CLEMSON—In a small parlor of a two-story converted home on the grounds of St. Andrew Church, a Franciscan priest led a small group study of how St. Francis’ love for nature can guide today’s Catholics in a most modern-sounding quest: going green.
St. Francis has long been beloved for his own love of nature, explained Father John “Jack” McDowell, OFM, the campus minister.
“The whole idea is to do something more than just fill the birdbaths and bless animals on the Feast of St. Francis,” he said.
The idea is also more basic than addressing directly some of the hot-button environmental issues in the news today.
“Sometimes I think people misunderstand us,” Father Jack said, “in the sense that I think they think we’re arguing over global warming. We’re not doing that at all. We’re talking about what every one of us as baptized Christians are called to do: be co-creators with God and leave the world a better place.”
The six-week course, which continues through Nov. 10, is based on the book “Catholics Going Green,” by Walter E. Grazer, a former director of the Environmental Justice Program for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The book suggests possible action options. At a recent Thursday-night session, Father Jack led a group of five in a talk about “We Honor the Dignity of the Human Person.” Suggested activities included organizing a fundraiser for a local soup kitchen and investing in companies that have “green policies” or go with “green investments.”
The group talked about items such as fair-trade coffee, and the importance of organic farms. Bringing it closer to home, they also focused on a program in Pickens County that sends food home on Fridays with free-or-reduced-meal children in public schools, so they will have meals over the weekend.
Father Jack said working together, through active and contemplative ministries, parishioners can grow their own faith, though sometimes they have to prepare for criticism.
“They say ‘oh, they’re a goody-two-shoes’ or like that,” he said. “The fact is that some people do (want to be active), and their faith is increased and they’re doing something in soup kitchens, and yet others will criticize them for that … and maybe they think ‘I’m not doing anything, I’m only one person.’ “But you are.”
“And that’s what I think is so beautiful about it,” he continued. “You’re not being conceited, you’re not being proud. The Lord is pleased, and you should be happy with what you’ve been able to do with the gifts and talents you’ve been blessed with.”
Upcoming sessions include “We Stand in Solidarity,” “We Share the Goods of the Earth,” and “We Champion the Cause for Global Human Development.”
Father Jack said it is important for everyone to see “the needs of God’s people and make them known.”
“There probably are [those]— within the parish or other members outside — that think this is just a waste of time, or want to get into something it’s not,” he said. “All we’re talking about is responsibility. We’re not talking about telling someone else how to live, we’re just talking about discovering how I should be living.”