Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Medieval Tree Hugger and the Reluctant Franciscan

It's confession time.

Thirty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II proclaimed that Saint Francis of Assisi would be the patron saint of those who promote ecology.

Five years ago, I walked into my interview to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity.

Honesty in the interview was important to me, because I figured that if I didn't make it through the interview then it was not the right Community for me. So when I was asked how I felt about protecting the environment, I said, "I am glad that so many people care for the environment so I don't have to." Sure, I cared about the earth. However I was more concerned about the 1.2 million abortions performed in in the United States each year, the number of soldiers going off to war, Invisible Children, the genocide in Darfur, human trafficking, teenage suicide, domestic violence, elder abuse, and global poverty. I had enough on my plate.

I was granted entrance, and in the years that followed I experienced a certain degree of cognitive dissonance. I loved Francis, and I knew that caring for creation was important to him. I loved becoming a Franciscan, and I was aware that the environment is important to Franciscans. However, I wasn't feeling the whole Save the Planet thing. Still, I went along with it. I was even in a YouTube video that featured our service project in which we cleaned up a beach alongside Lake Michigan:
I figured that I'd fake it 'til I made it.

Yet the thing to truly convert me to environmentalism was living on an island. You can't run from caring for the earth when your bit of earth is just 552 square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A sobering moment for me was when a member of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Foundation brought in a pile of trash that a seal ate and died. My best teachers though, were my students, who in their innocence see the world as it is meant to be:

Two of my former students hugging a tree in Koke'e State Park
So there you have it. I am officially concerned with the environment. Here's the best part: putting these concerns into action is relatively simple!

On a local level, at Saint Theresa Convent in Kauai, we recycle and compost everything we can. As a result, the amount of trash that we contribute to the landfill has been cut in half! This truly amazes us, and we can't help but think of the impact it would have on our planet if everyone was committed to recycling and composting.
These are our recycling bins that we use for sorting. We routinely bring our recyclables to the local recycling center.

This is our indoor compost bin. Every day, we empty it into our outdoor compost bin. We are careful not to put meat or fish products in there, among other things that we've been instructed should only go in landfills.
There are so many ways that we can all make positive changes in the health of our planet. In our Community, we Sisters were emailed a resource packet with many excellent ideas. It's a free download and is great for families and small communities! It is called "Earth as Our Home" and it's a project of Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth: http://www.sinsinawa.org/peace_justice/earthasourhome.pdf

We were also informed to save the date of October 4, 2014! Naturally, this date is significant on any Franciscan's calendar, because it's the Feast of St. Francis. However, this year that date will be significant for Catholics everywhere. The special event is called: Creating a Climate for Solidarity: From St. Francis to Pope Francis to YOU!
For more information, visit: http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/resources/feast-of-st-francis-2014/ If you are a youth minister, catechist, parish or school administrator, now is the time to begin planning.

A little extra time and attention can make a big difference!

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