HOW GREEN IS MY PARISH - HOLY FAMILY CHURCH, CHAKALA
The Book of Genesis narrates the Story of Creation and says – God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good. God entrusted His handiwork to humankind, believing that we will care for it and live in harmony with it. How faithful have we been to this mandate given to us?
Pope Francis, in his encyclical “Laudato Si”, expresses anguish at what is happening to our common home, but he also offers hope that we can restore the relationship with Creation and use the earth’s goods responsibly. He also emphasizes that caring for Creation is in line with the Church’s teaching and not a fad or a contemporary movement. Pope Francis says that as Christians, we need to realize that our responsibility within creation, and our duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of our faith.
As members of parishes, we have the unique privilege of being able to reach out to a large group of people, and every individual and community initiative, however small, can potentially have a ripple effect and make a difference. What can we do in our parishes to care for and heal our relationship with Creation? At Holy Family Parish, Chakala, we have taken several steps towards this. Our church is at the centre of an industrial area, and our efforts have been towards making this an oasis of greenery and calm amidst a concrete and glass jungle. Some of the eco-friendly initiatives we have taken up –
Our entire parish campus has been declared a “No Plastics Zone”. We have replaced all one-time use plates and cups with steel plates and cups which are used at the cafeteria and at all meetings and gatherings. We have also given each family in the parish a reusable cloth bag to discourage use of plastic bags.
Our church is built on a slope and to facilitate harvesting of rainwater that flows down, we have two bore wells, surrounded by two wells, which arrest the water flowing down the slope. This not only captures the water flowing out onto the road, it also helps in recharging the groundwater supply.
We avoid the use of flowers at our altars and use potted plants, very often grown by our parishioners.
We have taken up composting at the parish level. We have begun with 4 composting drums, where all the kitchen/parish wet waste as also the plentiful supply of dry leaves is put, giving us fresh manure to fertilize all the plants in the campus. This year, we plan to take composting to the “grassroots” by encouraging our Sunday School children to take it up in their homes.
Tetrapak recycling has caught on in a big way in the parish. Our parishioners religiously bring the used tetrapaks (duly cut and cleaned) and deposit them in the bins provided and we have tied up with an NGO to collect them every week. These tetrapaks are then recycled into benches, desks, tables, etc. Since we began two years ago, we have prevented more than 40,000 tetrapaks from going into the landfill.
Our church and entire campus is lit by LED lights, thus saving considerably on electricity.
We have done away with hymn sheets for our major services, instead projecting the hymns on screens. We also use Whatsapp and other media to communicate messages all over the parish, in place of flyers and handouts. Putting up of flex banners in the church premises is also discouraged.
There is a “Green Tip of the Week” on our parish website (www.holyfamilychurchchakala.com), with simple, doable suggestions that can make an impact.
We encourage ‘Burial in a Shroud” at our funerals – an eco-friendly, cost-friendly way of burying a loved one. Also, a way of doing what Jesus did – He was buried in a shroud.
Besides, our church campus is full of trees and plants, and it is a spot of calm where many find solace and silence broken only by the calls of birds.
We are glad that with Pope Francis making Care for Creation a part of our spirituality and with the Jesuits showing us the way, our parishioners have taken to the “greener” way of life with willingness and enthusiasm, and gradually with faith.
It is time for all of us, as individuals and as a community, to look at a change in lifestyle and make a new start towards what Pope Francis calls “ecological conversion”. Maybe we could thus begin building “a new heaven and a new earth” where all of God’s creation will join in singing praises to the all-powerful Creator.
Mary Saldanha Parishioner of Holy Family, Chakala
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