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U. N. official defends the potential for progress at Mexico Climate Conference


The executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change on Wednesday defended the potential for progress at the group’s annual conference in Cancún, in the midst of low expectations in the wake of last year’s meeting in Copenhagen.

“The fact is that no one can afford permanently immovable positions,” executive secretary Christiana Figueres said at a press conference in Cancún on Dec. 1, referencing the overall perception of a stalemate that took place in Copenhagen last year.

Delegates at the Copenhagen conference were not able to agree on a binding climate treaty for curbing carbon emissions, which has cast doubt on the potential for the group to reach a treaty at this year’s conference, policy experts say.

“Nobody can afford to stay in inaction, and it is very clear that countries are actually willing to engage to be able to produce results here in Cancún,” Figueres said.

The adventure of Advent


Sometimes I manage to enjoy it when something comes up that derails or discombobulates me in the morning. Since my carefully laid plans have been capriciously monkey wrenched, that particular day might turn out to be an adventure, something I have begrudgingly learned to value.

The definition of an adventure is an undertaking or enterprise of a hazardous nature. We have no way of discerning ahead of time what the outcome will be. If we could, it would lose its exciting aspect.

So adventures can be exhilarating but they can also be frightening or confusing. What’s going to happen? There are no precedents, no assurances when things are turned completely upside down. It’s impossible to imagine what the future will exactly look like. Our bewildering fears about the future haunt us.

We begin to embrace the adventure when we realize that we must necessarily live with unsettled questions, with not knowing, and that this is how much of life actually really is.

Religious implications of recent discoveries in science


Galileo was hammered by the Catholic church for endorsing the Copernican theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun, putting the Sun and not the Earth at the center of the solar system. We were awakening to a new expansive view of the universe, although it would take almost another 400 years before we would break the firm grip of ecclesiastical control and scientific reductionism.

In 1650, the noted Biblical scholar, Archbishop James Ussher calculated that the creation of the world took place on Oct. 23rd, 4004 BC, and that the end of the world would occur at noon on Oct 23rd., 1997. That became standard catechetical teaching in many parts of the Christian world up to about 1960.

Meanwhile, a mind shift had happened in the early 1900s with Einstein’s theories of relativity and the formulation of the quantum theory. It was no longer the Earth that engaged the searching mind but the universe at large, now so complex and mysterious that talk about its beginning or end seemed short-sighted and even irrelevant.

Senate passes Food Safety Modernization Act


On Tuesday Nov. 30, a year after it was reported out of Committee, the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510)passed the Senate, 73-25.

The bill will now be sent to the House for their consideration. The House passed its own food safety bill (HR.2749) last year, but given the short
time remaining in this Congress, it would be extremely difficult to go
through a conference between the House and Senate and then bring a
conference bill back to both bodies for another vote. The only way to get
the bill finished and signed into law is for the House to adopt the Senate
bill and send it to the President.

Climate change conference begins in Mexico


The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, kicked off Monday with calls for commitment and compromise.

In his opening speech, Mexican President Felipe Calderón cited last year’s hurricane in Mexico, this year’s floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia as examples of increasing incidences of natural disasters brought about by climate change and already affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.

Calling on negotiators in Cancún to make progress in the interest of their children and grandchildren, he said that the .eyes of the world.were focused on the meeting.

Climate change is an issue that affects life on a planetary scale, he said. ”What this means is that you will not be here alone negotiating in Cancún. By your side, there will be billions of human beings, expecting you to work for all of humanity,” he said.

The two-week meeting is the sixteenth Conference of the 194 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the sixth meeting of the 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Go green: Steps to a greener church community


It’s a grass-roots kind of movement around the country: Catholic parishes, one by one, have expressed interest in going green and have taken steps to accomplish it. Usually it’s one or two parish members who initiate the effort. The parish responds.

Here are nine steps any parish can take to begin the process of becoming a sustainable church community. These steps can help reduce energy bills, tackle climate change, and build a more green future.

5 ways to green your parish


Getting your whole parish to be concerned about the Earth may seem harder than knocking down the walls of Jericho. But I’m here to tell you it can be done and fairly easily, because I’m convinced that the Spirit wants a healthy Earth and will more than do its share. Let me briefly share how a small, older, rather ordinary parish became a green oasis in our diocese.

It all started three years ago when another woman and I decided to get green ministry going in our church. Our pastor was supportive and gave us the green light (no pun intended!). We had no trouble recruiting eager people for our Green Committee. We jumped right in with simple and visible projects like selling cloth bags, organizing a monthly glass collection, setting up recycling bins, and producing a bulletin column of sustainable ideas.

We left no stone unturned, and sought to make Earth care a part of all aspects of our parish life, including education and worship. Our efforts were well-received, and the coup of getting a big spread in our diocesan newspaper gave credibility to what we were doing and made parishioners proud.

Why a green parish?


To me, the answer to this question should be as obvious as, “Why a financially healthy parish?” or “Why a caring parish?” We all recognize that certain aspects are foundational to parish life. I contend that caring for the Earth has now become a necessity for parishes. My reasoning is: Look, everything — including our churches — depends on a sustainable, healthy Earth. We can’t have a long-term thriving parish without a thriving Earth.

The following story typifies how most people think. Some high school seniors were asked how things were going in society and they said poorly. When asked about their own prospects, they thought they were very good. They saw no correlation between their own destiny and that of the whole. Those kids don’t exist in a vacuum and neither do our parishes.

Blessing prayers for solar panels and wind turbines


Blessing of Solar Panels

O Source of Light, by Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:10)

"And God made the two great lights...and God set them in the firmament of
heaven to give light upon the Earth...and God saw that it was good." (Genesis1:16-18)

Creator God, may we have the wisdom to appreciate the goodness in Your creation.

All: O Source of Light, by Your light we see light.

"Give the maker of the great lights, whose loving kindness
extends eternally." (Psalm 136:1,7)

Gracious God, may we experience Your ever-renewing bounty with awe and gratitude, and may we use it wisely.

All: O Source of Light, by Your light we see light.

"With a rising-place at one end of heaven, and a circuit that reaches the
other, nothing escapes [the sun's] heat." (Psalm 19:7)

Holy God, may this simple act of harnessing Your eternal light help us escape the global heating that our generation is causing over Your creation.
All: O Source of Light, by Your light we see light.

"Arise, shine, for Your light has dawned -- the presence of the Eternal will
shine upon you." (Isaiah 60:1)
Loving God, Your gift of light enables us to shine.

The solar-powered, inner-city parish


Throughout the last century the tall spires of U.S. Catholic churches could be seen rising above city neighborhoods or as the highest point below the grain elevator in a small town. Those spires symbolized the values, spirituality and community to be found in the parish church, school and gathered assembly.

Today some feel Catholic parishes could become seedbeds for a wider embrace of earth-friendly practices, and they are making it happen.
In their 1995 pastoral, “At Home in the Web of Life,” the Catholic bishops of the Appalachia region asked: “Now might not our own Christian communities themselves become small centers of a sustainable path, small islands of creativity, proclaimers of a culture of life?”

Thanks to the efforts of its former pastor, Fr. Charles Morris, St. Elizabeth Parish in Detroit stands out. It’s a working-class congregation located in an inner-ring suburb of probably the last city in the country one would expect to produce a green parish.

NCR: How did you come to be so ecological-minded?


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September 12-25, 2014


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