CATHOLICS across south-east Queensland are being urged to take up the call of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, understand its teachings and support an urgent environmental action plan aimed at protecting the planet.
Central to the plan is a commitment to “ecological conversion” in parishes, Church agencies and schools throughout Brisbane archdiocese.
Ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell, pointed to the “pressing realities” of climate change that had been highlighted when Australian bishops met with bishops from Oceania last April.
“Our neighbouring bishops from the Pacific Islands spoke of the grave problems they face through rising sea levels,” Bishop Howell said.
“Families will lose home and income through this growing environmental issue.
“Added to this, we are all seeing the evidence of serious damage to ecosystems here in Australia and around the world – coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, fish dying in the Murray Darling and the serious issues that are arising from tracts of rainforests being cleared in our country.”
For the past year, Bishop Howell has worked closely with a 14-member Living Laudato Si’ steering committee, drawn from across the archdiocese, to examine how Catholics could make practical changes to the environment around them.
Contained in the committee’s first annual report is a vision of Brisbane archdiocese “in which every parish, school and agency understands the call to ecological conversion enunciated in Laudato Si’ and responds wholeheartedly to transform our personal and institutional operations and practices to develop an Integral Ecology”.
“Its task, in short, is to engage the whole of the archdiocese so that we all deepen our commitment to care for our common home as an essential part of our mission,” Bishop Howell said.
“In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis speaks about the urgent need for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of the planet.”
Brisbane Catholic Education has already made practical steps forward – it has started several pioneering clean-energy projects – even trialling the use of geothermal installations for heating and cooling in two schools.
Many schools have implemented solar energy plans and recycling programs, and installed large water tanks to reduce reliance on town water to keep campuses and ovals green.
In addition, 135 schools and eight BCE offices are collecting energy consumption data that is helping to plan the best ways to cut power usage and costs.
Bishop Howell said the Living Laudato Si’ steering committee had discerned three priorities for change.
“First, to collect and develop a range of resources to help parishes, schools and agencies that will go on the archdiocesan website,” he said. “Second, to develop a formal Archdiocesan Laudato Si’ Plan so that each school and agency can live Laudato Si’.
“Third, to celebrate the Season of Creation beginning on the 1st of September with the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, and concluding on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, October 4.”
Bishop Howell encouraged action across the archdiocese.
“This is not meant to be just something for a select group of Catholics in the centre of Brisbane,” he said.
“We hope that all Catholics in schools from Maryborough to Boonah, parishes from Gatton to Beaudesert and Centacare offices from Burleigh Heads to Kingaroy will be involved.
“We hope you can include prayers for care of creation in your parish Masses on Sunday, September 1, and that local events and activities can be organised throughout the Season of Creation.
“We’d love to hear from your parish and school about what you are already doing to care for our common home, the earth.
“If you have the capacity, we’d love you to send us a short video of what you are doing.
“We will be sending you information and resources soon to help you to participate in this new phase of our commitment to caring for creation and living out our mission.”