By KATHY POWELL, Special To The Bulletin | Published April 15, 2010
From demonstrating how to make and use low-cost, non-toxic cleaners around the house to hosting environment-themed movie nights, the social justice committee at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta has been finding ways to educate and motivate parishioners to take action to care for God’s creation.
In early 2009, the 15-member committee turned to Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (GIPL), an organization that engages faith communities in stewardship of God’s creation, and to Catholic Charities Atlanta’s Parish & Social Justice Ministries, to identify other Catholics interested in environmental issues.
“We found there was no organized group of parish green teams,” said Nancy Sestak, chairperson of IHM’s committee and of the first archdiocesan-wide Catholic Earth Day celebration.
“Our parish committee felt strongly that if we could bring together concerned Catholics we could grow the public, Catholic presence on issues of the environment,” she said.
Susan Sullivan, director of Parish & Social Justice Ministries at Catholic Charities Atlanta, agreed and organized a meeting this past summer to unite various parishes and GIPL. She said, “Our role … was to facilitate a discussion among the various lead parishes that were already involved with caring for the environment. That effort quickly blossomed into the need for a specific event to rally Catholics and get more people involved.”
Aside from IHM, the planning committee now includes parishioners from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Atlanta, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Smyrna, Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, and St Jude the Apostle, Atlanta, as well as representatives from Catholic Charities Atlanta, GIPL and the Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center.
The purpose of the Catholic Earth Day celebration is to highlight the uniquely Catholic component of environmental stewardship, which includes a responsibility to help the poor and vulnerable who are most greatly impacted by environmental change and to motivate Catholics to take action in their own parishes and daily lives. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops makes the call to care for the Earth quite clear by calling it “a requirement of our faith … that cannot be ignored” and saying “We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”
The Catholic Earth Day celebration will be held on Sunday, April 25, from 2-7 p.m. at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center, 6700 Riverside Dr. NW, Atlanta.
The event will start at 2 p.m. with an opening prayer and will feature four speakers who will share perspectives on the impact of water and care for water resources. An outdoor Mass (weather permitting) will be celebrated at
5 p.m. with Jesuit Father Edd Salazar. A reception will follow with tips for daily conservation and the opportunity to sign up for community projects. This event is free and open to all.
“We are thrilled to have the event at Ignatius House so people can see the beautiful and powerful resource we have in the Chattahoochee River.” said Maria Cressler, Ignatius House executive director. “The day will focus around water issues with a speaker from the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers and breakout sessions highlighting personal stories of environmental impact, both locally and internationally, to help people connect the river they can see with the people who are most greatly impacted by environmental change whom they cannot always see.”
Archdiocesan Catholic Earth Day Celebration
Sunday, April 25, 2-7 p.m.
Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center
6700 Riverside Dr. NW, Atlanta
Space is limited, so registration is preferred and carpooling is encouraged. Register at www.catholiccharitiesatlanta.org or call Ignatius House at (404) 255-0503 for more information.