Janelle Cooney

It is that time in the Liturgical year when Catholics begin thinking, “What should I do for Lent?” Give up chocolate? Social Media? Or maybe I could enrich my prayer life? Whom can I support by alms giving?”

As a follower of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, a member of my parish’s creation care team, and a participant in EcoPhilly, my thoughts tend toward a Lenten sacrifice that serves the least among us.

Specifically, I am thinking about climate change. Our Holy Father says clearly that climate change is disrupting the lives of vulnerable people around the globe who lack the resources to adapt to a changing environment. Rising sea levels, heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods affect people who have no choice but to live in harm’s way. We also are aware that over-consumption on the part of the developed world is contributing to deforestation, toxic waste, and a biodiversity crisis.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges us to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, [24 May 2015], 49). Creation, which in its pristine beauty gives glory to God, is being filled with garbage, chopped down for development, and injected with contaminants that foul our water and air.

How can really we make a difference during Lent? Please consider some of the following actions that creation care allies across the archdiocese will be taking this Lent. These are some simple ideas we can honor God and tread more lightly on the earth.


  1. Fast from Plastic Waste: Make a commitment to stop using single use plastic water bottles and shopping bags. Most of us have a refillable water bottle and reusable shopping bags already. The key is to make it a habit to use them.
  2. Fast from Food Waste: Most food waste ends up in landfills causing greenhouse gas emissions which adds to climate heating. When shopping, buy only what you need, and use it before it goes bad. Start composting food scraps by joining a curbside pick-up service that is in your neighborhood.
  3. Consider a Meat Fast: Extend your fasting from meat beyond Ash Wednesday, Fridays, and Good Friday. Try Meatless Mondays, or being more aware of where your meat comes from. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) often raise beef and poultry with inhumane practices, producing excess carbon emissions.
  4. Consider an Energy Fast: Turn the thermostat down a degree or two during the winter and up a couple of degrees in the summer. Wash clothes in cold water to save energy.
  5. Take the Pedal off the Metal: Slow down when you are driving. You will save on gas money, lower your carbon footprint, and make our roads safer all at once!
  6. Reduce Unnecessary Consumption: Consider a change in your casual spending during Lent. Buy only necessary items, such as medications, food, and toiletries. Avoid elective impulse purchases.


Rice Bowls sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) makes it easy for us to give alms. CRS serves the people most in need around the world. It also assists those living in areas hardest hit by climate change. If you pick up a Rice Bowl, grab a couple extra for your friends. Inspiring generosity could be a part of your Lenten practice, too. If you don’t have a CRS Rice Bowl, print a DIY Rice Bowl label and adhere it to a container. You can also find resources on the Archdiocese’s website by visiting archphila.org/crsricebowl/.


Remember to pray for those suffering the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, especially those who are not able to support their families. You can also pray through Laudato Si’ and Laudate Deum. Reflecting on Catholic Social Teaching can enliven us to be more involved in our parishes and communities.

Consider a daily devotion to creation care. Spring will be here soon, so perhaps you could pray outside, say a rosary in the park, or be present in nature for a few minutes. You might also think of praying Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Earth daily. (Laudato Si’, 246).


It is not easy being “green.” Fortunately, EcoPhilly, an archdiocesan-wide creation care initiative, makes creation care accessible in our local Church. Through a network of creation care teams, EcoPhilly shares resources for church groups, universities, schools, ordained, religious communities, and individuals throughout the archdiocese.

EcoPhilly will host its annual conference on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at St. Thomas of Villanova, Rosemont Chapel (1229 East Lancaster Avenue, Rosemont, PA 19010). All are welcome to attend.

Whether you’re a member of your parish’s creation care, social justice, or stewardship committee, or would like to start a team, this meeting will be a fabulous opportunity to learn, share and support one another in our efforts to follow the call of Laudato Si’ this Lent and beyond.

Registration is free! Let us know how many people will be attending so we can plan for lunch. Email us at info@ecophilly.org to register.


Janelle Cooney is member of EcoPhilly’s Leadership team, parishioner, and Chair of the Creation Care Team at St. John Chrysostom Parish.