What Catholics Are Doing
Preserving the Community of Life: A Catholic Response to Climate Change
Already a recognized leader among Catholics in the Northeastern United States on environmental issues, the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich along with the Mercy Center (Sisters of Mercy) in Connecticut will use their skills and leadership to recruit 50 leaders to participate in one-day retreat and workshop on June 24, 2006 at Mercy Center in Madison, CT, in order to: share information about climate change and Church teaching; develop leadership and recruit them as members of the Connecticut Catholic Advocacy Network to work on climate change and related environmental and human health issues; and prepare them to educate and initiate action in Catholic parishes. As a result, Connecticut effort will:
- Recruit 25 parishes to do Caring for God's Creation Sign-up Sunday on the feast of St. Francis or another date of their choosing
- Enroll 25 households in each of 25 parishes as subscribers to the clean energy option offered by Connecticut electric utilities.
- Encourage full participation of the effort by the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the Connecticut Catholic Advocacy Network, a web-based lobbying network of over 4,000 members, the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford.
Greenbuilding the Diocese of Charlotte: Promoting Respect for God's Creation Through Faith, Understanding and Action
The Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, will conduct three regional conferences in conjunction with a diocesan-wide educational campaign to address the critical and related environmental concerns of global warming and poor air quality as well as the associated health impacts of these on the quality of life of people, especially vulnerable and marginalized groups. The conferences will be organized by a newly formed Greenbuilding environmental justice committee which is currently being identified by diocesan staff with the assistance of key parish leaders. The committee will be charged with recruitment for the three regional conferences, develop quality educational resources, place articles and editorials in local press, conduct additional workshops on climate change, discern action steps-including state legislative advocacy as well as corporate (parish facilities) and individual (homes and businesses) conservation measures-and broaden the overall awareness and understanding about climate change in the state of North Carolina.
Partners will include the North Carolina Council of Churches, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Committee and the Franciscan Spring Prayer Center
MICHIGAN (AND INDIANA)
Faith in Action to Address Global Climate Change
Led by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Monroe, Michigan, but with assistance from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters, the Dioceses of Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Lansing, Kalamazoo (all in Michigan) and the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana, together with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph, Kalamazoo and the Holy Cross Sisters, South Bend, Indiana, this project has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of Catholics and others in Michigan and Indiana. "Faith in Action" will become a formidable network of committed and resourceful individuals and institutions to carry forth this climate change project.
Through the development and utilization of top-notch educational resources (PowerPoint presentation and study guides) on global climate change and the moral responsibility to act, the partners will tour Michigan and Northern Indiana encouraging participants to develop local and regional policy agendas, particularly regarding energy consumption and generation. They will coordinate face-to-face meetings with legislators and other key representatives on related policy issues to build relationships, come to common understandings and, ultimately, change public policy so public utilities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, create cleaner air and slow climate change.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary community of women religious in Monroe, Michigan is uniquely qualified to lead this effort. One of their most significant accomplishments in the area of environmental responsibility was to encourage DTE Energy, an investor-owned utility in Michigan, to study the impact of climate change to its company. The report has been evaluated favorably by the socially responsible investment community.
Creating a Safe Environment for Our Children and Future Generations
The Diocese of Stockton, California, has become a leader among the 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in California on environmental justice issues. This grant will help them connect one of their important current environmental justice issues, air quality, with climate change.
By building local parish constituencies around environmental justice and air quality, the Diocese of Stockton will expand their network and bring a unique Catholic voice to the public policy debate in California's Central Valley and Sierra Nevada. In 2005, their efforts on Environmental Justice Sunday resulted in 15 parishes and thousands of individual Catholics becoming more aware of air quality and climate change in their community.
The Central Valley's air pollution is considered "extreme" by the EPA. This air pollution comes from many sources-agriculture, transportation, energy production-and contributes to unacceptably high rates of respiratory ailments including 300,000 cases of asthma and children and people of color suffer the most. Through additional education efforts, the diocese will engage Catholics on Church's teaching on the environment and actions they can take personally and in their parishes to not only improve air quality but substantially reduce energy use (transportation and utilities). As the project unfolds, diocesan staff will identify specific issues around which to conduct research and rally Catholics to advocate for public policies that promote clean air and reduce the effects of global climate change.
Diocesan staff is working closely with other concerned groups in the Central Valley including: The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, California Interfaith Power and Light, Fresno Metro Ministries, and the Coalition for Clean Air.
Sacred Air, Living Waters: Preservation of our Columbia River Watershed Commons
Many Northwestern U.S. citizens have a profound appreciation for the natural world as they live among this beauty. Leveraging this interest and responding to concerns about water quality and economic benefits of the Columbia River watershed, the Archdiocese of Portland partnered with other Northwestern dioceses in the U.S. and Canada to issue a pastoral letter on the Columbia River in 2001. This model is the inspiration for this new Archdiocesan effort. Drawing on the lessons learned then-particular the Catholic notion of the common good and of prudence-the Archdiocesan Environmental Justice Committee will partner with the University of Portland (a Catholic college) to produce educational materials, place articles in parish newsletters and the Archdiocesan newspaper and conduct workshops at 20 parishes on climate change. Out of this will surface new leaders who will work with other organizations in Oregon, such as the Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns and Oregon Interfaith Power & Light, to reduce the climate change footprint of Catholic facilities and individual residences. As the movement gains in numbers, strength and political savvy, they will advocate for public policies in Oregon that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Stewards of God's Creation
With the partnership of the New York State Catholic Conference, the Diocese of Rochester, New York, will build on current efforts to reduce power plant emissions in New York state and the Northeast region during the development of regulations for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. By training other diocesan staff on global climate change, encouraging other New York dioceses to integrate work on global climate change into their social ministry, and to raise awareness in the wider Catholic community throughout the state, this effort will be well-positioned to have a positive impact on climate change policies. As an added incentive, the Diocese of Rochester will offer small grants to other New York dioceses to integrate climate change efforts (education and advocacy) into their ongoing work for social justice. As dioceses integrate, they will highlight the potential impacts of climate change on New York's economy, health, and environment and how these impacts will affect poor people the most.
The partnership with the New York State Catholic Conference is already producing fruit. NYSCC is already highlighting emissions reduction into their legislative agenda. A state-wide diocesan training day is scheduled for the fall of 2006 and 25 diocesan leaders will become more aware of the educational and advocacy opportunities for integrating climate change into diocesan social justice agendas. Other partners will include Environmental Advocates of New York and New York State Interfaith Power and Light.
Honoring the Web of Life Across Appalachia
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia and the dioceses of central Appalachia (Lexington, Kentucky, Steubenville, Ohio, Wheeling, West Virginia, Knoxville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia will team-up to examine the significant and numerous environmental issues facing the Appalachian region as a result of an economic base built on both extractive industries (coal, oil, timber) and as the dumping ground for other communities toxic waste and trash. Residents of this region bring a unique perspective: for many their economic livelihood is in working in these industries. On the other hand, extraction and dumping contribute to environmental degradation, health and other economic problems in the region.
Into this mix steps the leadership of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia. The will begin by educating the leadership of the 27 dioceses that comprise the Appalachian region. The education process will continue with pastors, seminarians and other local faith community leaders so more and more Catholics will begin to connect climate change and a faith response. Then, state-by-state analysis will begin and legislative remedies identified that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life for citizens of the region. Efforts to address climate change will be coordinated, best practices identified, resources developed and distributed and alternative directions highlighted for public policy, theological understanding and concrete actions inspired by faith.
As the project unfolds, members of the Catholic Press Association will be invited on a "travel seminar" to explore the many facets of climate change in the Appalachian region.
Environmental Justice Study Action Team
The Peace and Justice staff of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has long been recognized within their archdiocese and around the country as leaders in organizing and advocating for social justice. This project will build on that tradition and reach out to Catholics in parishes so they become more fully aware of and engaged in the social, economic and environmental costs of global warming in Minnesota.
Their plan is to form a 25-member Environmental Justice Action Team (the "action team" model has had much success for the Archdiocese on a variety of other economic and social justice issues). They will both guide the work of and become advocates for staff identified by the Office of Social Justice and Congregations Caring for Creation, a local partner. A goal of 150 participants will attend a fall "kick-off" event (October 29, 2006) followed by three other larger events in the spring. At the same time, the EJAT will encourage other Minnesota dioceses and the state Catholic conference to become more engaged in the issue. Out of this leadership development and general awareness phase, the EJAT will be in a position to advocate for legislation that will increase the use of renewable energy in the state and decrease harmful greenhouse gases.
Climate Change, Energy and Justice: A Catholic Approach
Teaming up with the National Catholic Rural Life Conference-long recognized as a leader in the contributions of farmers and ranchers in the fight against environmental harm (including climate change)-the Diocese of Des Moines will work to raise awareness and invite common action by Catholics in the diocese on global climate change and related energy issues.
Their education efforts will focus on understanding Iowa's contributions to greenhouse gas emissions through energy use and opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through agricultural products (carbon sequestration and opportunities for biofuels) and reducing energy use in parishes and Catholic homes. Advocacy efforts will be to encourage legislative advocacy on climate change policy, renewable energy, and energy efficiency and conservation. They will coordinate their efforts with the Iowa Interfaith Energy and Climate Campaign and the diocesan building commissions.