Deacon Walter C. Ayres
Deacon Walter C. Ayres
This summer I have been working with a group of people from across the Diocese to prepare a multi-year plan to implement Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for our common home.

Named for the encyclical itself, the Laudato Si’ Action Plan will involve individuals, families, parishes, schools and others in a coordinated effort to address important issues such as climate change, the consequences of pollution and environmental justice.

The effort is being led by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which was created in 2016 from the union of four Pontifical Councils to express the Church’s solicitude in the fields of justice, peace, and the safeguarding of all of creation. In the United States, the lead agency is the Catholic Climate Covenant, which has set up a special webpage, GodsPlanet.us.

To help in this process, the Dicastery established seven markers to measure the implementation of Laudato Si’ together with some examples of specific actions:

1. Response to the Cry of the Earth: greater use of clean renewable energy and reduction of fossil fuels; efforts to protect and promote biodiversity; guaranteeing access to clean water.

2. Response to the Cry of the Poor: defense of human life and all forms of life on earth, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities and migrant children.

3. Ecological Economics: sustainable production; fair trade; ethical consumption, divestment from fossil fuels and any economic activity harmful to the planet and the people.

4. Adoption of Simple Lifestyle: focusing on the use of resources and energy; avoiding single-use plastic; adopting a more plant-based diet and reducing meat consumption; greater use of public transport and avoiding polluting modes of transportation.

5. Ecological Education: re-thinking and re-designing educational curricula to create ecological awareness and transformative action; promoting the ecological vocation of young people, teachers and leaders of education.

6. Ecological Spirituality: recover a religious vision of God’s creation; encouraging greater contact with the natural world, promoting creation-centered liturgical celebrations, developing catechesis, prayer and retreats.

7. Emphasis on Community Involvement and Participatory Action: to care for creation at the local, regional, national and international levels; promote advocacy.

Our plan will have a range of possibilities to engage Catho­lics, ranging from easy to difficult. As guides, we are looking to the plans already created by the Diocese of San Diego and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

MEMBERS
Representing parishes are Dr. Bernadette Cole-Slaughter, Historic St. Mary’s Church in Albany; Karen Frishkoff, Our Lady of Hope in Copake Falls; Jack Hagerty, St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady; and Father Thomas Zelker, Our Lady of the Valley in Middleburgh.

There are two representatives from the diocesan offices: David Amico from the Faith Formation & Education Office and Roslyn Webber from the Architecture & Building Commission. Father Mark Reamer is from Siena College. We encourage people to share their concerns, suggestions and commitment regarding this important project to create a more sustainable world. You can email me at Walter.Ayres@ccrcda.org or send a letter to me at Catholic Charities Commission on Peace and Justice, 40 N. Main Ave., Albany, N.Y., 12203.

Individuals and parishes do not need to wait for the diocesan plan to begin delving into these issues on their own. More information is available at https://laudatosiactionplatform.org/; Dicastery: https://www.humandevelopment.va/en.html; GodsPlanet: https://godsplanet.us/; San Diego: https://www.sdcatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/life-peace-and-justice/care-for-creation-and-environment/documents/Creation-Care-Action-Plan.pdf; Washington, D.C.: https://adw.org/living-the-faith/social-concerns/laudato-si-action-plan//

Walter Ayres is the director for Catholic Charities’ Commission on Peace and Justice, and the coordinator of a committee to implement a Laudato Si’ Action Plan in the Diocese of Albany