It was the third straight year the Diocese, through its Laudato Si Committee, has sponsored a day to experience the local natural environment while reflecting on Church teaching about care for the earth. Laudato Si is Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. The Bishops of California issue a pastoral statement, “God Calls Us to Care for Our Common Home,” in June to emphasize the local application of Laudato Si.
As with the previous two Care for Creation Day events, Catholic Native American spirituality was emphasized in the opening Prayer of the Four Directions and in a purification ritual using sage. The day was held at The Oaks, a picturesque natural backdrop of oak trees, cacti and other native plants, with rolling foothills in the distance.
Following the opening prayer, attendees walked through the natural area and visited six stations representing the six days of creation from the Book of Genesis. Facilitators connected each day to an environmental resource: air, water, land, living creatures, plant life and the atmosphere. The groups of participants who visited each station were then invited to share thoughts and questions about what they had heard.
Ray Burnell, Director of Education and Environmental Stewardship for the California Catholic Conference, attended the event and offered remarks on “God Calls Us to Care for Our Common Home.” He praised the Diocese of San Bernardino as being innovative in promoting the California Bishops’ message and setting an example for prioritizing the Church’s environmental teachings.
“In ‘Care for Our Common Home,’ our California bishops invite everyone to reflect upon the call to contribute to the ecological well-being of our state,” Burnell said. “The Diocese’s Care for Creation Day wonderfully accepted this invitation. With celebration and song, the faithful gathered grew spiritually and better educated about being good stewards of the world entrusted by God to our care.”
The Diocese also used this year’s Care for Creation Day as an opportunity to recognize parishes and Catholic schools who have modeled environmental stewardship by implementing solar energy. Parishes that received an award were St. Junipero Serra, Phelan; Corpus Christi, Corona; St. Joan of Arc, Blythe; Our Lady of the Desert, Apple Valley; Sacred Heart, Palm Desert; St. Mel, Norco; and St. Anthony, Upland. The Catholic schools recognized were Sacred Heart School, Palm Desert; Xavier College Preparatory High School, Palm Desert and St. Jude Mission School, San Jacinto. The Soboba Indian Tribe was also given an award for its implementation of solar technology.
Bishop Gerald Barnes was on hand to accept an award given to the Diocesan Pastoral Center for its solar energy project, which was finishing up construction in October. Bishop Barnes offered closing remarks for the event, encouraging attendees to reflect on what they had learned at Care for Creation Day and think about how they can live more harmoniously with God’s creation.
“Don’t let it end with today,” the Bishop implored.