Archdiocesan program addresses faithful sustainability
By Walt Schaefer
For The Catholic Telegraph
Exploring how the local church can reduce its environmental impact brought parish facilities managers and homeowners to St. John the Evangelist Parish in West Chester April 25
About 25 facilities managers and an equal number of homeowners from across Greater Cincinnati and Dayton gathered to hear presentations from representatives of Duke Energy, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and Lighting and Solar Solutions.
“We are anticipating the encyclical from Pope Francis this summer on the environment. That motivated us,” said Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office. “Even beyond that, the archdiocese has expressed an interest in wanting to find more ways to get to the institutions it owns as well as encouraging parishes to find more ways to be better stewards of the environment and lowering our footprint on the environment.
Editor’s Note: www.thecatholictelegraph.com will have daily coverage of the release of the much-anticipated encyclical, which Vatican Sources say will be named Laudato Sii, when it is published later this month.
“One of the biggest things we can do is create greater energy efficiency. This is a way for us to lower our utility bills as well as our carbon footprint and the other footprints that affect the environment. What took place at the event was really a practical best practices review by real industry leaders about lowering energy consuming — such things as more efficient lighting, better HVAC (heating/air conditioning) systems and general practices about how to make parishes more energy efficient and not waste energy.
“We had a separate track for parishioners we called the household track. Basically, after some general understanding about church teaching on caring for God’s creation, we split everybody up into facilities track and household track groups,” Stieritz said.
“The folks in the household track took people on a ‘tour of the Joneses house’. They created this scenario where the Joneses made a decision to try to be more environmentally friendly. We walked through their yard and we had a speaker from the Marianist Environmental Education Center who talked about native plants and ways you can create a home for birds and butterflies in your yard. Then we moved into the house — the kitchen, the utility room, and different areas – and talked about how best to conserve energy,” he said.
“Actually, I learned something for myself.” Stieritz said. “I’m currently trying to spruce up my yard in places and I actually found that the native plant talk was very helpful. I’m planning a rain garden for some areas in my yard that puddle up when we get these never-ending rains. There are things you can do that are environmentally sound and that can help you.”
The archdiocese is responding to the universal call from the Holy Father. There are many ways parish facilities and homeowners can make concrete advances to lower the impact on the environment and benefit financially. “We only have one way to go, and it’s to adopt the many good practices out there,” Stieritz said
“Taking care of God’s creation been taught for a long time, but the opportunities today relate to new technologies that are so much better than they used to be and we learned a lot about them,” Stieritz said.
The program was well received and preliminary planning to offer the program at another location in the archdiocese has begun but the event may be a year away.
Posted June 2, 2015