Nicholas Collura (left) and John Humphreys

This Earth Day, April 22, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have reason to celebrate: with the backing of Archbishop Pérez, a new, archdiocese-wide creation care initiative is underway to take better care of our own corner of the planet, our common home.

The organizers of this initiative – which is known as EcoPhilly – would like to invite all readers to become involved to whatever extent you can.

The issue of climate change can be polarizing, so it’s important to remark that creation care is not just the concern of left-leaning groups. Larry Fink, the world’s most powerful investor, recently wrote to the world’s CEOs indicating that climate change will be “a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.”

Knowing that cleaner air and green technologies are better both for our communities and for economic growth, General Motors has committed to going all-electric by 2035.

Most importantly for Catholics, all of our recent popes have delivered a consistent message on the environmental crisis. “The seriousness of ecological degradation lays bare the depth of humanity’s moral crisis,” announced St. Pope John Paul II on the 1990 World Day of Peace. “Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as the spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of daily life.”

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI, on the 2007 World Day of Peace, proclaimed that “disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence and vice versa.”

For this reason, the Philadelphia Archdiocese is responding to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet” in light of the fact that “everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.”

The Holy Father continues: “Many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.”

We take this as a call to each of our consciences, because in the five years since Pope Francis wrote his letter, the environmental deterioration of this planet has not abated; it has only worsened.

The goal of EcoPhilly is for every parish and school in the archdiocese to develop a sustainability team or ongoing initiative. This is where you come in! Will you reach out to introduce yourself and join our mailing list?

In this way, we can build a network of concerned Catholics. Perhaps some of you will also discern whether you can spread the word to others or even become a contact person or leader in your own faith community.

The EcoPhilly team will assist interested individuals in tailoring a custom plan for each parish and school, offering suggestions and resources for greening your community’s footprint, developing prayers or liturgies devoted to what St. John Paul called “ecological conversion,” and more.

We believe that a little goes a long way – as long as everyone agrees to do just a little.

This is an issue that impacts all of us. In the upcoming decades, the Philadelphia area will experience heavier flooding (including damage to historic sites and loss of tourist revenue), poorer air quality (resulting in worsened effects of respiratory illness, asthma and water-borne illness from floods) and higher costs to local families (including tax dollars for road maintenance and steeper heat and electric bills).

In the upcoming decades, the world will continue to experience dramatic wildfires (like recent ones in Australia and California), climate refugees (such as those fleeing cataclysmic hurricanes in Latin America) and sea level rise (which is predicted to sink Bangkok, Shanghai, Mumbai, Alexandria and half of Vietnam underwater by 2050).

Our collective action here in Pennsylvania will help to raise global awareness, momentum and solidarity with the most vulnerable communities in our world. Our collective silence will make us complicit in their fate.

We at EcoPhilly are motivated by love and concern for our children and grandchildren and for the world they will inherit. We are fearful on behalf of the poor and disinherited; we are grieving the loss of the beauty and biodiversity of our planet and its fragile web of life.

Yet we are also celebrating this new opportunity to band together under the inspiration of Pope Francis and be part of the solution.

This is why, in a statement for this article, Archbishop Pérez himself has issued this invitation to all the faithful of our archdiocese: “Please engage with these efforts to care for God’s creation. We all share a personal and societal duty to heed the Holy Father’s call.”

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More information about this initiative can be found at www.EcoPhilly.org, and CatholicPhilly.com will report on its work each month.