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Blessing: Third graders kick off participation in 7-year Laudato Si’ initiative

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 Third graders at St. Mark School in Vienna helped kick off the Arlington diocese’s participation Oct. 7 in Pope Francis’ seven-year “action platform” to embrace the spiritual and environmental principles addressed in the pope’s 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”

The students participated in a prayer service and blessing of the soil in the church’s new Mary garden, which will feature native plants to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinator insects. 

God really has a plan with his creation. You'll be seeing butterflies that weren't here before. They're going to find your native plants." Fr. Robert Cilinski

Father Robert Cilinski, episcopal vicar of charitable works and chairman of the diocesan Peace and Justice Commission, represented Bishop Michael F. Burbidge at the blessing. 

Father Cilinski told third graders that their efforts working on the pollinator garden will honor Mary “by hosting plants that protect and nurture the world into which she brought Jesus. It will attract the pollinators that make possible the continued thriving of plant species that support the health of our earth.”

“God really has a plan with his creation,” Father Cilinski said. “You’ll be seeing butterflies that weren’t here before. They’re going to find your native plants.” 

Two students planted and watered the first native plants, Jacob’s Ladder, to start the garden. Parishioner Betsy Zolper, one of the coordinators of St. Mark’s environmental ministry, said the garden will feature 37 Jacob’s Ladder plants, one for each third grader, as well as many other native plants reminiscent of Mary. They will be planted alongside stepping-stones in the shape of a rosary. Education materials also are planned, and learning about plants and the environment will be part of third graders’ curriculum. 

The Arlington diocese announced Sept. 1 that it will join the pope’s global effort.

The first year of the initiative will be devoted to learning about the spirituality and teachings of “Laudato Si’,” whose title in medieval Italian translates as “Be praised, my Lord,” the first line of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, which envisions all of God’s creation as our brothers and sisters. The next five years will focus on the actions individuals, parishes and communities can take, followed by a year of reflection.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021