More than 150 people attended the event, designed to help the faithful reflect on Catholic teaching of environmental stewardship as defined by Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Laudato Si. Most of the attendees came from five Catholic schools – Holy Rosary Academy, Our Lady of the Assumption School, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Adelaide Academy and Resurrection Academy.
“You’re very fortunate to be able to come up here and experience God’s cathedral,” David Johnston, a local naturalist with the U.S. Forest Service, told the students and others who journeyed to Big Bear.
As was done at last year’s event, the day began with a prayer that emphasized Native American Catholic spirituality, including a smudging ritual and the prayer of the four directions led by Cahuilla Tribal member Michael Madrigal of St. Joseph Mission at Soboba and Deacon Andrew Orosco, a member of the Kumeyaay Tribe.
Following the prayer and some brief remarks the attendees embarked on a 1.5 mile Sacred Walk through the foothills behind St. Joseph. They were divided into four color-coded groups that stopped at four different stations along the way to hear talks about the role of fires in the ecosystem, local trees, natural materials used for weaving and human impacts on the natural environment. That last talk affected Sacred Heart Academy seventh grader Juliette Gaytan.
“We’re losing our trees, our atmosphere. It’s just not in a good state right now,” she said.
During his talk Johnston passed around samples of different kinds of animal feces or, stat, pointing out that biologists can find clues about the state of the land by examining excrement. Some students initially balked at examining the stat but as Johnston pointed out what its texture revealed about the forest, interest began to overtake the “ick factor.”
Students picked up litter on the hiking trail has they headed back to the parish for lunch. Later they enjoyed an activity of using natural materials to make rope.
The Diocesan Laudato Si Committee coordinates Care for Creation Day and Committee Chair Sister Hortensia Del Villar, S.A.C., announced the event will be held next year on Saturday, October 5 at the Oaks of Soboba near Hemet.