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Mass marks environmental encyclical

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield May 16 to commemorate the feast of the Ascension and the closing of the church’s "Laudato Si: on Care for our Common Home " anniversary year. The year marked the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and begins a seven-year period in which he hopes to galvanize the world community to preserve our planet, and with it, human life. 

Recalling the message of the Lord’s Ascension, Bishop Burbidge reminded the congregation that Jesus expects us not merely to "stand looking up into heaven," but to bring about the kingdom of God on earth.

He noted that, in "Laudato Si’," the pope reaffirmed the mandate to protect all human life from conception until natural death and exhorted us that if we are truly to protect God’s gift of human life, we must also protect the natural world that makes that life possible. Bishop Burbidge urged the congregation to heed the pope’s teaching, and expressed the hope that we will "go forth and live in a manner worthy of the calling we have received; glorifying the Lord by our lives; as we say with one voice: Blessed are You, Lord God of All Creation."

Bishop Burbidge closed the Mass by blessing the parish’s new solar panels. St. Bernadette is one of four diocesan parishes to implement solar technology on their properties. The others include Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Church of the Nativity in Burke and St. Anthony of Padua in Falls Church.

Catholic Energies, a service of the Catholic Climate Covenant, helped three parishes through the process by examining several factors, such as a parish’s energy consumption and what the utility company charges them, to see if switching to solar would help their bottom line. 

After hearing about Catholic Energies at a conference, Father Donald J. Rooney, pastor of St. Bernadette, was ready to see if solar would work for his parish. "I think we all have to start living more sustainably," he said. "We have an obligation to try to do what we can to stop consuming so much energy and resources."

Over the next 20 years, St. Bernadette will save $325,000 in utility costs, and at the end of that period the parish will have the option to purchase the panels for a very low cost. They should last for another 10 to 30 years, said Rick Caporali, pastoral associate. "Which means free energy for 30 years," said Father Rooney.

"It’s worthwhile to teach people the need to care for creation," said Caporali. "This is just the right thing to do."

Contributing to this story was Zoey Maraist.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021