SASKATOON — Cultivating and Caring for Creation is a series of 12 online videos and study guides recently released in anticipation of Pope Francis’ coming encyclical on the environment, demonstrating how Catholics are leading and participating in a new commitment to respect and protect creation.
“Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of his project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone,” Pope Francis said in a message on World Earth Day 2013.
Produced by greenspirittv.com (GSTV), a participant in romancatholictv.com (RCTV), Cultivating and Caring for Creation is narrated by Bishop Donald Bolen, and includes content from several Canadian Catholic eco justice leaders.
“The environment is hurting, our earth is suffering, and future generations will suffer as a result. People today suffer as a result. We focus on individual sin in the church, but we also need to focus on collective sin,” says Bolen, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and chair of the Justice and Peace Commission, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
Bolen’s words are part of the 12-part series of video shorts and lesson plans distributed by the CCCB to dioceses across the country as background for Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical on the environment entitled Laudato Sii (Latin for Praised Be, from St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun, a 13th-century hymn of praise to God).
Bolen worked with other members of the CCCB Justice and Peace Commission on Building a New Culture — Central Themes in Recent Church Teaching on the Environment released in January 2013.
“The Justice and Peace Commission was asked by the plenary of the Canadian bishops to produce a document on the environment,” recalls Bolen, “and we felt that it was useful to highlight recent statements of successive popes who have expressed a strong commitment toward the environment.”
Events would overtake the publishing of that document. Pope Benedict resigned in February 2013; Pope Francis was elected in March. Almost immediately, Francis began to speak about the environmental crisis and it soon became known that his first encyclical (encyclicals are among the most informative forms of papal teaching) would provide a new eco justice framework for Catholics, and indeed, the entire world.
As a group of Catholic organizations got together to prepare the online video series, Bolen agreed to contribute to the videos, which bring together the thoughts of popes, bishops, and lay people long active in developing Catholic thought and action on eco justice issues.
Along with the contributions from the CCCB’s Justice and Peace Commission, the series content-providers include: Building Bridges Project (Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs/Western Catholic Bishops); the Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology, University of Toronto; Farmland Legacies (Sask.) ; Madonna House Apostolate (Combermere, Ont.); Scarboro Missions; St. Gabriel’s Parish, Willowdale, Ont. (Canada’s first LEED-gold eco church building); St. Joseph Centre for Ecology, Cobourg, Ont. (Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada); Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul (Kingston, Ont.); and St. Peter’s Benedictine Abbey (Muenster, Sask.).
“One simple thing that we can do is attend to the prophetic voices in our communities who are looking to the environment and its needs, who have engaged in rigorous study, who have, over the long haul, expressed deep concerns about environmental changes, and who show us some of the small steps which can be taken in our area, in our parishes, which help us to live in a new way in relation to the environment,” says Bolen when introducing Canadian eco justice thinkers and initiatives in his own diocese, across the country, and in developing communities around the world.
‘I believe these programs are helpful in many ways, providing a context where it is clear that Pope Francis is teaching in continuity with his predecessors. The series is also an excellent expression of our various church communities working together to present a pastoral message to students and parishioners.
“The message is simple: from popes to bishops to religious and laity, we care about the environment and we want to share that concern, which Pope Francis has termed the moral imperative of our times, with the entire body of the faithful.”