Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
At a workshop at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center, Sharon Williams of St. Henry Parish in Gresham discusses how parishes can live out the pope’s encyclical on care for creation.
Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
At a workshop at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center, Sharon Williams of St. Henry Parish in Gresham discusses how parishes can live out the pope’s encyclical on care for creation.
For the past year, Catholics in western Oregon have been meeting to consider “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for creation. Issued in summer 2015, the document calls the church and the world to tend the planet out of love for God and neighbor.

Now that the encyclical is a year old, some Oregon Catholic leaders want to make sure it’s remembered, since the stakes are so high.

“We need to bring it back to people’s attention,” says Sharon Grigar, pastoral associate at Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland.

“People think it’s just about the climate, but it’s not. It’s about way more,” Grigar says.  

Grigar and a group of other parish social justice leaders met June 11 at the Archdiocese of Portland pastoral center to plan ways to keep “Laudato Si’” front and center.

The social justice group at St. Henry Parish in Gresham, for example, read the encyclical chapter by chapter. Members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, who live at St. Henry’s, also studied the document. At St. Francis Parish in Southeast Portland, several small groups pored over “Laudato Si’” at length.

“It distills centuries of Catholic thought,” says Joel Nigg, a member of St. Francis. “The pope makes it all rock solid. He doesn’t shortcut the logic. It’s a vision of life on earth that is so well thought through.”

Ascension Parish offered copies of the encyclical in English and Spanish. People snapped up all 50 copies.

Catholic leaders say Catholics can continue to study “Laudato Si’” in groups, using a study guide prepared by Benedictine Brother Cyril Drnjevic of Mount Angel Abbey.

The pope takes dense thought then makes it understandable and the truth stands out,” says Brother Cyril, who has led workshops on the encyclical throughout the year.  

Studying the document is one thing. During the pastoral center gathering, church leaders discussed ways to live it out.

Fran Shulz, a member of Ascension Parish, asked whether small actions at parishes like using ceramic mugs matter, or if big changes in systems are the only course left.

The consensus was that small things add up.

Valerie Chapman, pastoral administrator of St. Francis Parish in Southeast Portland and a leader in environmental justice, suggested that meatless Fridays could return for all kinds of reasons.  

Chapman — who carries a reusable watter bottle, mug and containers for leftovers and wears second-hand clothes — recommended that parishes plan Masses with public transit schedules in mind.

She also urged parish social justice leaders to help other groups at the parish consider care for creation when planning buildings or ministries.

There is brisk talk at parishes of getting rid of styrofoam and paper products in favor of reusable cups and plates. Other parishes employ a jug of water instead of water bottles.

At other churches, like Holy Redeemer and St. Philip Neri in Portland, crews have removed pavement on parking lots so polluted runoff does not reach rivers.

Kathy Daman of St. Henry Parish in Gresham says many people in her church play golf and do a lot of flying, two habits that are not good for the environment. “We waste things and don’t care like we should,” Daman said, finishing up a Pastoral Center meal of vegetarian fare served on reusable plates and silverware, with cloth napkins.

A team from Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Oswego plans to green up wine parties at the parish with reusable glasses and local wines.
Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, explained how “Laudato Si’” has changed his life.

First, he said the encyclical got him thinking about abortion in a broader way. Not only is abortion disrespect for life, it’s disrespect for creation.
Second, with the federal farm bill coming up, the document issues a call for sustainable agriculture and supports small farms over big conglomerates. Cato will advocate for justice in the bill and try to buy from smaller producers.

Third, he no longer listens to media in his car, but drives in silence to be attentive to God’s voice.

Pope Francis named his encyclical after a poem in which St. Francis of Assisi declares “Blessed be” to many parts of creation.

“St. Francis made Christianity cool,” said Daniel Salomon, a member of St. Clare Parish in Southwest Portland. Salomon described the pope’s encyclical as “Christian environmentalism reaching its maturity.”