Season of Creation spotlights threats to biodiversity

Wildfires rage in the Amazon rainforest and other parts of the globe. Up to one million species face extinction, in large part due to human activities

Sep 06, 2019

By Brian Roewe
Wildfires rage in the Amazon rainforest and other parts of the globe. Up to one million species face extinction, in large part due to human activities.

This has formed the backdrop for the annual Season of Creation, timely tuned this year to the theme of biodiversity.

The Season of Creation began on Sept 1 with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and runs until Oct 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. This year’s Season of Creation is focusing on “protecting the web of life in all its variety, because each species reveals the glory of the Creator.”

This will mark the fifth observation of the Season of Creation since Pope Francis invited Catholics in 2015 to join other Christian denominations in its celebration. Orthodox Christians began celebrating the Day of Prayer for Crea-tion as early as 1989. Over time, more Christians have joined and the celebration has expanded from a day to more than a month.
And Catholic participation has grown each year since Francis’ initial invitation.

“Everywhere we turn, we see new initiatives, new resources emerging at every level of the Church,” said Christi-na Leaño, associate director of Global Catholic Climate Movement. She added, “And especially in the midst of our current climate crisis, the fires in Brazil and across Africa, it is incredibly inspiring to see the Holy Spirit igniting this prayer and action for creation.”

According to the Global Catholic Climate Movement, more than 500 events are planned. Clean-up days are set in various cities of the world. In Manila, Philippines, faith leaders have organised a Sept 1 walk for creation and a youth Laudato Si’ forum on Sept 7. In the outskirts of the Amazon in central Bolivia, Catholics have planned on Sept. 20 a “care for Mother Earth” pilgrimage.

In Boston, the local branch of the Global Catholic Climate Movement alerted members to a Sept 11 talk on climate justice by former Irish President Mary Robinson at Boston College and encouraged members to join Mothers Out Front in challenging the extraction and use of natural gas.

Protecting biodiversity
In May, Msgr Bruno Marie Duffé, secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, penned a letter inviting all pastors to participate in the Season of Creation “as part of your pastoral leadership”.

“Caring for creation protects the inheritance the Creator has given us, an inheritance that is essential to our well-being,” he said in the May 23 letter, issued on the International Day of Biodiversity.

Duffé added that the “web of life” theme has “important connections” with the upcoming Amazon synod and aligns Christians’ stewardship role “with the urgent need to protect biodiversity”.

Another webinar on Sept 4 focuses on Francis’ declaration of a “climate emergency” during a meeting with oil and energy executives earlier this year. Among the panelists are Fr Joshstrom Kureethadam, coordinator of the ecology and creation sector of the Vatican’s integral human development dicastery, and Lorna Gold, Laudato Si’ Project coordinator for Trocaire, the Irish Catholic Church’s development organiation.

Prayers and action

Numerous Season of Creation events have sought to pair prayer with action.

This year will be the first the Indianapolis Archdiocese formally celebrates the Season of Creation. Its creation care commission has organised an archdiocese-wide tree planting for the Assisi feast day. Archbishop Charles Thompson is expected to plant a tree himself.

The act of planting trees offers a tangible way for parishioners to experience a sense of interconnectedness with creation and what’s happening in the world, said Deacon Michael Braun, archdiocesan director of pastoral ministries. He added that it also broadens how people might view the Feast of St Francis, which has traditionally been focused on blessings of animals.

“When you think of St Francis of Assisi, I think that’s what comes to mind, of seeing God in creation, in a sunset or in a forest … it’s that whole beauty of creation. And that comes forth when we’re planting trees,” Braun said.

In addition to tree planting, the creation care commission developed a guide for Catholics and parishes to use throughout the Season of Creation. It assigns a theme for each day of the week. For instance: Meatless Mondays, Water Conservation Wednesdays and Take-a-hike Saturdays.

“What we wanted to do is, in a simple way, draw everyone’s attention each day to something they could do in addition to the normal things we do in our prayer life and our liturgies,” said John Mundell, a member of the creation care commission.

To encourage participation, Thompson devoted his column in the latest issue of The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper, to the Season of Creation, and the creation care commission met with the priests heading each of the archdiocese’s 11 deaneries to lay out the plans and answer any questions.

Nearby dioceses, such as those in Evansville and Lafayette, have taken notice of the Indianapolis programme and asked to use some of their resources, including bulletin inserts on each of the weekly creation care themes.

Other groups have created also Season of Creation homily helps for pastors and prayer service guides. In Boston, the Care for Our Home committee at the Paulist Center has drafted a revisable insert for any parish to use in its bulletin. The double-sided page includes A Prayer for Our Earth from the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, the St Francis Pledge, and other resources.

So far, the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s Creation Care Commission has been excited by the early response to their plans. One parish, St Gabriel in Indianapolis, indicated it wanted to plant 100 trees, and also changed its marquee to announce its plans to celebrate the Season of Creation.

“It’s refreshing, and it’s kind of nice because we’re going to be doing this together,” Mundell said. “It’s trying to make it an event, you know, a celebration of the season together and to try to walk it together.”

Like in Indianapolis, the Sisters of Charity’s ecumenical prayer service emerged from earlier efforts. Last year, the congregation at its quadrennial chapter designated creation care one of its four directional goals for the next four years. Since then, the sisters in Houston have met with city leaders about climate change, begun composting and explored divesting from fossil fuels.

Dimalibot said the Charity sisters hope their efforts can inspire other area Catholics to explore steps they can take, too. As of now, there’s less than a handful of creation care teams within the archdiocese’s 146 parishes.

“Once we raise awareness, we know that we cannot stop there, though. … The ecological conversion that we’re hoping for has to translate into action,” she said. --NCR

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