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You are here: Home » GreenFaith in the Media » Press Clips » A Greener Faith: A Triangle Parish Hopes to Earn Certification by Focusing on Ecology and Sustainability

A Greener Faith: A Triangle Parish Hopes to Earn Certification by Focusing on Ecology and Sustainability

By Katie Bahr
Arlington Catholic Herald

An article about St. Francis of Assisi parish in Triangle, Virginia, and their participation in the GreenFaith Certification Program.

 

During one of his first moments as pope, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics March 19 to be “protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

At St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Catholics work to do just that through an environmental certification with GreenFaith, a New Jersey-based interfaith environmental coalition that encourages houses of worship to become role models in green living.

During the two-year certification process, the parish will reduce energy consumption in the church and school facilities, engage and inform parishioners on environmental justice, and hold environmentally themed worship services and religious education programs. Upon completion, the parish will be acknowledged as a religious environmental leader.

Rob Goraieb, the coordinator of Franciscan Action and Advocacy at St. Francis of Assisi, said the GreenFaith program shows the tie between protecting the planet and the Catholic faith.

“We really wanted to focus on caring for God’s creation and the practice of faithful stewardship,” he said. “For the Franciscans, this is such an important part of the charism.”

Goraieb believes protecting the environment is not a political issue but a spiritual one. As more people become involved, he believes they will see that environmental awareness goes hand in hand with other social justice and human rights issues important to Catholics.

“The base (of GreenFaith) is God, the base is our Catholic teaching, a Franciscan teaching that goes into our homes, to our neighbors,” he said. “I just love a parish doing this because the foundation is on God’s creation and stewardship. By making it all about God and connecting everything to God, I think it’s going to have the most effect and the most fruit will come from that.”

Since being accepted into the certification program in September, St. Francis of Assisi has been planning events to fulfill the certification requirements. During Lent, the parish hosted an environmentally themed Stations of the Cross and a vegetarian soup supper. The parish also has distributed ecology reflections and “eco-tips” in parish bulletins.

In the coming months, the church will undergo an energy audit, examining ways to save electricity and reduce overall energy usage. The parish also will examine its office, dining and cleaning practices to learn how to reduce waste and harmful chemicals.

On April 21, the GreenFaith team will hold “Brother Earth Day,” a Franciscan-style Earth Day event with food samples, demonstrations and recycling of everything from electronics to tennis shoes to eyeglasses. This spring, parishioners will work together on a new community garden and composting program.

St. Francis School is involved with the GreenFaith program by incorporating ecology into lesson plans and reducing paper usage. Thanks to a donation, the school will install new energy-efficient windows this summer.

According to Goraieb, the GreenFaith project has become a unifying force for the parish because it involves volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who are passionate about certification.

“We wanted GreenFaith to really be something to bring the parish together,” Goraieb said. “There’s something for everyone, for kids, for families.”

Father Frank Critch, parochial vicar, said the program’s focus on environmentalism reflects the Franciscan ideals of peace, justice and care for creation.

“It’s part of who we are, it’s as natural for us as walking. Creation is the ultimate gift from God so we have to care for it,” he said. “We were given dominion over creatures and Earth and having dominion doesn’t mean destroying it, it means caring for it.

“What we’re doing is a little something, but hopefully it will catch on,” Father Critch said. “As Catholics, it is our permanent duty to take care of what we have. We have no choice but to take care of it.”

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