Building Solidarity: Beyond Parish Boundaries
Ecological concern has now heightened our awareness of just how interdependent our world is. Some of the gravest environmental problems are clearly global. In this shrinking world, everyone is affected and everyone is responsible. … The universal common good can serve as a foundation for a global environmental ethic. Renewing the Earth, United States Catholic Bishops (1992)
As Catholics, we see ourselves as members of a universal church, tied to our brothers and sisters around the world as one family in Christ. Yet many parishes find making the international connection among the most challenging aspects of social ministry. With problems so great and so distant, it's often difficult for parishioners to see how they can make a difference. As a result, international concerns are often the last to be addressed. But, as the examples below demonstrate, this doesn't have to be the case. Here are modelsexamples of parishes working on behalf of their brothers and sisters for sustainable development and environmental protection in other lands.
Seeds of Hope
The Church of St. Anne in Fair Lawn, N.J., has incorporated international concerns into its environmental justice program through its education ministry and through a Seed/Pen Pal exchange program. In addition to studying local environmental concerns, the parish school, adult education, and confirmation preparation programs include speakers and materials on global ecological concerns. The parish sent seed packets to African missions to help promote sustainable agriculture. Parishioners are now establishing pen pals and other exchanges with African missionary communities.
International Trade Project
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Ore., has developed a trading project that combines assistance to a developing community with a recycling program in Lane County. The Society established a St. Vincent de Paul store in Belize City, Belize, and ships items there that would otherwise be discarded and sent to a local landfill. Lane County members have shipped clothing, office equipment, refrigerators, and books donated by local businesses, hospitals, churches, and individuals.
LPP Energy/Water Systems, Diocese of Brownsville,
The refugee shelter, La Posada Providencia, using the skills of the refugees themselves, seeks to install a solar hot water heater, a solar oven and a cistern. The goals of this sustainable lifestyle project are to conserve energy resources within one Catholic institution; teach refugees methods of sustainability using U.S. technology; and reduce the energy costs of a non-profit that receives little outside funding.