The idea that many small actions by many ordinary people in many small places have the potential to achieve large global milestones is something that should be kept in mind when tackling complex issues such as the environment.
Think big, but act small and concretely, doing what is within each person’s reach. This is the impulse that leads us not to remain impassive in the face of a seemingly unmanageable phenomenon such as climate change.
For this reason, in 2021, a small group of Caritas volunteers in a parish in a town in Valencia decided to create a space for prayer, awareness and action for the care of the “common home”. Since the space was concerned about caring for our common home, it did not seem unreasonable that the initiative should be kept within the Caritas parish. After all, if there is one thing that characterizes Caritas, it is its expertise in providing care.
Moreover, environmental problems have a more incisive and pressing effect on those people and populations with greater economic difficulties. In other words, people living in poverty suffer more from the effects of climate change. Or as Laudato Si’ says, “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental” (LS 139). Therefore, a more conscious care leads us to the ecological conversion that Pope Francis asks of us.
With all this in mind, the Caritas Natura volunteer group in Riba-roja de Túria began its work. Among all the volunteers dedicated to different areas – shelter, employment, family and childhood project, awareness, etc. – a very small number of volunteers, seven in particular at the beginning, joined this initiative.
These volunteers decided to shape things through dialogue and sharing and listening to each other about what this new space could be. Together, they agreed to generate moments for contemplation, awareness and action around our “common home” and its care. Thus, every year, from October to July, at least three moments are planned: one of prayer, one of reflection and, finally, one of action.
The pillar of ecospirituality
We begin in autumn with a prayer in nature. This is a time when, through the reading of the Word, music and silence, everyone can become aware of the beauty of creation and give thanks for it. Prayer in a natural setting allows us to perceive more deeply the immensity of God’s love that has woven links between all of creation.
In particular, the Caritas Natura group in Riba-roja has conducted prayers along the Turia River as it passes through the town. At first, the prayer was shared only with volunteers involved in Caritas Natura. Later, it was opened to all the volunteers of this Caritas. Finally, it was extended to other groups in the parish community. Last June, for example, the last Confirmation class of the parish enjoyed the prayer for creation prepared by Caritas Natura during their retreat before receiving the sacrament.
Promoting new and simpler lifestyles
Awareness-raising is usually proposed towards the end of winter, during which a meeting is held to present and discuss a series of environmental issues.
Caritas Natura volunteers prepared a presentation with data on what a lifestyle centered on consumerism is doing to the environment and to many populations living in poverty. Issues such as the misuse of water, transportation, energy abuse, food, fast fashion, among others, are treated with figures and concrete data.
Afterwards, a dialogue is held on each topic to encourage joint reflection. To make this moment more pleasant and welcoming, a snack is offered with 0 km ecological products, prepared at home or in local businesses, all with the least possible amount of packaging. In addition, for future years, there are plans to hold a film forum on Laudato Si’ Movement’s movie “The Letter“.
Finally, the last step is focused on some joint action to bring all of the above together. This time, Caritas Natura Riba-roja volunteers decided to carry out a waste cleanup in the Turia Natural Park, next to the town.
To this end, they contacted the Natural Park Foundation and the City Council, and disseminated this proposal to other parish groups and through social networks. Around 60 people attended the event. Particularly noteworthy was the response of two groups: the parish group of the Junior Diocesan Movement (Grup Foc) and the group of minors of the IFAM project (Childhood, Family, Adolescence and Women) of the parish Caritas of Riba-roja.
In addition, people who are part of other associations for the care of the environment and political authorities attended the waste collection event. In the future, other actions are planned to collaborate in the recovery of the Turia Natural Park.
All in all, these are small steps that promote awareness of the importance of environmental care.