St. Anthony Catholic Parish is the winner of the Renewable Role Model award category of Interfaith Power & Light’s Cool Congregations Challenge for the work of their small Creation Care or Laudato Si’ committee that convinced the parish to install solar, then influenced the diocesan attitude by inviting the Bishop to attend the solar installation blessing. With the support of the Bishop’s office, a small group of clergy and local members then came together to create a Care for Creation committee for the diocese and a multi-year Laudato Si’ action plan for the entire diocese serving 100+ churches in California.
St. Anthony Catholic Parish pastor, Fr. Mieczyzlaw “Mitch” Maleszyk, noted, “We are honored to be recognized by IPL and blessed to be able to grow in ministry and share ways to be good stewards of the gift of our common home.”
St. Anthony’s in Sacramento, California, was inspired to take action by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’. The parish Social Justice Ministry challenged the parish to answer the Pope’s call for formal action plans from faith communities, including parishes, dioceses, families, and individuals to care for Creation.
A Laudato Si’’ committee was established in 2020 to focus on environmental ministry, and their first step was to create a multi-year parish action plan. They hoped to reduce parish carbon emissions from grid energy use (50+ metric tons CO2/yr), and utility bills by $10k+ annually. After a successful fundraising campaign and finding expertise within their congregation (electrical, facilities, solar, project and procurement management, etc), they installed solar that became operational in 2021. The solar system provides all their electrical needs, preventing 80 tons of carbon emissions annually. In addition, they are sharing 6,000 kWh back to the grid. They estimate they are saving $17,000 annually in energy costs.
During this time, a parishioner-led campaign was launched to advance the Laudato Si’ ministry and leadership at the Diocese. This resulted in a new Care for Creation ministry within the Diocese’s Office of Catholic Charities and Social Concerns, serving 100+ parishes. A few local parish and clergy members came together to form a planning committee that subsequently launched a multi-year diocesan Laudato Si’ action plan in September of 2022.
The Diocesan Bishop presided over St. Anthony’s solar system unveiling and celebration with the general public. The event included Sacramento’s Mayor, community leadership, and members from a local organizing group called, Sacramento and Pocket Area Congregations/Churches Together, and Diocese congregants from up to 90 miles away. Reports from local media shared the celebrations to inspire an even wider audience.
Pulpit announcements and regular bulletin notices to thousands of households and members help to regularly communicate project results and promote the benefits of solar. A parish system dashboard helps report key performance stats, including carbon offset equivalents and operational cost savings. The parish system has prompted parishioners to install solar on their homes, and several other Diocese parishes have reached out to St. Anthony’s and are also actively planning solar projects.
During the 2021-22 parish Community Fall Festivals, St. Anthony’s conducted a waste diversion and organics recycling program throughout the parish campus to educate the thousands of attendees. They also used the Fall Festival as an opportunity to promote the parish solar system and offered attendees free device charging using solar power.
A Diocesan Laudato Si’ kick-off event attracted dozens of congregations and community groups and brought together faith, academic, social service, health service, and environmental organizations.
The Laudato Si’ committee at St. Anthony’s believes Caring for creation means not only caring for the earth but for our children and all future children who will inhabit our common home. The committee was inspired by the solar system atop the Vatican and knowing other congregations have solar. Starting with a plan for their congregation, St. Anthony’s influence has caused a ripple effect, as a pebble dropped in a pool of water, inspiring others at home, other parishes, and the Diocese to respond to the call to hear the “Cry of the Poor, and the Cry of the Earth”. They hope that they will continue to inspire others to respond to the Pope’s call to be stewards of the earth.