Celebrating a Year of Creation in the Green Mountain State

The Diocese of Burlington has begun a year of incorporating creation into the life of a local church

While eco advocates in the United States face a change of presidential administrations—and likely an unwelcome shift in emphasis on issues like climate change and energy use—Vermont’s Diocese of Burlington has kicked off a Year of Creation to help bring the message of environmental stewardship into the life of the church.

His Excellency, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne called for the yearlong observance “without hesitation” during preparations for last fall’s global Season of Creation, when he and diocesan staff were considering the many Catholic eco-resources available, including those focused on bringing to life Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si'.

Stephanie Clary, Mission Outreach & Communication Coordinator for the diocese, told Catholic Ecology that once the bishop gave the word for the Year of Creation, the diocese “took it and ran with it.”

See an interview here with Bishop Coyne discussing the Year of Creation at WCAX TV, Burlington.

Clary said her office is heading up special events and liturgical observances for the year, but that every diocesan office is being asked to incorporate environmental stewardship, or some acknowledgement of the Church’s teachings on creation, into their particular missions.

A first practical step taken by the diocese is partnering with the Vermont-based Commons Energy—a non-profit subsidiary of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation—to offer energy efficiency studies. While Commons Energy does not engage in renewable energy efforts, they will advise those interested in renewables on where to go and who to work with.

Clary said that even at this early date, fifteen parish buildings have already signed up for the audits, out of some 73 in the diocese that would qualify. “And many of these were built in the early twentieth century,” Clary said, which make them especially good candidates for energy efficiency work.

The diocese is also adding food-waste composting to its daily operations. A special training presentation was held just a few days ago and made available to local parishes live on Facebook. (Composting is, of course, an important addition to our lifestyles—at home and at parish functions. Rather than landfill the food we throw out, our wasted food becomes a reusable resource for gardens, farms, and home landscaping.)

Several liturgical events are planned, including a special Stations of the Cross on the first Friday in Lent. ... On the other side of Holy Week, a vesper service planned for Mercy Sunday will focus on the statement of Mercy for Our Common Home.

But the year is not all about the worldly. Several liturgical events are planned, including a special Stations of the Cross on the first Friday in Lent. Clary said that the observance will use the Way of the Cross on the Path to Eco Conversion, developed by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary of the Philippines. After the devotion, the diocese will serve a simple soup dinner and offer discussions on eco practices, especially those related to Lent, such as abstaining from meat.

On the other side of Holy Week, a vesper service planned for Mercy Sunday will focus on the statement of Mercy for Our Common Home.

Other events will include a diocesan conference in the fall, timed for the worldwide Season of Creation, as well as Catholic students participating in eco service projects this spring.

Clary added that a college student on the Year of Creation's organizing committee will be helping the diocese stress the connections between issues of eco-justice and those of the traditional pro-life movement.

“Hopefully we can inspire others,” Clary said about the big year ahead.

Chances are that’s exactly what will happen. In fact the Diocese of Burlington has already heard form Catholic neighbors in New Hampshire and in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York about sharing recourses on local eco activities.

You’ll want to stay tuned for much more from Burlington. As always, keep watching Catholic Ecology for news on what may very well be one of the top Catholic eco stories in 2017. And while you’re waiting, how about inquiring what your diocese and parish can do to keep creation as beautiful and pristine as the way God gave it to us?

And one more thing. How about we all add our prayers for Bishop Coyne, our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Burlington, and for the success of their most inspired Year of Creation.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.