My parish school went solar today

What better way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Laudato Si’ then to bless and turn on a 50kW solar array at your parish school?

As the Catholic eco-world entered a week of celebration, reflection, and study in recognition of the one-year anniversary of Laudato Si’, my pastor and two students at our parish school flipped the switch to its newly installed 50-kilowatt solar energy system.

Helping us were many of the school’s students, parents, faculty, local officials, and the press. (Stay tuned for those stories to be posted soon.)

Father Matthew Glover, the pastor of Saints Rose and Clement (pictured above blessing the solar panels) hit just the right balance in his remarks of solar cheerleading and rooting our thanks in Jesus Christ. Father Matt also gave thanks to his predecessor, Father Edward Wilson, who began the project. (As a side note, I should add that the first parish in the Diocese of Providence to undertake such a project was Father Matt's home parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Bristol. Congrats goes to that pastor, too, Father Henry Zinno.)

I was especially appreciative of a quote Father Matt used by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,S.J. It's one of my favorites. “Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

After raising our minds and hearts with his words, Father Matt climbed a ladder to access the roof. There he blessed the solar panels, and then the onlookers. This was all accompanied by the beautiful song of students—first singing All Creatures of Our God and King and then Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.

Saint Rose of Lima School students singing
during the solar blessings

Now really, can you get much better than that?

Well, yes you can.

As always, this was a moment for faith and reason to come together, as well as Church and State.

Carol Grant, the commissioner of Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources came to cheer on the school and speak about the state’s commitment to clean energy. The school's new net-metered solar facility was funded in part with $146,568 from Carol’s office (through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative “Solar on Schools” program), and another $57,500 from the Commerce RI Renewable Energy Fund. (Thank you, OER!)

Scott Avedisian, the Mayor of the City of Warwick, also came to congratulate the school, as this project was the first time a faith community in Warwick has taken advantage of renewables. Scott, who is a friend of mine, has been a champion of sustainability and renewable energy throughout his sixteen-years as mayor.

Lastly we heard from Julian Dash—the brains behind the project. Julian’s firm Clean Economy Development oversaw the project from start to finish.

Dash explained that the system, which was interconnected on May 16th, will produce approximately 65,000 kWh of electricity annually, covering approximately 30% of the schools electricity needs, and saving the school over $11,000 annually in electricity costs.

Rhode Island's Office of Energy Resources
commissioner Carol Grant is interviewed
by Peter Arpin of (and
a fellow parishioner at SS Rose and Clement)

As part of the grant, the school had an educator attend valuable training on both in-class education supplements that can be added to the curriculum, as well as instruction on how to identify and pursue additional building energy efficient measures.

This will certainly be put to good use. School principal Kim Izzi explained today that she has big plans to incorporate sustainability and renewable energy into the schools curriculum. Stay tuned for more on that!

For now, the project and the day's blessings caught the attention of national and international Catholic eco-leaders.

"With the commissioning of this solar system at St. Rose School, the faculty, staff and students are living up to the challenges from Pope Francis in Laudato Si'," said Dan Misleh of the Catholic Climate Covenant in a message to the school for this event. "As Pope Francis said, we have to begin to transition to cleaner forms of energy if we are going to provide a safe future for our children. This program is also a witness to the wider community: the families of the students, the neighbors, and all of Warwick. Congratulations to St. Rose School and to the parishioners of Saints Rose and Clement Parish!"

Tomás Inusa of the Global Catholic Climate Movement also sent words of congratulations.

OER's Carol Grant, myself, Mayor Scott Avedisian,
and Julian Dash listening to the students practice their singing.

“St. Rose of Lima School is Warwick will be joining Catholics from across the world who are taking concrete steps to live out Laudato Si’,” said Insua. “From Rome to Manilla, from Ireland to Argentina, and From Kenya to Sydney, ordinary Catholics and Church officials will be acknowledging the need to put Pope Francis’s words into action. I’m delighted that the Diocese of Providence will be represented in this week-long global celebration through the efforts of Saints Rose and Clement Parish."

In all, the day and the project brought Laudato Si’ to life not simply by installing solar energy, but also in how this was achieved.

The project required the cooperation of priests, private energy companies, state officials, school staff and faculty, the city and its officials, and many others. This sort of dialogue and cooperation is exactly what Pope Francis is calling us to in Laudato Si’. And so it was an blessing today to celebrate the one-year anniversary of that encyclical by seeing it action and hearing the song of students who will benefit from it for many, many years to come.

Father Matthew Glover and two students celebrate after flipping the solar switch on at today's blessing and ceremonial activation of the Saint Rose of Lima School 50 kW solar energy system.


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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.