The following story was written by staff at Ascension Parish in Oak Park, Illinois, USA, as a testimony to their involvement with the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The submission has been edited for brevity and clarity. Learn more about the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by joining Laudato Si’ Week, to take place from May 22-29.
Ascension Parish in Oak Park, Illinois, USA, is a vital Catholic church, school, and community, established in 1907. Ascension has a vibrant Creation Care Ministry created at the launch of Laudato Si’ in 2015.
It’s called HOME, Honoring Our Mother Earth, and the acronym connects to the subtitle of the encyclical, “Caring For Our Common Home.” We function under the umbrella of our long-standing and vibrant Peace and Justice Committee.
We are inspired by the comprehensiveness and integral ecology eloquence in Laudato Si’, and we feel the Holy Spirit at our backs. There was and is a great reception for it in our church and community. Environmental advocates and activists were waiting for an opportunity to do this faith-based work.
We yearn for parishioners to take more actions to remediate climate change, and we hope they hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Some Creation Care accomplishments of Ascension’s HOME team and other ministries since 2015:
- Laudato Si’ Gardens Galore! We hear the cry of the marginalized and help with food insecurity. And we attract pollinators and Monarchs with our native plant gardens.
- A large Community Veggie Garden with over 14 raised beds where over a ton of produce is grown and donated each growing season to our sister church, St. Martin de Porres in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, for the food insecure. This is a mutual effort with a team from each church
- Two student STEM veggie beds and a hydroponic garden
- Several native flower and plant gardens as well as beautiful annual and perennial flowers, including three Mary gardens and one with St. Jude.
- We launched our Zero Waste effort in the school lunchroom and throughout the parish. On launch day in the school lunchroom, we got down from 83 percent to 15 percent landfill!
- We have taught a Laudato Si’ four-day Religion class to sixth through eighth graders; spoken to the teachers and school staff; shared Laudato Si’ information, books, and resources; and helped create a Creation Care Green Club with the students.
- Lenten Carbon Fasts for five years in a row to assess our carbon footprint and reduce energy use, waste, and consumption in line with Catholic Social Teaching.
- We had an energy audit, funded by Faith In Place, in 2015. We have begun to make these upgrades to save money and energy.
- We yearn to meet people where they are and engage them. An interactive project is being planned to get “cool points” for doing actions to reduce energy, waste, and consumption. Making it fun can and will engage more people. We need the masses!
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