The Catholic Ecology Center in Neosho has hands-on, interactive events that reflect their mission to engage people on issues of faith, ecology and social justice. (Submitted photo)
Three local organizations have been recognized for putting Catholic teaching into action when it comes to “care for our common home,” as outlined in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’.
The Catholic Ecology Center in Neosho, the Riverwest Food Pantry in Milwaukee and the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Milwaukee were named as recipients of grant money from the Catholic Climate Covenant’s “Creation Care” program earlier this year.
The grants, which ranged from $500 to $1,000, were awarded to 100 organizations nationally. Recipients included college campus ministries, parishes, elementary and high school creation care programs, men and women’s religious organizations, and charitable agencies.
The Catholic Climate Covenant is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. It was established in 2006 with help from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and is supported by 19 national partners.
The Catholic Ecology Center, a ministry of the Laudato Si’ Project, will use its $750 grant to run a Lenten Laudato Si’ Evening Series over the course of six Thursdays. It began March 3 and will explore Church teaching on care for creation, and will be offered both virtually and in-person at the center’s facility near Holy Hill.
Hosting a series like this has been a goal of the group since the Catholic Ecology Center opened last year, said Joe Meyer, executive director of the Laudato Si’ Project and the Catholic Ecology Center.
“We’re hoping this gives us the ability to get some people out and engaged with the Catholic Ecology Center, dealing with issues of ecology and faith and social justice,” said Meyer.
Money from the grant will also be used to plan Care for Creation Stewardship Days around Earth Day (April 22), said Meyer.
“It will be a time for individuals or families to come out and see that faith in action in a more hands-on way, moving away from the intellectual space to the experiential space,” he said. The center’s Neosho property boasts 60 acres that are open to the public, showcasing diverse habitats which include prairies, forests, Rubicon River, Otter Creek, a pond and organic gardening areas.
The Riverwest Food Pantry received $1,000 that will be used to print and distribute educational materials for the pantry, according to information in a press release on the Catholic Climate Covenant’s website. “Riverwest Food Pantry hosts seasonal farm to fork events on our 27,000-square-foot organic hoop house farm to bring people together around food and educate our shoppers about the source of and sustainability of the healthy produce we serve,” read the release. The Riverwest Food Pantry could not be reached for further comment.
The Sisters of the Divine Savior will use their money to support a Backyard Pollinator program, said Sr. Ellen Sinclair, S.D.S. Sr. Ellen is a member of the Laudato Si’ discussion group that applied for the grant. The group, composed of Salvatorian Sisters in Sisseton, South Dakota, Milwaukee and Portage, met virtually to study Laudato Si’ and “consider how we might begin to integrate” the encyclical’s call to action, said Sr. Ellen.
When they heard about the small grants program, the group came up with the idea for Backyard Pollinator Sanctuary kits. The kits will be made available to Salvatorian sisters for use in their homes, places of ministry or other local spaces. Each kit will include seeds for a wildflower garden specific to the recipient’s geographical regions, instructions for use, a biodegradable sign, instructions for a prayer service and resources to learn more about Laudato Si’.
The Sisters of the Divine Savior (SDS) is the women’s religious branch of the international Salvatorian Family.
The sanctuaries will be a place where all pollinators — birds, bees, bats, moths and more — can find rest, water and habitat, said Sr. Ellen. The Salvatorian sisters are able to produce 30 kits with the $1,000 of grant money they received, and hope to make all the information that will accompany the kits available online at sistersofthedivinesavior.org/collaborative-ministries/ before Easter.
“The goal of this project is directly related to Laudato Si’s call to deepen our understanding of God’s presence and action in creation as well as our responsibility as Catholics, communities, families, parishes, etc., to become actively involved in transitioning to sustainable ways of living,” said Sr. Ellen. “By creating a sacred space that honors God’s gifts of creation, participants will be able to make a significant difference in the survival and flourishing of native plants and animals that are essential to continued life on Earth.”