?" section with facts about recycling and other aspects of caring for creation.
Kucharski lamented recent cuts the government made to the Environmental Protection Agency, noting, "We're in a terrible environmental situation," but said she hopes their efforts will pay off in terms of a renewed sense of the importance of Catholic doctrine that stresses caring for our common home.
"We may not be able to control, at this point, what the federal government does, but we can control and help our towns, and our cities, and our villages and neighborhoods. Those are still important, and I think when we do that, it will empower us more to start becoming more active in the bigger picture and continue to make a statement," Sister Sharon added. "No matter how bad it looks out there, when we pray and we have a strong sense of why we are doing it and really uniting with one another and with God's spirit, things can happen that we don't have control over and good things can happen. Things can change."
For more information about the Care for Creation Committee, or if you are interested in forming your own parish team but cannot attend the May 16 meeting, call Sister Sharon at 716-202-4706.