SAN DIEGO — Cardinal Robert W. McElroy celebrated the 2022 Feast of St. Francis Mass on Oct. 1 by calling on people of faith to unite with the entire human family to end the environmental crisis that has “defaced and destroyed” so much of God’s creation.
The diocese’s Creation Care Ministry organized the morning Mass, attended by hundreds from across the region at St. Rita’s Church in Southeastern San Diego.
At the conclusion, the ministry announced the ten young winners of its inaugural Season of Creation Art Contest, which had as a theme “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Participants ranged from fourth graders to young adults age 18 and older and came from schools and parishes from across the diocese.
Afterward, Mass-goers attended a lunch at the parish hall, where they were able to see the winning entries and hear from their young creators.
Cardinal McElroy opened the Mass by outlining what had brought them together.
“We celebrate two important realities in our world,” the cardinal said. “The first is the beauty of creation that God has bestowed upon the whole human family. It’s the foundation of every blessing we know in our lives.
“The second is the call that God has given to us to be protectors of that creation, guardians, in a special way. And to understand that in our times, we have defaced and destroyed so much of the created order that it is in great crisis, and we must move as a human family to end that crisis.”
In his homily, the cardinal said that each person of faith is called to act.
“It is contrary to our faith to say, ‘Let that fall to others. It is not my responsibility,’” he said.
“Each of us that call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ must truly see the work defending creation as our own, as collaborators with God on this sacred mission.”
In 2015, Pope Francis issued a landmark document titled “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home,” which detailed how a culture of consumption and environmental degradation was destroying the earth, harming its most vulnerable populations. He urgently called on everyone — including governments, corporations, universities, churches and individuals — to take immediate steps to get stop the destruction and to develop a sustainable way of life.
Since then, the San Diego Diocese implemented a series of measures, including the installation of solar systems at its central offices, parishes and schools, to protect the environment. The diocese also launched a ministry, led by Father Emmet Farrell, to inform parishes and schools about the pope’s document, urging them to develop a team to launch environmental projects.
In 2021, the ministry developed a Creation Care Action Plan for individuals, parishes and schools.
The diocese established an office in July to lead these environmental efforts. That office, called Creation Care Ministry, itself part of the Office for Life, Peace and Justice, organized the St. Francis Mass and the Season of Creation Art Contest.
Afterward, its director, Christina Bagaglio Slentz, announced that a total of 168 young people had participated in the contest, which also was promoted by Catholic schools and parishes. They had submitted entries in the form of an essay, poem, drawing, painting, video and song. The winners received a certificate and gift cards.
The following is a list of the winners:
1st place: Nathaniel O’Berg, St. Patrick’s School (Carlsbad)
2nd place: Austin Thorn, St. Kieran School
1st place: Franchezka Bacani, St. Charles School
2nd place: Gwen Garcia, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School (San Diego)
1st place: Nhu-An Phan, Cathedral Catholic High School
2nd place: Alyssa Mossuto, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
1st PLACE: Madison Kovar, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
2nd PLACE: Brielle Hanft, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
Now the ministry’s spiritual director, Father Farrell, thanked all of those who had made the diocese’s environmental work possible, including the ministry’s long-time volunteer team.
More information about the diocese’s Creation Care Ministry is available here.