National Catholic Reporter: Four factors driving pace, scale of climate action in U.S. dioceses

by Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

… Within the U.S. Catholic Church, efforts to increase both pace and scale took a sizable step this summer during a conference at Creighton University in Omaha, organized by the Catholic Climate Covenant. There, upwards of 200 people dedicated to the care for creation tenet of Catholic social teaching met one another, shared ideas and brainstormed ways to expand their efforts with the wider Catholic community.

In the four months since, organizers and staff at Catholic Climate Covenant have parsed through the notes and feedback from eight ministry tracks (adult faith formation, energy management, creation care teams, advocacy, higher education, young adults, school education, liturgy) and two caucuses (Hispanic Catholics and environmental justice) to chart a plan forward. The early work has yielded goals for each area, divided into actions that can be done relatively quickly; actions requiring additional time, input and funding; and "dream" actions that would entail new resources and staff.

"It's exciting," said Dan Misleh, Catholic Climate Covenant executive director. "It's a little daunting, but we're certainly committed to trying to move the ball forward in each of these areas."

Follow-up gatherings at Creighton in 2021 and 2023 will evaluate progress and push efforts at environmental stewardship onward.

As work begins on the first set of goals, Covenant staff have begun discussions on how best to take advantage of the Laudato Si'  fifth anniversary. To leverage that moment into more concerted efforts on creation care within the U.S. Church.

Sharing ecological successes

One element that has proven key to increased action has been awareness of what others are doing and especially awareness of what's working, with an eye toward replicating.

For an example, look no further than the Covenant's Catholic Energies program. Before the Creighton conference, it had roughly 30 projects in the pipeline. After presentations there on the energy projects initiative, and following press coverage of solar installations at a Virginia parish and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Catholic Energies now has around 100 inquiries at different phases.

"It's a huge role," Misleh said of awareness building. "Nobody likes to be the first. They want to make sure that it works."

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