April 16, 2020
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This year, Earth Day organizers are highlighting a priority that represents the biggest challenge facing our planet: climate change. We asked members of the province’s Committee for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation to share ideas each of us can employ to tackle the climate crisis.
Catholic Climate Ambassadors are experts who deliver Catholic teaching on climate change to audiences around the country. Schedule an in-person or virtual visit for your community at: catholicclimatecovenant.org
Duns Scotus Friary, Berkley, Mich.
Al Mascia, OFMSome things are just hard to separate. Take, for example, a bear cub from its mother or – if you’re someone like me – egg yolks from egg whites! More importantly, however, is the inseparable and synergistic relationship humankind has with the rest of creation. As billions of people, in one way or another, have to adapt their daily lives to the coronavirus pandemic, that significant relationship is cast into high relief. With so many quarantined and with travel so drastically limited on land, sea and in the air, there appears to be some collateral benefit from all of this. Satellite reports seem to suggest the atmosphere is clearing up. Journalists have even reported that people in India are seeing more blue skies!
Now, a global shutdown is clearly an unsustainable solution to pollution and healing of the planet. However, it does seem clear that the less we drive around town the better our “Sister Mother Earth” feels! Here at Duns Scotus Friary we have been intentionally limiting our driving: One friar does the grocery shopping, one goes to the bank, another to the post office, etc. Simply put, we’re checking in with one another more than we had been doing in order to consolidate our errands and thereby reduce the time any of us spends driving around town! Based on what we’re seeing from the satellites, it seems that this just might make a difference!
There are environmental pluses and minuses to both plastic and paper shopping bags but consider this: “The majority of plastic bags end up in landfills, where they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade,” according to the New York Times.
Pleasant Street Friary, Cincinnati
Al Hirt, OFMBefore the pandemic, St. Monica-St. George had scheduled a Pollinator’s Paradise event for April 19. The focus is on providing plants for the bees! The March St. Anthony Messenger article on “Praised Bee” emphasized the important role these little guys play.(https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/sam/praised-bee) And bees are back in the Exultet! In our plantings, we should be aware of what the bees can thrive upon.
Mercy Community, Cincinnati
The best way to reduce the effects of climate change, I think, would be for auto companies to work on producing more electric cars, thereby scaling down pollution and smog. Other ideas: Less dependence on coal for fuel, more Dominic Lococo, OFMuse of wind power, more solar panels on homes and factories. These to me are the main sources of our climate problems today. Hopefully our engineers and scientists will come up with solutions to help the world’s population for generations to come.
Monastery of the Holy Land, Washington, D.C.
Greg Friedman, OFM A report on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on April 13 made note of the reports that people find (according to reporter Elsa Chang), “the air in their cities has been amazingly clear, that you can see far into the distance, you can smell flowers instead of exhaust.” (Reduction of Carbon) NPR reporters spoke with scientists who are watching the reduction in pollution, due to reduced traffic, on the ground and in the air. Environmental scientist Rob Jackson at Stanford University called it “a remarkable experiment, and it shows the benefits of clean energy.” Could the human family learn from this time of pandemic the benefit to our planet of a radical change in lifestyle? One fear is that after it’s over, we go back to life as before. But perhaps our prayer in this time might be to gain wisdom from our forced reduction in the excesses of human commerce, and – following Pope Francis’ lead – re-examine our ways of living in order to restore justice and healing to the Earth.
Curbs on auto pollution are being relaxed at a time when transport – cars, trucks, planes, trains and shipping – is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S. Elect officials who support tougher emission standards.
St. Anthony Friary, Cincinnati
Vince Delorenzo, OFM With the “shelter-in-place orders” during the pandemic I have come to realize how many unnecessary trips I make to the store and other places. Apparently cutting back car travel has made a big difference in California. I believe I heard that the air has been the cleanest in years because of the lack of vehicles on the road in Los Angeles. It is amazing because it has only been three months and already this has made a big difference.
I also think the increased awareness on recycling and doing away with plastic shopping bags – as they’ve done in places like Jamaica – is important.
Pleasant Street Friary, Cincinnati
John Quigley, OFMWe are flooded with tips and suggestions: Use cold water in washing cycles; carpool; disconnect all appliance plugs when not in use; etc. I would suggest that it is wise to pay close attention to the changes in your patterns of living at this time of the pandemic. How are you forced to conserve? What can you do without?
St. Francis Friary, Easton, Pa.
Some people believe climate change is real; others, a hoax. Whatever a person does or does not believe, it is an issue personally affecting us, our country, our world.
Scott Obrecht, OFMWe can heal the earth by taking climate actions that reduce our personal carbon footprint, such as walking, cycling, carpooling, using public transportation, planting trees, recycling, reducing food waste, and composting. These are all little ways that we can make a small difference. But we need to do something bigger to make a major, long-lasting impact.
Pope Francis, in his groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si’, writes, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern us all.”
I believe that the best way to heal the earth is by electing government officials with the power and influence to make the environmental changes that are needed on a state, national and global level. From local mayors and council members to congress people and the president, they make the crucial decisions regarding how we care for our environment, our world.
These are the people who set the policy affecting climate change. We the people need to do our part in caring for our common home, Mother Earth. We, too, have the power and influence if we choose to use it. We need to be part of the conversation. Laudato Si’!
Asters, lantana, butterfly weed: Flowers visited by bees are typically fragrant and colorful. For advice on planting a pollinator garden, visit the U.S. Forest Service website: Pollinators/animals/bees
Those left behind
Unpredictable weather has forced farmers off their land.
I remember a talk that I attended with people from the high Sierra regions in Kenya. They said that in the past, white Europeans came, stole and sold their people, their resources and their culture. They were left with one article of their “wealth” – their knowledge of the weather patterns and how to co-ordinate their planting and growing seasons with the seasons.
But now because of the pollution and damage to the atmosphere and the weather cycles, they can no longer accurately predict their farming and harvest cycles. With the failure of their crops they have been forced to migrate into the overcrowded cities when they had no preparation for city life. I was told at the meeting: “(You) wealthier countries have stolen the last security that we had, our ability to predict and work with the weather.”
–John Quigley, OFM
It’s “time to choose what matters and what passes away,” said Pope Francis.
One of the results of not traveling as much is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The earth is able to take a breath for a minute. One of my wonderments has been that despite all that this disease has done, a benefit could be a different future for our planet. This crisis tells me that not everything should return to “normal”. As Pope Francis said, “Seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. . . a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.” (Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Blessings, March 27, 2020)
What will we choose? How will we be transformed? Easter and the 50 Days is not about things returning to normal. Rather the disciples were being transformed from hiding in the Upper Room to becoming bold proclaimers of this transformation. Matthew’s Gospel shows the back and forth nature of that by describing the disciples as fearful, yet full of joy. Could these next 50 Days of Resurrection move friars as men of penance (also known as ongoing conversion) to being transformed, and our earth to restore itself?
–Mark Soehner, OFM
BY ROGER LOPEZ, OFM
Roger teaches from a rec room desk at St. Clement Friary.At 8 a.m., there are seven-plus emails crowding the student’s inbox on their iPad. The school bell has sounded…well, the virtual school bell. On Thursday, March 12, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that all public, private, and charter schools would close to ensure public health during the Covid-19 pandemic. While many educators had to quickly brainstorm ideas and rally resources, the administration at Roger Bacon High School had already prepared the faculty and staff for such a move.
Emails were circulating about programs and virtual sites that would aid teachers in instruction. One virtual meeting site I used with students on the Community Outreach Board (founded by our brother, the late Conrad Rebmann) was Zoom. This program would soon become integral to delivering online instruction. All employees were summoned for a meeting with the principal immediately after school that Thursday and were told Friday would be the last day we would see students for at least three weeks. We needed to prepare them for the online transition.
Friday, March 13th, was anything but normal. Students received instructions for websites and for downloading necessary tools for their iPad. (Textbooks at Roger Bacon are now online so students always have the resources they need.) In my Service Learning course for juniors and seniors, I instructed them to download Zoom and gave them a quick crash course, knowing that they could no longer interact with each other in a discussion-based class.
I heard from several students about the inconvenience of the Governor’s actions. Others said it was an overreaction to a small problem. Drawing on my thoughts as a postulant, when I had so much instruction in youth protection, I said, “If all this hassle and burden that I do saves one life, then it is worth it.” Overall, many saw this moratorium of physical attendance as more or less a vacation. It sunk in quickly that it was anything but.
The weekend was filled with tasks to prepare for the following week. Students were given that Monday off as a “snow day.” This allowed the faculty to gather and work within departments to troubleshoot programs and prepare our online platform for virtual instruction. We were instructed to send an email to our students every school day at 8 a.m. This would provide an agenda with directions for what was expected daily. Many began recording their lessons using the camera provided on our school-issued laptops. This was not new to me; I had been making videos of my lessons since early in my teaching career. Now, countless teachers across America are doing it daily.
Creating videos for online instruction is dynamically different than in-person teaching. There is no audience to feed off, something many priests are encountering now when they preach at livestreamed Mass. You also want smooth transitions between the different elements of your lesson – no fumbling virtually through your slides or websites. In other words, no one wants to see how the sausage is made. A good lesson, like any presentation, needs to be dynamic. Little did I know this form of delivery was to become “The New Normal” well after three weeks.
After the first week I quickly realized I needed to diversify instruction even more, so I introduced Zoom to my students. One day a week, I do a virtual classroom. I teach four freshman classes, which equals about 85 students. To help educators, Zoom had informed customers they would remove the participant limit and time restriction for every person in education.
Hosting 85 students became possible – but would be very different from a regular classroom. Students are muted upon entry, but I begin every virtual class with prayer – praying especially for our whole world, and all those who are victims to sickness and suffering of Covid-19. Then I can share my screen and begin using PowerPoint with my voice.
Roger recorded an Easter message for his students at Roger Bacon.At various times I offer a reflection question and invite students to think and respond. Since everyone is muted, a student can raise his or her hand virtually. I can unmute them, and they can respond to the question or provide an insight. Other students also see the classmate who is speaking, which allows a visual connection. When they finish, they are muted again, and I go to the next person who has their hand raised virtually. Overall, the lesson goes on for about 45 minutes, approximately the same time as our normal classes at RB. Students get a chance to see each other, me, hear a familiar voice, endure my silly jokes, and interact with the material. In that short amount of time, there is some normalcy.
Now, my classroom is via the internet and my desk is the long table in the recreation room at St. Clement Friary. Hanging a sign that reads, “Silence Please. Recording in Progress,” alerts brothers that school is in session. A few friars have commented, “If you teachers do a good job with all this online stuff, are you afraid that you will be out of a job?” I smile, realizing that online instruction can never replace the experience of direct, face-to-face interaction.
The whole world is discovering this reality. While talking on the phone with family is great, and Facetime helps bridge the social distancing gap, we need to hug one another and talk in person with our friends. There is a wisdom in the Church that mandates the Sacraments must be done in person. While teaching virtually is effective, it is anything but ideal. Now as I talk to students who have just completed their fourth week of online instruction, they’re telling me something I never thought I would hear: “I really miss going to school.”
(Roger Lopez is a faculty member at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati.)
Roger Lopez asked his freshmen Theology students to create a message that others need to hear from God amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. These were among the responses posted last week on Roger Bacon High School’s Facebook page.
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Unpredictable weather has forced farmers off their land.Over the past 50 years the human race has become much more sensitive to ecological challenges with tremendous strides in education and governmental regulations. In wealthier countries care for creation is often considered to be something nice to do, a bit of a luxury, an extra, to think about. In the poorest nations, ecological destruction forces issues about peoples’ survival. It is not an abstract luxury.
It’s “time to choose what matters and what passes away,” said Pope Francis.We’re approaching the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And we are at the same time “sheltering in place” during this coronavirus pandemic. One of our brothers contracted the disease, and has, with prayer, come through the harrowing high temperatures. The disease is real, with the only known slowdown to be social distancing. Working at home certainly cuts down on the amount we use our cars or other modes of transportation.