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Diocese to Observe 2017 as "Year of Creation"

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington is observing 2017 as a Year of Creation. Similar to the global Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis for 2016, which entertained a heightened focus on the role of mercy in the Catholic faith, the diocesan wide Year of Creation will entertain an intentional, heightened focus on ecological justice. Various events, initiatives and resources will be made available to parishes and Catholic schools to better educate on and encourage the embracing of Pope Francis’ message in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”   

This is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. It is addressed to "every person living on this planet" for an inclusive dialogue about how people are shaping the future of the created world. He calls everyone to acknowledge the urgency of pursuing ecological justice and to join him in embarking on a new path based in integral ecology.   

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne invites all Catholics to join with him in celebrating this Year of Creation in the diocese.   

He noted the pope’s emphasis that concern for the created world is not optional, but an integral part of Church teaching on social justice. “While it has been nearly two years since its publication, I think it is time for the Church here in Vermont to study, ponder and begin to implement much of what the pope calls for” in the document, the bishop said.   

The diocese also has formed a partnership with Commons Energy that allows for low-cost energy efficiency audits and energy efficiency/renewable energy projects on many church-owned buildings throughout the state. As of Jan. 6, at least thirteen parish buildings had already elected to utilize this service.   

Additionally, one of the first steps the Diocese of Burlington has taken at 55 Joy Drive in South Burlington, the diocesan headquarters, to counteract a "throwaway culture" and set an example of ecologically responsible practices is to adopt the practice of composting—a simple way to support circular models of production and consumption. Parishes have begun inquiring about adoption of composting in their own buildings.   

“Vermont’s 118,000 Catholics can make a sustainable impact on the state of the created world and its creatures. Furthermore, if the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation is successful in raising awareness of and action toward ecological justice, it can serve as an encouraging example for other Catholic dioceses and communities of faith throughout the country and the globe. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics on Earth—just think of what could be achieved if we committed to caring for the created world together,” said Stephanie Clary, mission outreach and communication coordinator.   

A Year of Creation Committee comprised of scientists, activists and people of faith has been formed to assist with this initiative. Committee members include: Brian Tokar, lecturer in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, Director of the Institute for Social Ecology, and board member at 350Vermont; David Mullin, executive director of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity; Phil Lawson, Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington; Ellen Kane, Director of Development and Communication for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington; Fr. Thomas Houle, O.F.M. Cap., pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Rutland (first parish in the diocese to adopt renewable energy); Betsy Hardy, coordinator of Vermont Interfaith Power and Light; James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, Inc. and founder of Water Warriors; Stephanie Clary, Mission Outreach and Communication Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington; Mary Quinn, R.S.M., resident of Mercy Farm and member of Mercy Ecology, Inc.; Marybeth Redmond, communication professional for nonprofit organizations, Holy Family-St. Lawrence parishioner; Joseph Gainza, producer and host of “Gathering Peace” on WDGR radio. Student representatives to the committee include Maura Thompson of Rice Memorial High School and Gina Fiorile of The University of Vermont.   

The committee will be working an awareness campaign and events throughout the year, including: 
  • Statewide Catholic schools’ ecological awareness and action project in April 
  • Ecological Justice conference in September 
  • Creation-themed liturgies 
    • March- Stations of the Cross: On the Path of Ecological Conversion (Adapted from “The Stations of the Cross with St. John Paul II”) 
    • April- Vespers for Mercy2Earth Weekend 
    • June/July- Care for Creation Mass for Anniversary of “Laudato Si’” 
    • October- “Blessing of Animals” for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi 
  • “Laudato Si’ in the Parish” training program offered to pastors, deacons, catechists 
  • Spring issue of Vermont Catholic dedicated to Year of Creation 
  • site (coming soon) with resources for parishes and anyone interested in learning more.  
The Diocese of Vermont will also be taking advantage of the many education resources Catholic Climate Covenant offers for free, like our Feast of St. Francis toolkit and our Resouces Library. The Covenant encourages other dioceses to follow in the example of the Diocese of Burlington as a creative way of living out the call to care for creation and care for the poor. 


 This article was originally published in and adapted for Our Common Home

Cover Image Photo credit: Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin Father Thomas Houle, pastor of St. Peter Church in Rutland, Vermont, stands in front of the solar panel behind the church. St. Peter's is the first parish in the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, to install solar panels to generate electricity. (Photo by Cori Fugere Urban).

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