Bishop Alan asks parishes to take action on environment
In the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and human ecology, Bishop Alan is encouraging all parishes in the diocese to work towards global aid charity CAFOD’s LiveSimply Award.
The Pope’s letter invites us to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At a personal level Pope Francis is asking us to change our actions and daily habits, reducing water consumption, sorting and recycling waste and even “turning off unnecessary lights”. If done by many people, such actions can have a significant effect.
Bishop Alan said: “The LiveSimply Award is a practical way to respond to the Papal imperative at parish level.”
To win the award, a parish must display nine ways in which it is putting into practice the three principles of LiveSimply: living in solidarity with people in poverty; living simply; and living sustainably with creation. Receipt of the award is national recognition to Catholic parishes that they are making a difference to their community – and the world.
The award is coordinated by Eco-congregation, on behalf of CAFOD, and there are hundreds of ways a parish can put the principles into practice. Parishes which have already gained the accolade, for example, have encouraged parishioners to walk or cycle to church, installed solar panels on the church roof to generate their own electricity, or implemented a clothing recycling scheme to benefit the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
In our diocese the Cathedral parish gained the award in 2013 and celebrates LiveSimply week with a range of activities including a walk, Mass and picnic in Thorndon Country Park North, a Livesimply Prayer Vigil, and a Food Bank Collection.
Brenda Underwood, co-ordinator for the Cathedral project, said: “There is something for everyone to get involved with in LiveSimply. It’s all about taking time to reflect on the wonderful world we share and how on a practical level we should use the resources it provides us with. LiveSimply provides a real opportunity to pause for thought and to consider the impact of our actions and inactions.”
She is delighted that Bishop Alan is supporting the initiative and would encourage any parish to get involved. She has already given ideas and guidance to the Justice & Peace group at Danbury and South Woodham Ferrers, one of the handful of parishes already working towards the award. Brenda continues: “I do believe strongly that we can’t all do everything but there is something for everyone. Every parish will be able to take part in the award by picking activities and initiatives which suit them.”
“Once your plaque has arrived though,” she warns, ” you cannot rest on your laurels. It is essential to continue with the changed habits and keep the momentum going.”
Fr Martin Boland, Dean of the Cathedral parish, says small changes can have a long term impact and, above all, change attitudes. The Cathedral LiveSimply plan included encouraging parishioners to walk to Mass, to eat less meat, and even to make people smile. Other events were focused on specific issues such as undertaking an environmental audit of the parish buildings, highlighting areas for future action. The parish also changed all the light bulbs in the Cathedral (of which there are hundreds on the famous chandeliers) to low energy light bulbs.
“By making choices to live sustainably and simply, we shift attitudes, make change possible and act as responsible stewards of creation,” says Fr Martin. “In this way, the smallest action releases a ripple of hope whose energy can be harnessed for the common good of man and the environment.”
Parishes which are already pursuing the award or have expressed an interest are: English Martyrs and Holy Trinity, Danbury and South Woodham Ferrers; St Teresa’s Lexden; Our Lady & St George, Walthamstow; Most Holy Redeemer, Billericay; and Christ the Eternal High Priest, Gidea Park.
Pictures by David Worsfold