By Christina Bagaglio Slentz
SAN DIEGO — This year, Earth Day (April 22) celebrates its 53rd year. Before the federal regulators, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, amidst an array of significant pollution problems. To raise awareness for the need to regulate behavior that posed a threat to the environment, 20 million Americans demonstrated across the country, and their voices were heard!
In December of that year, President Richard Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency.
For Catholics, however, caring for the planet has a much longer history, and, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops proclaims, “Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith.”
Not Just a Slogan …
Although the theology of creation care is rooted in Scripture all the way back to Genesis, a modern framework of this teaching began to emerge in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” (On the Condition of Labor). This encyclical, a benchmark for the beginning of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), responded to the political, economic and social issues of the Industrial Era, when environmental degradation began to have a dangerous impact. Over the course of more than a century, the CST principle of “care for creation” has continued to develop, with Pope Francis’ 2015 release of “Laudato Si’” profoundly illuminating what it means to care for our common home in the 21st century.
7 Goals for Every Weekday
“Laudato Si’” outlines seven areas for creation care action, and parishioners have responded graciously. Here are a few examples:
- Response to the Cry of the Earth — Many parishes have begun gardens and participated in tree-plantings, including St. Thomas More’s pollinator garden, our religious sisters’ tree-planting at the diocesan Pastoral Center, and Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners planting trees in their Barrio Logan neighborhood.
- Response to the Cry of the Poor — Creation Care Ministry has promoted giving up single-use plastics for Lent to reduce the harmful effects of plastic pollution on the poor and vulnerable of our world.
- Ecological Economics — At the Creation Care Clergy and Religious Workshop, Father Michael Murphy and Msgr. Mark Campbell shared their experiences as pastors implementing environmentally-friendly practices to include solarization and use of compostable products.
- Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyle — St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Vista hosts an excellent community recycling program.
- Ecological Education — St. Martin of Tours Academy was named a national green-ribbon school; Creation Care Ministry held a Season of Creation Art Contest for grades 4-12; and numerous creation care workshops have been held throughout the diocese.
- Ecological Spirituality — St. Rita’s Parish hosted the diocesan Feast of St. Francis and Season of Creation Mass; Sacred Heart Parish in Coronado maintains a xeriscaped prayer garden; Whispering Winds Camp in Julian offers precious mountain retreat time.
- Community Resilience and Empowerment — Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and several creation care-minded members from other parishes stood in solidarity to oppose the opening of a cement warehouse in Barrio Logan that threatened to further degrade the historically poor air quality of the area. And they won their fight!
Ready to Participate?
Creation care calls us to aim for these goals and engage on issues such as climate change; air and water quality; just access to/use of energy resources; environmental degradation due to plastics, toxins and other harmful substances; and the ecological marginalization of our most vulnerable sisters and brothers.
How can you, your family, and your parish get involved with this ministry? Register to participate in our SDCatholic Creation Care annual cycle at https://forms.gle/AnU5MdDFQSqMCU8u7 By doing so, you will be added to our communication list, making sure that you receive notification of Creation Care events and opportunities. This connection will also allow you to share your progress and help us celebrate your successes as we all strive to make Earth Day every day!