SAN DIEGO — Climate change is a human problem. The Diocese of San Diego is inviting every Catholic to be part of the solution.
The diocesan Office for Social Ministry has started an initiative to form Creation Care Teams at parishes across the diocese to organize actions to protect the environment. These can range from small lifestyle changes individuals can make to ones involving the parish or community beyond.
Father Emmet Farrell, a retired priest, is coordinating the initiative, which is part of a new diocesan ministry focused on the environment. He stressed that this work is rooted in the Gospel.
“God gave us Creation as a gift,” he said, citing Genesis 2:15. “But we’re destroying that Creation.”
Starting with St. Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church has expressed a deep concern about the environmental degradation humans are causing. Most recently, Pope Francis issued a sweeping encyclical, “Laudato Si,” that raised the alarm of climate change and its devastating effects on the world’s poor people.
It’s going to take the concerted actions of individuals and communities to stop environmental contamination, Pope Francis said.
That’s the premise of the Creation Care Teams.
It all begins with Father Farrell making a presentation in English or Spanish at parishes interested in starting a team. Parishioners receive information about climate change and explore its consequences.
For instance, they learn that the poorest people suffer the most severe effects of climate change because they depend on nature for their food and water.
Then they are asked to share their knowledge with their community and decide what makes sense for them to do. Perhaps they want to focus on parish energy use or create ecologically friendly landscaping, said Kent Peters, director of the Office for Social Ministry.
“We just want them to be doing something to protect the gift we’ve been given,” Peters said.
Through May, the parishes that have organized Creation Care Teams are Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart (San Diego), St. Timothy, St. Mary (Escondido), St. Didacus and St. James/St. Leo.
These parishes get access to a wide range of resources from the Catholic Climate Covenant, an organization formed by the U.S. bishops to respond to the threat to the environment. And they receive a monthly newsletter full of ideas of what they can do.
Peters said parishes, too, can invite young Catholics to join this ministry and use their technology and social media skills to disseminate ways to protect the environment.
Maricruz Flores of Our Lady of Guadalupe Youth Ministry is already on board. She and fellow member Luz Espinosa turned out to San Diego’s waterfront on April 29 for the People’s Climate March to call attention to local, state and federal initiatives to protect the environment.
Flores said that as a youth minister it was her responsibility to let parish families know the environmental damage occurring every day.
Father Farrell acknowledged that the environment has again become a politicized issue. Everyone, regardless of politics, needs to act now, he stressed.
“Climate change is not a Catholic problem. It’s not a Protestant problem. It’s not a Democrat or Republican problem,” he said. “It’s a human problem.”