The Green Priest

26 September 08 | Posted in Lifestyle, Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Fr. Tom Lisowski is becoming known as the “green priest” in Springfield, Massachusetts. He tools around town on his electric bike.

“The increasing gas prices were a factor,” said Lisowski, but most important was the issue of stewardship. “It’s all about doing the best I can, any way I can, to promote the kingdom of God on earth. I try to do positive, life-giving things.” bike-priests.jpg

His desire to be a good steward goes beyond his e-bike.

“I have a 55-gallon water drum that collects water from my rain spouts.  I use this to hand-water my garden,” he said.

On a 100 x 150 foot city lot, Fr. Lisowski has an 8 x 20 foot garden. In it he grows tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, asparagus, okra, summer squash and zucchini. “I harvest enough for me to eat with plenty left over to share with my neighbors and friends.”

Fr. Lisowski said by scooting around the city on his e-bike he also finds he is doing a little evangelizing.

“There’s a mailman I pass at least twice a day and each time he sees me he gives me the thumbs up and a ‘God bless you,'” Lisowski said.  “People love to see a priest right there on the streets and it provides for a lot of opportunity for hand waving and talking.”

He added he does his own cooking, shopping, laundry and yard work. “I try to live the life that reflects the lives of the people I serve. I think it brings some substance to my work and my homilies,” he said.

We need more priests like Fr. Lisowski. 

Father, I’m sending you a cheer and a hand-wave from here. Keep up the good work.

Picking Up Litter

16 September 08 | Posted in Lifestyle, Spirituality, Stewardship

One spiritual task I perform every weekend is to walk up and down my block and pick up litter. litter.jpg

Discarded cigarette packs, Arizona Ice Tea and beer bottles, Vitamin Water empties, junk food wrappers, styrofoam clam containers, candy wrappers, nickel and dime bags, ripped out school notes and assignments, half-eaten apples, broken Bic lighters, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups, gum wrappers – I collect it all.

Most of the trash is from high school kids–boys and girls–black, Hispanic, and white, that are too lazy to put it in the trash can by their school.  They just drop it when they finish it.  Most of the crumbled up cigarette packs are from one Newport smoker.

I pick up trash to keep my block clean.  The dirtier it is, the more people feel free to throw stuff on the ground.  When the ground is litter-free, at least some people think twice before dropping an empty cup.

A few months after I started picking up, I noticed that some other people were taking care of the street, too.  My next-door neighbor has started picking up trash, and so has a woman down at the end of our street. 

Picking up litter is a small but tangible way to respect the land and neighborhood, and keep it a beautiful place.

Catholics on Climate Change

The Catholic Committee on Appalachia is distributing a 10-minute DVD for religious education classes, “Climate Change: Our Faith Response.”

A statement issued by the committee says the DVD presents “the irrefutable science behind global warming, how it will affect the poor and humanity’s moral responsibility to act.”

The committee is composed of the bishops, members of religious communities and lay leadership in the 27 Catholic dioceses in the Appalachian region.

“We hope (the DVD) raises awareness about creation as a precious gift from God and how climate change will particularly affect the poor and vulnerable,” said Fr. John Rausch, the committee’s director. rausch_tour.jpg

“Unless we change our wasteful lifestyles, we’ll reject God’s gift and the poor will be the first to suffer,” he said.

Sister Paula Gonzalez

Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC, Ph.D., is nicknamed the “solar nun.” paula.JPG

Sister Paula, 78, earned her doctorate in biology at the Catholic University in Washington, DC and was a biology professor at the College of Mt. St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio for 21 years. She entered the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 1954.

After learning about solar energy more than 20 years ago, Gonzalez designed and did much of the work in converting a former chicken coop to an apartment she shares with another nun. “Casa del Sol,” is a 1500 foot super-insulated, passive solar house built with recycled materials. She also renovated a building on campus that is heated in the winter entirely by solar and geothermal energy.

The first Earth Day in 1970 inspired Sister Paula to think seriously about energy and environmental issues and about how to incorporate them into her biology classes at Mt. St. Joseph. Later, when a proposed nuclear plant received strong opposition, she realized that resistance alone can not solve energy problems – or any problem for that matter. It is also vital to develop creative, life-sustaining alternatives. She firmly believes: “We have to reach the moral cores of people, as well as their brains.”

The American Solar Energy Society’s Ohio Chapter, Green Energy Ohio, gave Sister Paula their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Catholics Thinking Outside the Bottle

22 July 08 | Posted in Food, Lifestyle, Sin Bin, Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

Sr. Janet Corcoran, vice president of mission service at Marian Medical Center in Santa Clara, CA, is just one of the Catholic voices spreading the gospel that bottled water, however convenient, is environmentally, economically and politically wrong. “It’s a matter of getting people to think more consciously about what they are doing,” she said. Her column, “Environmental Tips from a Green Franciscan Sister” is published in a hospital publication.

Concerns about bottled water are bubbling up in Catholic organizations, adding clout to a growing number of municipalities and secular organizations concerned about the issue–with women religious strongly in the lead.

Numerous women’s religious communities are banning bottled water at their motherhouses, retreat houses and conference centers, and some are substituting refillable water bottles for the throw-away kind at sponsored events.

Bottled water has become a lighting rod for several environmental-social justice issues surrounding water. bottledwater.jpg

There is a negative environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles. I see plenty of those on the beach–used and left by fishermen (both native born and Spanish-speaking immigrants) to wash out into the ocean. There is the oil used to make plastic bottles.  And lastly, the prize of the ownership and access to good water, especially for developing countries. Like energy resources–oil, gas, coal–water is now being privatized by corporations.

The United Nations  estimates that more than 1 billion people currently lack access to safe drinking water and that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will not have access to drinking water.

Some Catholic groups have borrowed information and ideas from Think Outside the Bottle, a major non-religious player in the anti-bottled water movement.

The organization has launched a web-based campaign that provides information and support. In addition to inviting individuals to sign a pledge to boycott bottled water, the program urges people to send postcards to corporations challenging corporate control of water, to attend stockholders’ meetings and mount other forms of pressure on corporate executives.

I guess what this means for me is to stop buying Poland Spring at Staples or the supermarket, and fill the empties with tap water.

I love Poland Spring. It’s easy to tote to the gym or have in the car. Water in refillable plastic bottles tastes vile.  This is going to be a tough one.