If you are reading this, it is quite probably because you would like to be part of helping your parish “listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” Hopefully you will find others to work with you and form a Laudato Si’ group in your parish. This could be also be a natural part of the work of an existing Cafod or J&P group. For all that you are already doing, and all that you hope to do – thank you.
Every parish is different – in size, location, type of land and buildings, and much else besides. Some of the ideas below may already be in place in your parish, and some may not be possible. We have tried to give as wide a selection as we can – and welcome new ideas, especially ones that have worked in your parish – email us at [email protected] – and include a couple of photos, too!
We can all keep learning from each other – and a helpful beginning is to use the varied examples from the Laudato Si’ Invitations, Commitments and Actions document to see how four of our parishes got started :
Prayer and Parish Liturgies
Prayer will always be a vital part of how we respond to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” As a parish, it is a powerful witness to the whole congregation when prayers focused on Climate Change, and the world’s poorest, are part of the weekly rhythm of the Intercessions.
On particular Feast Days (such as St Francis of Assisi, 4th October, St Oscar Romero, 24th March, or St Katharine Drexel, 3rd March) there can be a special focus on the Saints whose lives, actions and writings, over centuries, helped to shape Pope Francis’ thinking when he wrote Laudato Si’.
In the Season of Creation (1st September – 4th October) there could be additional liturgies and Masses. This could be a moment for a 40 Hours of Adoration, or a Novena to St Francis. This could also be a time for a Harvest celebration, encouraging parishioners to bring something they have grown at home, with the food then given to a local charity that feeds people who are homeless. You will find excellent resources to support parish prayer in this season (and throughout the year) at: https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Season-of-Creation
Once a year, around 4th October, will be the time for parishioners to renew their individual pledges. If these are displayed within the church, it will be the time for the display to be renewed. As people remember their pledge from the year before it can be both a time of celebration and reflection, and as new pledges are made, this can be a moment wrapped in prayer, shared by the whole community.
Awards for your parish – Cafod LiveSimply Award and Fair Trade Church Award
Help accredit your parish with key standards that show you are “Listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
The Cafod LiveSimply Award, and the Fair Trade Foundation Fair Trade Church Award are both supported with truly excellent resources, and very responsive teams to help with any questions that you have.
To achieve either you will need a small group – maybe three or four people – to prepare the application, and then (for LiveSimply) a larger group to ensure the parish keeps to the promises made. You will find the application forms, resources, and step by step guides at:
The difference these awards make is immense, both in raising awareness, and in changing the ways the parish spends money. The awards ensure that when we purchase resources we are attentive to where they have been produced, what they are made from, and how they can be recycled. They ensure that as a parish we live “simply, sustainably, and in solidarity with the poor”, and that nothing we buy is the result of exploitation or forced labour elsewhere in the world. The awards also help enhance charitable work within the parish, especially acts of service within the community. It is all a powerful witness, and a direct way to live our Catholic faith by means of practical action.
There are parishes in the Diocese who already have these awards – email [email protected] and we will link you with one of them for tips and hints about the application, and to share good ideas. Use the same email, please, to tell us when you are applying, and when you are successful. How wonderful it would be if every parish had these two accreditations.
Changes with minimal financial cost, and quick impact
There are several very simple things that can be done, that will have almost no financial cost (and could even save money), and do a very great deal to raise awareness and protect nature.
Rewild part of the parish grounds. Pretty much every parish will have a garden, or some grounds, and with a dedicated small group this can be transformed into a haven for bees and butterflies, bugs and insects. It is not as simple as not cutting the grass (though that is a start) and it does take some care to get it going properly, but it costs just a few packs of seeds and some volunteer time. For good info about how to get started look at the Rewilding Britain website and tips from Springwatch on the RHS website.
Fit some cycle racks. The cost is about £150 – £200 and it may well be that a parishioner would donate money for this specific item. Fit them near to the church doors, if you can – it is better for security, and raises awareness. Tie it in with promoting walking or cycling to church, and for those who do not have the mobility to do this, with car sharing.
Have a careful look at parish heating and lighting. Are buildings being heated and lit when they are not in use? This, of course, is both costing money and wasting energy. Investing in good timers, and liaising carefully with hall users, can lead to great savings. One obvious thought is if your hall users don’t come in at half terms or holidays, but your heating and lighting stays on. It is more work to override settings, etc., but every bit of energy wasted is a cost to God’s creation, and to the poorest people in it.
Change bulbs to LED. Gradually, as bulbs go, use LED. In most cases you’ll be able to use existing fittings – but do check carefully. It can be an issue on dimmable fittings. LED bulbs last for many years and use very, very little energy.
For more tips around energy, including larger items such as reviewing your house, hall and church insulation, and fitting solar panels or ground source heating, have a look at the excellent website of the Energy Saving Trust: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/
The Laudato Si’ Institute and Guardians of Creation national Catholic projects are also doing very significant work here, and this will be shared across the Diocese during 2022.
Discover Natural Beauty Spots in your community – and help to look after them
This is also cost-free, and high impact. Within almost every parish – and certainly within every partnership area – there will be one or more parks. Across the Diocese there are areas of national significance – look at the page dedicated to this to discover the amazing beauty less than an hour from where you live, and perhaps just a few minutes away.
Think about what your parish could do:
A Saturday walk, through places of natural beauty in the parish. It could be a Rosary walk, with a decade prayed in each new place of beauty. It could include games for children and families. You could ask people to ensure their lunch contained no plastic, as a little extra challenge. Or treat walkers to a bar of Fair Trade chocolate.
Linking with a local park that needs volunteers. This includes every local park, and every location looked after by the Wildlife Trust (London or Essex), Thames Chase, or the RSPB. Perhaps there are already parishioners who volunteer in such a way? Could they tell their story at Mass one week, to inspire others? Our retreat house for young people, Walsingham House at Abbotswick, would also love extra volunteers to assist those already looking after the 14 acres of grounds each Monday. Email [email protected] to find out more.
A parish picnic in a place further afield. Have a look at the page full of natural beauty spots within Essex and East London: https://www.dioceseofbrentwood.net/laudatosi/laudato-si-our-beautiful-diocese/