Father Eugene Hemrick

Father Eugene Hemrick

Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the ecology cries for creative action capable of raising parish life to new heights. And how might this happen?

Some years ago, I read a success story that talked about the ecological potential that parishes possess. The parish created a garden for people in wheelchairs. They raised the level of soil a few feet and corralled it with railroad ties. This enabled people in wheelchairs to plant, weed and harvest more easily because everything was brought up to a level that helped them access the soil and the plants.

A wholesome result of this endeavor was enabling those confined to a wheelchair to get outdoors, to actively participate in the life of the parish and to experience the uplifting spirit of watching a garden grow.

Parishes are perfect institutions for developing creativity in a community. Situated in neighborhoods, they have direct access to its neighbors and have excellent means for creating community involvement.


Organized community service can help turn around a run-down neighborhood into a thriving urban center. For example, some cities are now converting trash-filled empty lots into fruitful gardens that beautify the area. Much of the garden’s produce is shared with the poor.

What is especially unique about the parish community is that since its mission is focused on the Gospel, providing community service helps them connect closely to Scripture.

Pope Francis implores us to see the earth not as a house but as a common “home,” one in which God provides us with life from the sun, rain and changing seasons. He encourages us to respect nature as God’s gift to us. And where can we learn these lessons best but in our parishes?

Within a parish, we have young children, parents, singles, middle-aged folks, elderly and the retired.

Children love science projects and where better to initiate them than in the parish? Parents always want the best for their children, and where better to find this than in parish education that teaches God’s wisdom on how to maintain and respect the earth’s resources?

Single people often look for projects that they can be part of in a community. Where better to look for such a project than at a welcoming parish whose mission is action aimed at enhancing the earth’s blessings?

The same holds true for the elderly and retired who want to stay actively involved and continue to make major contributions to society. Many of these elderly and retired possess the wisdom of the ages just waiting to be shared.

There is much talk about Pope Francis’ encyclical. It’s good to read, but now comes the time to act.