Stewardship of Creation has always been part of the Tradition of the Catholic Church. From the Creation stories in Genesis to the principles of Catholic social teaching and papal encyclicals on caring for our common home, the Church reiterates our call to take what God has gifted to us and use it for greater good.
Through its inaugural Creation Series, entitled “In the Beginning,” the Diocese is delving deeper into our very beginnings and our role as stewards of God’s creation.
The eight-part series is taking place in various parishes throughout the Diocese through October 2, and commenced with a Care for Creation Mass celebrated by Bishop Timothy Senior on Saturday, September 9 at St. Katharine Drexel Church in Mechanicsburg.
“So often in our world today, issues related to the environment have been part of the ongoing chaos of political discussion…. As Christians, like in so many other issues, we have to rise above that and see the greater good beyond the party lines,” the bishop said in his homily during the Mass, which was livestreamed via the parish.
From the hymns celebrating the earth and its creations, to the First Reading from the First Story of Creation, and the Gospel Reading of the Parable of the Talents, the Mass underscored the gift and beauty of creation and our responsibility to care for it.
“As we gather here today, we call to mind a very important gift that God has given to each one of us. As people created in His image and likeness, we are entrusted with so many things – our bodies, our spirits, our minds, our hearts. We are also entrusted with God’s creation and to participate in God’s ongoing work of Creation,” Bishop Senior said.
The faithful servant in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) “reminds us that, as Christians, God entrusts us with talents, with gifts, with so many blessings, and we are called to bear fruit and be fruitful in our lives,” the bishop remarked. “We are called to take what God has given us and to have it grow into our participation in the building of the Kingdom of God. The parable also reminds us there is an accountability associated with that…to take what God has given us and use it for the greater good.”
The Creation Stories reveal that God created us in His Divine Image. As such, “Our lives must be patterned on that image of God and be reflected in all that we do,” Bishop Senior said. “We work to conform our actions, our lives, our choices, our priorities, to the vision of God. How God cares for creation is how we should care for creation. God only brings out goodness and fruitfulness. He brings about life.”
He encouraged the congregation that while we can lament over the exploitation of creation that has taken place, that’s not where change is found. We are called as disciples to work to restore the balance and order in nature.
“Small matters are where it begins,” Bishop Senior said. “In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis talks about how we can care for the environment and have that sense of understanding when we call to mind the little way of Therésè of Lisieux.”
Small actions – recycling, picking up trash, making good choices as consumers – can have a positive impact, he said. “By examining our lifestyles, we can reveal simple ways in which we can make a difference and begin to change the trajectory towards God’s vision for creation.”
Turning to the Church for Guidance
The first speaker in the Creation Series, an initiative of the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization, was José Aguto. The executive director of the D.C.-based Catholic Climate Covenant, Aguto gave a presentation on the efforts of the Covenant, which guides the Church’s response to the moral call for action on climate change and inspiring community leaders to take action. He also offered steps parishes can take to help reduce their carbon footprint, and practical things individuals can do to help solve the climate crisis.
“In the Church, there is an awakening and a desire to live our charism in caring for creation…. In order for us to address the climate crisis in a good and effective way, we should step into the teachings and values of the Church and bring awareness and action into our faith culture,” Aguto said in his presentation, offered over a luncheon in the parish hall.
During his talk, he pointed to the writings and the words of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, the tenets of Catholic Social Teachings and the encyclicals of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis on the environment and the care for creation.
Aguto shared a 2021 survey by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom that questioned 10,000 young people ages 16-25 in ten countries about the environment and its future. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they had anxiety about the impact of climate change.
Climate anxiety is increasing in the population, Aguto said. “We can look to the antidote of despair, which is action. St. Francis’ Peace Prayer tells us that where there is despair, let us give hope. Where do we find that hope? We turn to Jesus in our Catholic faith. That’s where we find our strength.”
“If you love God, then you love the gift He gave us in Creation,” Aguto said. “Scripture tells us God gave us dominion over creation, but if you translate that into stewardship, compassion and accompaniment and into recognizing that God gave us creation so that we could flourish, then you treat His gifts with respect.”
“If we as Catholics can harvest the unity that we profess, we can move the needle of the moral compass to what Jesus asks of us. If we can harvest the talents of our Church, we can solve the climate crisis,” he said.
Six presentations remain in the eight-part Creation Series, and each are being offered in-person and virtually. Remaining presentations will focus on Genesis Chapter 3, the Eucharist as the source of Creation, the Church’s history in caring for Creation, Catholic Social Teaching, our care for the environment, and St. Francis and the Canticle of Creation.
Visit www.hbgdiocese.org/creation for the schedule and to register. All remaining presentations are free of charge.
The Creation Series takes place during what is known as the “Season of Creation,” expanding from the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1 through the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4. It’s a time for Catholics to renew their faith in the God of Creation and join in prayer and efforts for the care of our common home.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness