By Kathryne Rakowski
Contributing writer

Summer is the season to present the Green Apple Award. This year, St. Francis of Assisi in Binghamton and All Saints Church in Syracuse were the recipients of this award, which celebrates intentional steps taken to care for the Earth. Individuals, faith formation classes, youth groups and families are invited to submit a project for recognition, with the ultimate goal being to encourage action to care for God’s creation.

Decorating rocks for the All Saints’

“Our goal for the long haul is to call attention to caring for our common home and help people find ways to change their behavior,” said Don Mills, Deputy Superintendent of Catholic Schools who coordinates this project with Theresa May, Associate Director of Child & Family Catechesis.

The St. Francis of Assisi group focused on the Laudato Si’ encyclical goals of environmental education, ecological spirituality and community involvement. Confirmation students spent time during the school year teaching younger grades about different aspects of the climate crisis. The classes included discussion of their ecological feelings and how God must feel about these issues. Younger grades then created artwork based on their lessons, which became a 6-foot vinyl banner unveiled at Ross Park Zoo in Binghamton on Earth Day. Confirmation student Nora Bush helped to lead this project.

“I think it’s important to work together to fix these environmental issues,” she shared. “As being a part of the next generation, we were handed a polluted and dying Earth that climate change has caused,” she said. “In the Laudato Sí’, Pope Francis explains that we all need to come together to fix our planet’s issues, not only Catholics but the entire world.”

Being able to teach others about care for creation, a core principle of Catholic social teaching, meant a lot to Bush and her classmates.

“The project we designed really helped me to connect my want to improve the environment with my connection to God and His creation.”

All Saints’ project focused on expanding and caring for a Native Plant Garden on the parish grounds that was created in 2018 by the Care for Creation Task Force. Families and children tended the garden during the summer of 2022 by planting, weeding and creating a more family-friendly area. The 2022 Vacation Bible School, “A Great Big Beautiful World,” centered on Laudato Si’ and gave children and volunteers opportunities to learn about native biodiversity, native ecology and how to practically care for plants.

During the school year, each elementary grade of the Faith Formation program played a role in maintaining the garden by planting seeds, laying hay for the winter, decorating rocks, creating a bird bath, and designing a mosaic for a wall for the garden. This team effort made a lasting impression on the whole community.

“Many children and catechists, including myself, were able to learn about native plants and the wildlife that depend on them as well as participate in planting, weeding and digging, a first for many children,” shared Director of Faith Formation Michael Songer. “It was so heartwarming to see children plant a tree sapling and come back throughout the year to see if it had grown. It gives me great hope for the future, our children, our Church and of our planet, to see children and youth so dedicated to caring for all of creation, plants, animals, the earth and each other!”

Awards will be presented to both parish communities over the summer.

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