Honoring Sr. Dorothy Strang

28 September 08 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic, Social Justice, Stewardship

Call to Action’s 2008 Leadership Award will be given posthumously to Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Dorothy “Dot” Strang, shot to death February 12, 2005 in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. Strang spent 40 years in Brazil defending the rights of peasant farmers and protecting the environment. dorothystrang.jpg

Honoring Sr. Dorothy is uniquely appropriate at this year’s CTA conference, which places “Our Earth” at the center of our efforts to “Embrace the Beloved Community.” The conference is scheduled for November 7-9, 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Affectionately known as the “Angel of the Amazon,” Strang worked tirelessly to empower the peasant settlers of the Amazon. She educated them about land tenures and the importance of protecting their homes in the rainforest. Together with the Brazilian government, Sr. Dorothy and the peasants created and eventually succeeded in implementing the first viable sustainable development project – a new model for the future.

A citizen of Brazil and the United States, Sr. Dorothy worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil.

Her death came less than a week after meeting with the country’s human rights officials about threats to the local farmers from loggers and large landowners who coveted the resources on their lands.

It has been estimated that 15,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest are lost every year to clear cutting and cattle pasturing. This is an area about the size of the state of Massachusetts. Another 7,000-15,000 is also lost to timber harvesting. Environmental degradation of the water, soil and animal habitats accompanies the logging.

Strang was shot six times at point blank range and left to die on a muddy road. The killers were paid $40 for her murder.

Commenting on the threats shortly before her death, Strang said “I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers to live without any protection in the forest.  They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment.”

Her brother, David Strang, and the superior of her community, Sr. Joan Krimm, are planning to attend the CTA conference to accept the award in Dorothy’s honor. Also hoping his schedule will allow him to attend is actor and Catholic peace-justice activist, Martin Sheen. Sheen is the narrator in a new documentary film, They Killed Sister Dorothy.

The Green Priest

26 September 08 | Posted in 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 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

13 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

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

1 September 08 | Posted in Stewardship, U.S. Catholic

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.