Small steps to protect the environment can add up

Whether or not one believes in global warming and climate change, the severity of recent hurricanes and rain events makes one think twice if man’s use and abuse of earth’s resources is somehow correlated.

To create awareness of our individual responsibility to live on earth with an eye toward conserving resources, “A Season of Creation” prayer service was held last month at the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center in Metairie.

“We are beginning what has been named by a number of Christian leaders as ‘A Season of Creation,’” said Matt Rousso, a Maryknoll affiliate in New Orleans and a member of the planning committee who coordinated the service.

During planning, Rousso discovered that the first World Day of Prayer for Creation was held in 1989 by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople for the orthodox community. Pope Francis and the Catholic Church joined the effort in 2015.

Again this year, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a joint message Sept. 1, 2017, as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It kicked off a month-long effort – beginning Sept. 1 and ending on the Feast of St. Francis Oct. 4 – called “Season of Creation” where Christians around the world would pray and environmentally care for our planet (according to seasonofcreation.org.)

Caring for environment

In 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” calling Catholics to be stewards of the earth’s resources provided by God and to curb our consumerism mentality.

“The earth, our common home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth,” quoting from the encyclical.

In song, reflections, prayers and readings during the prayer evening, more than 30 participants were reminded of Pope Francis’ entreaty in “Laudato Si’” that it is everyone’s duty to “protect the earth and its fruitfulness for coming generations”;  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s remarks that we are “called to acknowledge our contribution, small or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”; and Martin Luther King Jr.’s caution to be aware that “industrial pollution takes its heaviest toll from among those who live on the ‘islands of poverty.’”

“We are gathering simply to pray for this earth, this place we have been honored to enter into and live in and have been challenged to better care for, because this earth is going through hard times,” Rousso said.

Uniting locally with the global effort, each participant signed a pledge to care for “our common home” by curbing one habit such as overuse of water (turning it off when brushing teeth), not accepting plastic bags and bringing a reusable bag to the grocery, bringing a reusable cup to work (instead of using a new plastic cup every day) to benefit all of God’s creation.

Rousso said there are multiple ways that all of us misuse the earth. He gave an example of how he probably uses more water than he should to wash dishes. Pope Francis also has endorsed a Laudato Si’ Pledge that anyone can sign (http://livelaudatosi.org)

Those who attended gained an insight to the environment’s destruction and what they could do to help.

“I fear for the future of my grandchildren, who are very young,” attendee Sylvia Schully said about participating in the prayer service. She recycles and tries to conserve water and to not be a big consumer. “We are destroying our resources and there will be nothing left.”

One of the younger attendees, Sandra Harbison, 28, said Pope Francis’ encyclical got her and many of her generation excited about creation by emphasizing it in his writing. She buys reusable water bottles and works with her grandmother Sandy in the garden.

The “Season of Creation” serves as “an important witness of how Christians, regardless of their denominational line, are united in prayer and action for the planet,” Rousso said.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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