The Burley in Wharfedale Parish of SS John Fisher and Thomas More has been presented with CAFOD’s Live Simply Award!
In 2021, the parish answered Diocesan Communications’ call to respond to a national request to showcase ‘green’ initiatives from churches across the country with their parish environmental project, ‘The Tree of Life’, and its three main themes: working with nature; ‘reuse, reduce, recycle, renew’; and campaigning.
Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, Sue Rix, said the parish has responded to Laudato Si’ and our Diocesan Environmental Policy by ‘looking at the things we value most, asking how to start changing what we do in our lives at home and in the parish, the better to protect and enhance our beautiful, but fragile world.’
Even throughout the time of pandemic, all permitted activities were continued outdoors as individual or household exercise, making and mending at home, and providing Covid-secure outdoor work for ‘green’ businesses. In this way, the homes, schools and church were kept united, young people engaged, and older people involved in the life of the Parish Family.
The Tree of Life continued to be cultivated both in the church and grounds and also in parishioners’ own homes. Working with nature, the young people in the Children’s Liturgy Group and their families contributed to the work of the parish’s Church Grounds and Gardens Group. The under-tens planted sunflowers, and helped make and position bat and bird boxes at home and in church grounds. A garden composting area was created, water butts installed and also new insect-friendly flower and shrub beds. Particularly popular with the youth of the parish was leaving bits and bobs of household and building materials to construct a ‘bug hotel’.
Instead of buying new fencing, old fencing was repaired, re-used and re-purposed. Indoors almost all light-bulbs were replaced with the LED variety, and as windows need replacement, they are being replaced (where practical) with a superior quality double-glazing.
Several individual households in the Parish Family harnessed the power of ‘Brother Sun’ with solar panels; all ages engaging with friends (and school friends) to share their experiences of the installation, use, (and drawbacks!) of solar panels on their own homes, as well as researching how this technology may be used on parish buildings.
Although during the first 18 months of the pandemic, any campaigning had to be largely online, and through liturgies and prayer, the parish supported CAFOD’s Live Simply and other initiatives of our Diocesan Justice & Peace Commission as well as addressing the ‘cry of the poor’ and the vulnerable through supporting the continuing practical work of the SVP and Catholic Care. The CAFOD Live Simply Award was presented in June of this year, and a special cake to mark the occasion was baked, its recipe and decorations reflecting all the Parish strives to do in ‘Living Simply’: respecting creation, with special care and attention to the needs of all who share the planet God has entrusted to our stewardship.
Supported by their Parish Priest, Fr Michael Mahady, parishioners believe that from small things, great things can grow! Their Christian life has become even more ‘joined up’ and has emphasised even more strongly that faith and doing God’s work can spread like a ripple effect from our hearts to our homes, churches, schools, diocese and throughout the world! The parish has learned much from their experiences of environmental initiatives:
* Just like any family, the Church comprises individuals with different interests, politics and traditions – but bound together by love and a common purpose to be the hands, feet and face of Christ on earth. It is part of our Catholic ethos to value the dignity of every unique and individual soul, therefore everyone in the parish community is made to feel able to contribute and be involved.
* From the youngest children learning to wonder at and care for God’s creation, to engaging young people by trusting them with leadership responsibility; our young Catholics are often the ones who then enthuse the rest of their families (and not just on environmental issues!) bringing them closer together in faith.
* People of any age with specialist skills, knowledge and creativity will give them freely on a voluntary basis, if we foster a culture of appreciation and interest in them as valued members of a community, dispelling any impression they may have picked up elsewhere that they are only there to fill pews or contribute to the church’s economy.
* Older members of the community and people living with disabilities may or may not be physically active, but generations come together to appreciate their advice, experience – and to witness their sheer enjoyment of what is being created.
* Diversity is intrinsic to the Catholic (‘Universal’!) Church, and we can all learn from members of the parish family whose cultures and traditions may be more in tune with the earth and the seasons or who can bring different models of cultivation and conservation.
It’s all too easy for a parish to become both literally and figuratively ‘parochial’ and inward-looking. By taking steps to enhance and protect our environment at local level, the priest and people of SS John Fisher and Thomas More are leaders in ‘evangelisation by example’, and by sharing stories and images to as wide an ‘audience’ as possible, they are inspiring and encouraging other parishes across our Diocesan Family – and hopefully far beyond – with their commitment, creativity, initiative and hard work!
*** ALL stories, photographs, ideas and suggestions are warmly welcomed! Please send details of YOUR parish, school or charity’s environmental initiatives to firstname.lastname@example.org, cc’ing email@example.com ***