Church Work on Biodiversity

The Season of Creation has a special significance for the Catholic Church, particularly since Pope Francis established 1 September as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It's marked throughout the Christian world from 1 September to 4 October (Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi) and celebrates the joy of creation as well as encouraging awareness-raising initiatives to protect the natural environment. The 2023 theme is "Let Justice and Peace Flow" and takes inspiration from the Prophet Amos who declares: "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5: 24).

Columban Mission to protect Biodiversity

Columbans worldwide see the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on people and Earth as interwoven moral issues in need of prophetic responses. Inspiration is drawn from the 2015 teaching document by Pope Francis, Laudato Si'.

In the Philippines, the Columban-run parish of Malate in Manila has a Care of the Earth Ministry and liturgically celebrates Creation Time from 1 September - 4 October. There is also an eco-spirituality centre just outside Manila. Columbans in Pakistan support eco-education and tree planting.

Columban Laudato Si' Week Message, 2020

Columbans in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji have produced an AV introducing the 2023 Season of Creation

Columban Fr Liam O'Callaghan runs an eco-workshop in Pakistan

In Ireland

Ireland's Catholic bishops have produced extensive resources for the Season of Creation 2023: 1 September – 4 October, including downloadable Creation Walk moments, a Tree Planting resource, a Blessing for animals, a Biodiversity leaflet.

The Irish bishops also have a new dedicated page with resources on Care for Our Common Home

Biodiversity and Returning to Nature

The Irish bishops’ proposal early in 2023 that parishes set aside 30% of their parish grounds for pollinators and biodiversity by 2030 so the land can be enjoyed “in perpetuity by the whole community” originated with the Laudato Si’ Working Group (LSWG).

This 12-member expert group which advises the Irish Bishops Conference includes climate experts, theologians with a focus on ecology, and those working on the ground.

The spur for the LSWG’s biodiversity proposal to the bishops with was a paper on why Christians should care about biodiversity loss by Columban theologian Fr Sean McDonagh, who is a member of the LSWG. “It was in response to the startling statistics in that paper and the agreement by countries attending COP15 to return 30% of land to nature and 30% of the oceans,” Jane Mellet, Laudato Si officer with Trócaire explained. “At one of our meetings, members of the LSWG asked what would it look like if we did this as a parish.”

"Parishes are asked to expand their circles of solidarity, to protect and care for biodiversity and creation on 30% of their grounds, and to care for this as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity, that can be enjoyed by the whole community."
Irish Bishops' Conference Spring Statement 2023

Learn more about this initiative and access resources specifically on biodiversity such as The Faith Community Pollinator Plan and Mapping Pollinators.

An Irish Parish

In May 2023 Blessington Parish Co Wicklow received an Eco Congregation Ireland award, presented by Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin, whose first pastoral letter to his diocese addressed the climate Crisis: 'The Cry of the Earth'.

The award to Blessington Parish was the culmination of three years’ work carried out by the Care of the Earth ministry team. It involved projects on a spiritual, practical, community and global level in the churches of Blessington, Lacken and Valleymount. Archbishop Farrell blessed a dwarf apple tree to launch the parish’s next project - the creation of a sensory garden in the grounds of the parish centre which will be used for the care of senior citizens. As part of their preparation for First Holy Communion, pupils from Blessington National School composed their own psalm in praise and thanksgiving for the beauty of God’s creation. The children also made a Lenten promise on Care of the Earth as part of the Trócaire Lenten campaign.

Biodiversity in Schools

Ireland has a biodiversity education organisation that aims to nurture the mental and physical wellbeing of young people through outdoor learning. It aims to create real lasting impact and works with Ireland's leading businesses, charities and public bodies to deliver this.

Education is its core function and it has assembled Ireland's first ever Biodiversity Education Officer network. It coordinates the Nature Hero Award and reinvests profits to rewild land across Ireland.

In England and Wales

A haven for wildlife at St. Columban's, Solihull

In Britain, Columbans have improved biodiversity at the main house in Solihull. There is a three-year plan to plant trees, orchards and hedgerows which give homes to wildlife. Horses, deer, rabbits, and foxes already visit the grounds. The addition of a wildflower garden and apiary are planned to protect the vulnerable bee population. The grounds are also being used for eco-education and retreats for young people and schools.

Fatima House, a refugee project run by the Columbans in Birmingham, has a garden, which enhances biodiversity and produces food.

The Columban interreligious dialogue team is actively involved in showing support for faith initiatives which engage with environmental issues, such as Eco Sikh and Faiths for a Low Carbon Future.

Caring for creation features in every issue of Vocation for Justice, the newsletter of the Justice, Peace and Ecology Team.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have a dedicated webpage on Environment

The Diocese of Salford has a Laudato Si Centre for promoting environmental action

Columbans celebrate Biodiversity at Kew Gardens

To celebrate Laudato Si' Week in May 2023, and particularly UN Biodiversity Day on 22 May, James Trewby, the Columban Education Worker, organised for a small Columban group to visit Kew Gardens in West London.

The group learnt that the 300-acre site has for three centuries been a haven for plants and wildlife. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, being home to more than 50,000 living plants. Kew's experts study the links between pollinators and plants. Kew is racing to save plants that are disappearing in the wild, mainly because of habitat destruction.

Columban group outside the Kew Gardens' Temperate House

Columbans walk the Columban Way in Cornwall

Columban missionaries continued to celebrate Laudato Si' Week in May by following in the footsteps of St Columban and walking part of the Columban Way in Cornwall. Ordained and lay Columban missionaries and co-workers, led by Director in Britain, Fr John Boles, walked from Padstow to Fowey from 24-27 May. They partnered with St Mary's parish and primary school in Bodmin and Plymouth diocesan representatives from CAFOD, Caritas and the Youth Ministry.

CAFOD'S LiveSimply Award

The LiveSimply award is an opportunity for Catholic communities, including schools, to respond to Pope Francis' invitation in Laudato Si' to "work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us".

The first secondary school in the East Midlands to achieve CAFOD's LiveSimply Award in August 2023 was Blessed Robert Sutton Catholic Voluntary Academy. It had created a new Eco Prayer Garden.

Pupils created the garden design and considered the local wildlife and how they could incorporate the school values of Love, Respect, Hope, Kindness and Resilience, whilst looking after nature.

Blessed Robert Sutton Eco Prayer Garden

CAFOD'S 'Fix the Food System'

Thousands of Catholics across England and Wales are supporting CAFOD's Fix the Food System campaign. They have been urging both the UK government and the World Bank to protect the rights of farmers around the world to save, use, exchange and sell their own seeds. CAFOD supports farming that works in harmony with nature, a proven way to increase productivity, incomes, food security and overall long-term resilience. CAFOD is urging the UK government to listen to smallholder farmers across the global south who want to conserve biodiversity and grow food in environmentally-friendly ways.

Film: 'The Letter'

'The Letter' film, produced by the Vatican, follows the stories of front-line environmental champions from around the world, each of whom is facing the effects of our planetary crisis. They come into dialogue with each other and Pope Francis and build new bonds to face the future with hope. One of the issues is the health of the oceans and its biodiversity. Many parishes and schools have hosted screenings of the film.

See the trailer and film

"We are now living through the sixth largest extinction of life. The last occurred 65 million years ago, wiping out some 50 percent of plants and animals because of the impact of a massive comet or asteroid."
Columban Fr Sean McDonagh, author of 'The Death of Life' (2004)