Posted June 1, 2009
Book: Catholics Going Green
Author: Walter E. Grazer
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2009. Pp. 94.
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
“Every believer should read this superb book. It shows why pollution is a social-justice problem and why its heaviest burdens are borne by the poor and the powerless. Down-to-earth, thoughtful, and insightful, it leads believers first to prayer and then to action to alleviate environmental problems. Designed for use either by small groups or by individuals, each chapter is filled with useful environmental discussions, relevant scripture readings, prayers, and stories of ordinary people who are making a difference. Especially important are its suggestions of specific ways in which people can take action to protect people and the planet.” Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Ph.D.
An Excerpt from the Book:
When he talks about saving energy and other environmental issues, Fr. Charles Morris of St. Elizabeth Parish in Wyandotte, Michigan, likes to say, “We’re a part of creation, not apart from it.”
Wyandotte is a working-class inner ring suburb of Detroit. The parish has only 230 Catholic households, or roughly five hundred Catholics. One reason it’s still alive is that the parish has managed to stay in the black financially, in large part because of the 60 percent or so it saves in monthly gas and electric costs by a thoroughgoing program of energy efficiency.
Fr. Morris notes that St. Elizabeth’s energy efficiency starts with solar electrical panels, a wind turbine, and a solar water heating system on the rectory roof. It has switched from incandescent lighting fixtures to fluorescent or compact fluorescent lamps for all the rectory and church lighting. It now uses LEDs (light emitting diodes) for illuminated exit signs, and has added a new energy-efficient boiler and reduced-pressure water system to cut water usage.
The list of energy saving measures that Fr. Morris cites goes on: they use block glass in the church basement, installing new windows with an R-9 insulation rating. They have installed 24/7 programmable thermostats to minimize heating or cooling during hours that buildings are not in use.
In the first five years of moving toward greater energy efficiency, from 1997 to 2002, “we reduced our peak energy demand 60 percent” in the church and school, he says. As a result, the electric company reduced the parish’s peak demand charge by $300 a month.
Fr. Morris says that the parish regularly tracks its energy use by computer: “We found in the 11 months from April 2007 to March 2008 we reduced our gas [usage] by 11 percent. That was 29,000 pounds of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere.” He adds that even though the winter of 2007-08 was a cold one and the price of gas had increased, “we actually spent $300 less on utilities.”
Fr. Morris says that even though it will take years to recoup the costs of their energy-saving investments it’s worth doing it from a faith perspective. “It’s sacramental. It’s witness,” he says, “Human beings were put in the Garden of Eden to tend it, not to cover it with asphalt. How do we relate to God’s creation in terms of glorifying it, and not trashing it for future generations? This is really a huge, ultimate life issue.”
Table of Contents:
1. We walk on Holy Ground
2. We honor the dignity of the human person
3. We stand in solidarity
4. We share the goods of the earth
5. We champion the cause for global human development
6. We answer the call to conversation of life