Parishes, schools, groups across diocese put stewardship into practice
Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Nearly two years ago, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter titled, Laudato si’, Care for Our Common Home. In it, the Holy Father asked each Christian to reflect deeply on how we care for each other and for creation, in both our individual choices and as public citizens.
Father Jonathan Haschke, pastor of Sacred Heart and Assumption parishes in Roseland, explained, “God created the earth and God created humans as the crown of creation. We are called to use creation but not waste it.”
In practical terms, that can mean conserving natural resources like water and fossil fuels, recycling or reusing instead of sending items to a landfill, and striving to create less pollution in the environment.
“From a Catholic perspective, it means to be good stewards of the earth,” said Father Haschke, who earned double bachelor’s degrees in wildlife biology and management, and environment and natural resources from the University of Wyoming in Laramie before entering the seminary.
He continued, “We have respect for the environment. However, we do not view humans as mere parasites that just consume natural resources.”
For Catholics, there is another angle on this.
“We are especially called to use creation for the benefit of all people, including the poor, as Pope Francis has taught us,” Father Haschke said.
In Laudato si’, Pope Francis urged all Catholics to have an honest dialogue about our social and ecological environments.
“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” he asked, noting, “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together.”
Objectively, it is not difficult to see how the deterioration of the natural environment has an especially adverse affect on the poorest of the poor. Lack of clean drinking water and adequate food affects impoverished people in rural and urban areas alike. These serious problems are only made worse when those who have been financially blessed focus more on their own “creature comforts” than responsible consumption.
“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it,” the Holy Father wrote.
Throughout the Diocese of Lincoln, there are individuals, families, schools, and parish organizations who are all making the same kinds of efforts that the Holy Father called for in Laudato si’.
“Right now three other teachers and I at St. Cecilia High School (in Hastings) are participating in a science and religion seminar through Notre Dame University,” said Father Haschke.
“The purpose is preparing educators to teach high school students how faith and science can be integrated.”
As somebody who has always loved the outdoors and learning about wildlife, Father Haschke is especially excited about the way the program uses the study of God’s creation as a means of enhancing one’s faith.
“Many people think that science and faith are incompatible, but actually there is an abundance of common ground,” he said.
Cathedral School in Lincoln has taken a similar approach to demonstrating to students that science and faith are perfectly compatible. On April 23, the school held its annual “Earth Day” celebration. This year it included a science fair in the school’s “nearly completed” Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.
Activities included a scavenger hunt, making bird feeders, starting soybean seeds, and learning about recycling, wind energy, and water purification. Students and their families also helped with weeding, planting and re-mulching landscape areas around the school.
Other schools are making serious efforts to recycle, reduce waste and do other things to keep the environment healthy.
In Avoca and Syracuse, Knights of Columbus Council #7514 have adopted a three-mile section of highway through the Nebraska Department of Roads. The Knights work together at least twice a year to clear litter from both sides of the highway.
Grand Knight Bill Formanek said another local men’s group was tending to that section until their membership was no longer able to keep it up.
“One of our members, Kirk Meyer, was a member of that group, and he asked if the Knights would want to take that over,” Formanek said.
The Knights were unanimous in their enthusiasm.
Formanek said the Department of Roads was very helpful in providing everything the Knights needed, including safety vests, signs and trash bags. At their first outing in February, Knights brought their wives, family members and scouts to help, getting the section clear in about an hour and a half.
“Any time you pick up a piece of paper off the highway, it’s a good thing as far as taking care of the earth,” Mr. Formanek said. He admitted he’d rather let trash pile up in his vehicle than toss it out the window.
“We have a responsibility to use our talents and problem solving skills to find solutions to problems affecting the environment,” reasoned Father Haschke. “This will ensure that the good things of the earth are available for the next generation.”
He concluded, “the earth and all of creation is a gift from God. Like any gift God gives us, we are called to use it for his glory and for the service of others.”