50 Ideas for Making Laudato Si' part of Parish Life

11:50 AM

Laudato Si' is a remarkable piece of papal teaching. It breaks new ground not so much in content as in style. If we do not talk about it, if we do not live it, in our parishes, it nonetheless will be destined to the ash heap of history. Here are some ideas about what you can do in your parish to make Laudato Si' a living part of who we are as Catholics.

We Catholics talk about: "Think globally; act locally." Act locally. Act in your parish.
  1. Ask your priest to preach about it. The encyclical is not directed toward just governments and presidential candidates. Pope Francis has said that care for creation is an important part of personal holiness.
  2. When the priest does preach it, give him feedback. Be specific. Say more than "nice homily." When I preached, I often had the suspicion that "Nice homily," while it may be like similar to saying "Have a nice day," may only be the absence of having something better to say about the homily, or even a way of saying, "Yeah, I heard you, Father" (but I really wasn't listening). After encouraging your parish priest to preach about it, give constructive, even critical, feedback. You may want to think about it and send a note or an email later. The priest will hear it more seriously when he has time to listen, not when there is a pile-up of people leaving church. I assure you, a serious preacher appreciates serious feedback.
  3. Ask that the parish bulletin include inserts about the encyclical
  4. Make sure that Laudato Si' and tools for reading it are on your parish web page.
  5. Talk to pastoral council members about hosting an encyclical discussion group in the parish. Don't accept that this is the Social justice Committee's responsibility.
  6. Encourage the finance council to seek a green audit of the parish.
  7. Make sure that your parish uses "green" lighting. If it needs to change, be sure to explain why-- for what it saves as well as for the care of creation.
  8. Approach the RCIA team about including a session on creation, based on Laudato Si', in the content for adult initiation.
  9. The parish stewardship committee is a natural home for many initiatives in favor of Laudato Si'. The U.S. Bishops' pastoral letter on stewardship (Stewardship: A Disciples Response) makes clear that care for creation is an essential part of Christian stewardship. In fact, a stewardship committee that does not act on this encyclical, I would argue, does not understand the nature of stewardship. Make sure that the parish stewardship committee is moving on this. 
  10. Encourage youth to take a lead. Youth "get' these issues often better than adults. Let them exercise some leadership in teaching the parish about the encyclical, in word and action.
  11. Make sure that posters about the encyclical on bulletin boards.
  12. In catechesis for children, especially First Holy Communion, incorporate activities for formation around Laudato Si'.
  13. In preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, make sure that the examination of conscience asks questions about care for creation.
  14. Does marriage preparation have anything to do in regard to the encyclical? Yes! Living in harmony with creation, in our rushed and ragged world, builds better families. Explore ways to incorporate the encyclical into marriage preparation.
  15. Make certain that your parish has recycling opportunities.
  16. Find creative ways to include the message of Laudato Si' in baptism preparation. The Pope draws a clear connection to it in paragraph #235.
  17. Look inside your church for Laudato Si' messages. By that, I mean, you probably have a statue or stained-glass of St. Francis. Point to him as an example. Perhaps there are other signs and symbols inside your church art and environment that point to the care of creation. It might be as simple as plaster or paint clusters of wheat on the walls. Look for images of Jesus and the saints engaging with nature. Lift these up in homilies, bulletins, the web page.
  18. Don't let the Feast of St. Francis be only about blessing pets. Do something big and clear about Laudato Si' on this day.
  19. Invite in an "expert." There is the old adage: an expert is someone from more than 50 miles away. You can always go with a  closer option.
  20. Ask the liturgy committee to consider what might be opportunities to include Laudato Si' in the Sunday liturgy. Pope Francis makes clear that the Eucharist is an essential sign of care for creation in paragraph #236.
  21. The general intercessions on Sunday and daily Eucharist may include prayers for the care of creation.
  22. A banner with a phrase from the encyclical could be hung somewhere in the church for a particular period of time.
  23. The liturgy committee might have a good conversation about flower arrangements and plastic flowers and what best constitutes care for creation.
  24. The liturgy committee could examine what happens to old missalettes, seeking assurance that they are properly recycled.
  25. If there is a parish school, contact the principal about finding ways to work with students around the encyclical.
  26. Start a parish community garden.
  27. Ask the parish to provide copies of the encyclical. Free .pdf versions can be emailed to parishioners. Print edition might be offered at-cost in the parish office. Make sure that people can read directly from the Pope.
  28. If the parish has a food pantry or soup kitchen, review its operation for best practices.
  29. Print prayer cards with one of the encyclical's two concluding prayers. Distribute widely and generously.
  30. Ask the homebound to pray for your efforts.
  31. Ask all parish organizations to use the prayer at the end of the encyclical for a month in their gatherings. In fact, if your parish concludes with a prayer to St. Michael or some other prayer, ask that the Pope's prayer get added for a month.
  32. If you have a group that prays the rosary before mass, ask them to conclude with the Pope's prayer.
  33. Don't exempt the charismatics! Laudato Si' is about praise. Encourage the charismatic group to take some time with this letter.
  34. Host an ecumenical gathering about the encyclical. invite leaders from other churches and even other faiths to share what steps their congregations are taking to protect creation. The Pope quoted an orthodox patriarch as well as a Sufi mystic in the encyclical, follow his lead! Invite local media to get the good word out.
  35. Ask the Taizé prayer group to lead a prayer in praise of creation. Given the ecumenical nature of Taizé, this may dovetail nicely as a follow-up to idea #34.
  36. Don't let the Knights of Columbus off the hook! I suspect that the national organization will prepare some materials. If not, ask them to lead a parish-based activity. One council is doing a battery recycling drive: https://www.facebook.com/KofC11302/posts/1628160207398051
  37. If the parish has a right-to-life group, Pope Francis also makes clear that care for the unborn is intimately connected to care for creation. Enlist their support in these endeavors. This may not be easy, but engaging this portion of the parish is important.
  38. If the parish has a Boy Scout Troop, ask them to share the best practices that they have learned with the parish some Sunday after mass. This is a win-win. It raises the profile of your scouts, and it will help them with recruitment of new scouts.
  39. In conjunction with the parish finance council or facilities committee, examine what best practices may be incorporated into the parish landscape and architecture. Does the parish use harmful chemicals on the lawn? Can the parking be made more green?
  40. Have the parish plant a tree. Explain why it is being done-- in a ceremony, at Sunday mass, in the bulletin, on the web.
  41. Seek permission to include the reflections of some thoughtful parishioners on the parish web page and in the bulletin.
  42. Don't let the sports organizations of your parish and school off the hook. This is important to them, too! They may play on grass. They may want to rethink using disposable cups. Ask to look closely at their actions. Encourage positive messages about care of creation into practices.
  43. If their is a senior citizen club, offer to arrange some content for them about the encyclical. it might be a guest speaker. Or you might offer some words, but make it happen!
  44. If the parish has a big parking lot, encourage parishioners to consider carpooling for just one Sunday. This won't be easy or comfortable. It may actually lead to more people doing it over the long haul.
  45. Seek opportunities for laity to give a post-communion reflection about the encyclical.
  46. Highlight the positive actions of the local bishop with respect to Laudato Si'.
  47. Share articles written in the diocesan newspaper about the encyclical, especially as it is lived locally.
  48. Coordinate some carefully designed, non-partisan political actions. Organize a letter-writing campaign to elected officials based on the encyclical. Personally, I think that this should be one of the last things done, because the energy to do this will keep the parish from doing the important work of personal conversion first.
  49. Report everything you do to the parish in the bulletin and the web page!
  50. Share your ideas with others, because, if we do nothing, this encyclical will be forgotten.
If you have other ideas, please, add them in the comments!

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