By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published April 28, 2016
SMYRNA—Justice and Peace Ministries of the Archdiocese of Atlanta encourages parish groups, schools and families to plant a Laudato Si’ tree in celebration of Earth Day 2016.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory launched the campaign by blessing and planting a donated white dogwood tree on the grounds of the Chancery in Smyrna April 21.
The tree planting also marked the recent introduction of the “Laudato Si’ Action Plan: On Care for Our Common Home,” developed with University of Georgia scientists. The action plan, a response to Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for the earth, offers concrete steps to preserve the planet for future generations.
“Trees are very important in Scripture,” said Archbishop Gregory. “They represent fidelity and goodness.”
The cedars of Lebanon represent justice, while the olive tree bears fruit and is a symbol of peace, he noted. The dogwood, with its four white petals and crown-like center, has long been a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Each petal has a red piercing resembling nail indentations on the tip.
The tree will enhance the beauty of the surroundings for visitors and “remind us that God’s creation is still going on,” said Archbishop Gregory.
Surrounded by Chancery employees and guests, he prayed that all would renew the covenant to stand against threats to life. “Refresh it with the dew of heaven,” he said in blessing the tree. Following the prayer, the archbishop scooped the first shovels full of red soil around the tree.
The tree was donated by Ricky O’Connell, St. Pius X High School graduate and owner of Personal Touch Lawn Care in Atlanta. A certified master gardener, O’Connell and his crew attended the ceremony.
Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries, said the action plan provides easy, moderate and complex steps to care for the earth. This simple action of planting a tree can “bring to life the spirit of the encyclical,” said Doyle.
In addition to its beauty, a tree or flowering bush can have many purposes, such as providing shade or support to pollinators or blooms in memory of a loved one for a prayer garden. Planting trees native to Georgia, such as the dogwood, is also recommended. In addition to the action plan, local agricultural extension offices can provide tips on soil preparation, tree selection and care of trees.
“Consider planting your own Laudato Si’ tree,” said Doyle. “Think about where it makes the most sense.”
A marker will note the occasion of the tree’s planting at the Chancery as it blooms and grows for years to come.
A downloadable copy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s “Laudato Si’” Action Plan is available in English and Spanish by visiting www.archatl.com/catholic-life/refreshatl/.