NEW YORK – Following goals laid out by Laudato Si’, a new “Care for Creation” ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, will aim to educate local Catholics about the environment, and inspire them to act to protect it both at home and in their communities.

The archdiocese announced the new ministry on Earth Day, April 22. Terri Nelson, the archdiocese’s director of Integral Human Development, will lead the ministry with the initial task of developing and executing a strategic plan that both educates and inspires local Catholics.

Announcing the ministry, Nelson highlighted that love for the environment is core to the Catholic identity.

“Often people don’t equate their love for the environment with their Catholic faith, when  indeed it’s core to who we are as Catholics,” Nelson said in a statement. “Pope Francis expands on this by teaching us that caring for our common home is more than the environment – it includes caring for the poorest among us who are most often impacted by today’s dire climate issues.”

Published in 2015, Laudato Si’, is Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical.

The new ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle will be based on the Laudato Si’ action platform, which outlines seven goals, along with guides, tools and assessments, to help individuals and organizations learn about climate issues and develop effective ways to respond.

The action platform’s seven goals are: Response to the cry of the earth, response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adaptation of sustainable lifestyle, ecological education, ecological spirituality, and community resilience and empowerment.

Nelson said using the action plan will help people learn more about the present environmental crisis.

“We will use the foundation of the Laudato Si’ action platform here in the Archdiocese of Seattle so that our parishes, schools, and the people of God can learn more about this urgent crisis and take action,” Nelson said.

While not final, the archdiocese has published a working draft of its “Laudato Si’ Action Plan 2024,” which highlights potential initiatives relating to each one of the action plan goals.

One proposal in the archdiocese’s working draft plan is conducting an audit of the archdiocese’s energy use, and supplying each parish with energy audit kits. It also proposes implementing carbon footprint trackers and carbon offset programs.

Other proposals relate to ensuring the archdiocese is making ethical investments, and divesting from investments that aren’t environmentally friendly, establishing an annual review of its compensation and benefit philosophy, and turning to remote work options to reduce office energy consumption and vehicle emissions on the road.

Further, the working draft plan proposes the creation of an Archdiocesan Care for Creation Task Force that incorporates youth, young adults, business leaders, and experts from parishes to guide future planning for the archdiocese. It also proposes the development of creation-based liturgies and prayers for the faithful, and a Mass for the care of creation.

The new “Care for Creation” ministry follows a separate environmental initiative the archdiocese embarked on about two years ago, where it sold and agreed to redevelop four of its properties to create affordable housing and steer that specific neighborhood towards carbon neutrality.

At the time, Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle said “redeveloping our real estate in a very efficient and sustainable way not only reflects our Catholic value for our common home, but also provides us with resources to carry out our greater mission of bringing Christ to others.”

Etienne said the archdiocese’s new ministry signals its commitment to earth and the poor.

“The challenge to protect our common home and the whole human family is urgent and an integral part of our Catholic faith,” Etienne said in a statement. “It is through creation that we can grow closer to God and to each other – and why it is so imperative that we become even better stewards of God’s creation.”

“This ministry signals our commitment to the earth and the poor and will both educate and inspire people to personal conversion and action to do the same,” Etienne added.

Earth Day was established as an international day back in 1970 to raise awareness about the world’s environmental challenges, and inspire efforts to address them. In an April 22 Earth Day statement, Pope Francis highlighted how the present generation has failed to protect the planet and safeguard peace.

“Our generation has bequeathed many riches, but we have failed to protect the planet and we are not safeguarding peace,” Pope Francis said. “We are called to become artisans and caretakers of our common home, the Earth which is ‘falling into ruin.’”

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