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Eco-themed Worship Services Help Make St. Francis of Assisi Parish GreenFaith Certified

By Submitted News June 11, 2014 10:56 pm

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TRIANGLE, Va. – New Jersey-based GreenFaith, a nationally acclaimed interfaith environmental coalition, has certified Triangle, Va.-based St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church as a “GreenFaith Sanctuary” and faith-based environmental leader.

“Saint Francis of Assisi has shown deep commitment and leadership,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith’s Executive Director. “They have made significant changes to lessen their environmental footprint, and to inspire and educate their community about one of the most important issues of our time. They are an inspiration for church communities all across the country.”

In 2012, St. Francis of Assisi Parish was accepted into – and was the first house of worship in Virginia to participate in – the GreenFaith Certification Program, the country’s first interfaith environmental certification program.

Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples gain recognition as environmental leaders when they earn GreenFaith certification by carrying out more than two dozen environmental activities in two years.

From eco-themed worship services and religious education on the environment, to reducing consumption in their buildings and engaging in environmental justice activities, participants “green” their communities from top to bottom.

When a congregation completes the program, GreenFaith officially acknowledges them as a “GreenFaith Sanctuary” and religious environmental leader.

“By definition as Franciscans, we’re obligated to be good stewards of God’s creation,” said Fr. Kevin Downey, O.F.M., pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. “Going through the GreenFaith Certification Program has not only energized the parish and school in this responsibility, but the ripple effect has been such that it has also greatly impacted the individual thinking and personal practices of our parishioners.”

When St. Francis of Assisi Parish and School began the GreenFaith program, they audited their facilities and programs using templates GreenFaith provides and created an action plan.

They “greened” their facilities, saving energy and water, and established non-toxic cleaning and maintenance practices. They reduced paper usage and increased recycling, had energy-efficient windows installed in the parish school, and offered healthy, sustainable food and canning workshops. They even made use of composting bins, planted gardens, and became a National Wildlife Federation® Certified Wildlife Habitat™ site, among many other actions.

They advocated for access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries and participated in legislative advocacy, including a campaign to address environmental concerns on the George Washington National Forest.

What is this?

They created newsletters and eco-reflections and distributed numerous resources to the community on an assortment of environmental topics, including waste and composting; Pope Francis on the culture of waste; a Franciscan approach to ecology; the importance of local and organic eating; green cleaning tips; researching safe cosmetics, and many others.

They published timely church bulletin and school newsletter eco-tips on such topics as water conservation, energy-efficient washing machines, unplugging from technology, using reusable grocery bags, “phantom” power usage, simplifying one’s life, cleaning out dryer lint, keeping cool in the summer by preparing no-cook meals, addressing one’s carbon and water footprint, and fixing water leaks promptly.

The parish incorporated Catholic social teaching on the environment into Masses and other parish celebrations, hosted interfaith events and guest speakers, and provided education, classes and activities for children, teens and adults, in addition to launching an annual St. Francis Earth Day, participating in two fair trade global bazaars, as well as taking class field trips to a local landfill.

As a result, the parish and school experienced the renewed conviction and satisfaction that comes from a deep commitment to caring for creation.

“This was a huge parish and school team effort, and we have many people to thank for this certification,” said Downey. “This GreenFaith honor is a great milestone for us, as this culmination is not an end, but a motivation for all we have planned going forward.”

Founded in 1992, GreenFaith (www.greenfaith.org) inspires, educates and mobilizes people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership. For more information on the GreenFaith Certification Program, contact Stacey Kennealy at skennealy@greenfaith.org or 732.565.7740, ext. 303.

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (www.stfrncis.org) is part of the Diocese of Arlington and was established in 1957. For more information on the GreenFaith certification at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, call the parish office at 703.221.4044.

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