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Celebrating A Year of Creation in Burlington, Vermont

In honor of the two-year anniversary of  Laudato Si', Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont gave an interview with Catholic Climate Covenant. He talked with us about some of the work his diocese has been doing on creation care initiatives since Pope Francis's encyclical was first published in June of 2015.   

Catholic Climate Covenant: 

 This year marks the two-year anniversary of Laudato Si’. What are some of the ways you and others have been responding to the call of Laudato Si’ within your diocese? 

 Bishop Coyne: 

We’ve been doing a lot of things this year. Right now, we’re focusing on the Year of Creation. One of our first priorities is addressing our buildings by doing energy efficiency audits on lighting, heating, and air conditioning, and pursuing renewable energy sources. Over the past year, we’ve seen two church buildings install solar panels, and one is currently in the process. We’re looking at installing solar panels in the chancery next, because it’s a big building with a flat roof. We’re mindful of our fossil footprint here in the state of Vermont because our diocese has many buildings. Another one of our initiatives has been educating our parishes and schools about Laudato’ Si. This is a year about being attentive to the interconnectedness of God’s creation and the whole human family.


Is there one initiative or program that is particularly inspirational to you? 

 Bishop Coyne:

Back in April, all our Catholic schools had a day to discern projects in and around their property that would have an impact on the environment. Some of the activities they did included planting, trash pickup, composting, and pulling up invasive weeds. It was a great success because it gave us good publicity and educated students about their environment. We also held a Stations of the Cross on the Path of Eco-Conversion in our cathedral, including the teachings of Saint John Paul II. And on Divine Mercy Sunday, we held a discussion on “Mercy to Our Common Home.” In September, we’ll be holding the Action for Ecological Justice conference with Carolyn Woo as kenynote, including breakout sessions on many environmental topics. Last year, we focused on the Year of Mercy, and this year, we will be focusing on the Year of Creation. Vermont is a very eco-conscious state, and this is a great way of reaching out to those who are marginally Catholic within our diocese. 


Do you have any further advice on how the Catholic church can use creation care as a way to reach out to more people within each diocese?

 Bishop Coyne: 

The staff here formed a committee for working in the areas of renewable energy and education regarding care for creation, which included 10-12 non-Catholics and 10-12 Catholics. This diversity allowed for networking and a broader sense of community and was helpful in connecting our Catholic agencies to others in the community. Promoting the Year of Creation gives us the opportunity to connect with all people of goodwill. 

 CCC:  Can you talk about how you’ve been able to use Laudato Si’ and other Church documents, teachings, and seasons as a gateway to talking about caring for creation and the poor? 

 Bishop Coyne: 

 Using church teaching and encyclicals for education is a great programmatic opportunity for a diocese. We don’t want the work of Laudato Si’ to end, so we’re using it as a starting point to establish Creation Care Teams and a local chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Next year, we will be focusing on Pope Francis’s Amoris Latitiae, and I would encourage other bishops to do same. It’s been very successful, and while it did take a lot of effort and staff, it’s been well-received by many in the state both inside and outside the Church. I’d encourage other dioceses to consider a similar program because ours has had such a good outcome.     

Many thanks to Bishop Coyne and the Diocese of Burlington's Office of the Bishop for granting this interview. To learn more about the Diocese of Burlington's initiatives during the Year of Creation, visit their Year of Creation website.   

Looking for more creation care activities to do in your diocese, parish, or faith community? The upcoming Feast of St. Francis is a great place to start. Sign up here to receive our free 2017 Feast of St. Francis Program

This video is shared from the Diocese of Burlington's Year of Creation website.

A Prayer for Our Earth

All powerful God, you are present in the whole universe 

 And in the smallest of your creatures. 

 You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. 

 Pour out upon us the power of your love, 

That we may protect life and beauty. 

 Fill us with peace 

 That we may live 

 As brothers and sisters, harming no one. 

 O God of the poor, 

 Help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, 

 So precious in your eyes. 

Bring healing to our lives, 

 That we may protect the world and not prey on it, 

 That we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. 

 Touch the hearts 

Of those who look only for gain

 At the expense of the poor and the earth. 

 Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

 To be filled with awe and contemplation, 

To recognize that we are profoundly united 

With every creature 

 As we journey towards your infinite light. 

We thank you for being with us each day.

 Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

 For justice, love and peace. 

-Concluding prayer of Laudato Si 

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