Earth Day 2012 Celebration at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md.

Surrounded by beautifully smelling white lilies, hydrangeas and azaleas at the foot of the altar, the parishioners would right away notice a large paining depicting the earth teaming with diverse creatures. Right above it, there was a sign with an important message written in many different languages: “God’s creation: handle it with care.”

This was the liturgical ambiance for the annual Earth Day celebration at St. Camillus Church (Silver Spring, Md.) that was prepared by the Latino members of the Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation committee. They worked hard to help ensure that the Sunday liturgies on April 22 would clearly reflect the theme of caring for God’s earth.

“We thought it was important that the music, offertory procession and prayers of the faithful that Sunday would allow our fellow parishioners to integrate the call to environmental justice with our Catholic faith,” said Ms. Perez, one of the members of the Latino JPIC.

There was something else that was done at Mass. When the people received the Communion, the church’s lights were turned off. Then, projected on the wall, right behind the altar, was an amazing video called “Creation Calls.” A number of parishioners, later on, commented on how much this unique Communion meditation meant for them: “It’s awesome that we could celebrating, here in the church, the ways God speaks to us in and through God’s creation. This is how I often experience God: out in nature as well as in the church,” said one young adult after the Mass.

He and close to 300 other members of St. Camillus parish stopped by the Earth Day table at the back of the church. There, they signed the Pledge of St. Francis to Care for God’s earth. They also received the information about ways they could live a more sustainable lifestyle. On a green paper in a shape of a human hand, they wrote their specific promises to care for the Earth. They were then attached to a paper, green tree.

Esther Reyes, a member of the Latino JPIC and of the Secular Franciscan Order, spoke glowingly about the event: “I and other members of JPIC committee, were amazed and filled with joy to see how well the entire community of St. Camillus responded to our Earth Day celebration. Our many different customs and languages spoken at the parish presented no barriers. The empty branches of the green, paper tree became by the end of the day completely filled with the parishioners’ written commitments to care for our Sister, Mother Earth.”

Sandra Perez who was also one of the main organizers of this parish-wide initiative said, “I was deeply moved by the positive responses we’ve received at the English-, Spanish- and French-speaking Masses. It was especially heartening to see the enthusiasm for the environment among the children and young people. This gives me a lot of hope.”

It’s worth noting that the Earth Day is by no means the only time that the Latino community at St. Camillus Church got involved in the issue of environmental justice. Recently, close to 50 members of the Latino community participated with great enthusiasm in a rally in front of the State Capitol in Annapolis, Md., to advocate in support of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy initiative. (Watch a short video taken at that event.)

The members of the Latino JPIC committee are currently organizing a special musical concern entitled: “Celebrating God’s Creation: Defending the Life of Our Children.” The event is being sponsored and promoted by the local Hispanic radio station. “Last year, at a similar event, we had over 300 people participating. I know that this year, we’ll make it even better. We are working on this with the young people of the Archdiocese. As they learn about what is happening to our planet and about the close connection between our faith and the environment, they get fired up and ready for action,” said Otto Perez, who is a co-coordinator of the Latino JPIC committee and one of FAN’s commissioners.

Report by Otto Perez, Latino JPIC Committee, St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Md.; FAN Action Commissioner

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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