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"...Pope Francis calls for the ecological conversion of all peoples of the world..."
On September 19, 2018, the people of Saskatchewan, Canada, celebrated the Season of Creation with a special ecumenical event sponsored by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon.
The Season of Creation is celebrated annually by peoples throughout the world on six continents. Events and activities include prayer services, litter clean- up actions, and advocacy initiatives. The Season of Creation extends from September 1 to October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology in many Western traditions.
The celebration of the Season of Creation dates back to 1989 when Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed September 1st of each year as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Significantly, this day coincides with the first day of the liturgical year in Eastern Christian Churches. The recognition of this special day of prayer for the preservation of creation was embraced by other major Christian denominations in Europe in 2001 and by Pope Francis, on behalf of the Catholic Church, in 2015.
In the papal encyclical, Laudato Si, addressed to “every person living on this planet”, Pope Francis calls for the ecological conversion of all peoples of the world as we are all entrusted with the care of our common home.
This fall, Dr. Lesya Sabada, who heads up the Human and Environmental Development Program within the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, was instrumental in organizing a Season of Creation celebration in Saskatchewan, Canada, on September 19, 2018, bringing together a diverse group of religious leaders to pray together and share insights about the value of creation and their work to care for the ecological world.
At the evening celebration, Most Rev. Bryan Bayda, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon, greeted all who had assembled for the event with the traditional Ukrainian blessing of bread and salt. An Indigenous Cree Elder also provided greetings in recognition of the fact that the event was being held on land historically occupied by members of Cree first nations. The greetings were followed by an Akathist service of thanksgiving which celebrates the beauty of the natural world. The text of this Akathist service was compiled by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov shortly before his death in a Soviet prison camp in 1940.
After the service, everyone proceeded from the park where the service was held into the adjacent hall where they heard about the faith-inspired work of Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982) who, together with Chief Josiah Njonjo, launched Watu wa Mitu (People of the Trees) in Kenya and then went on to found the charity, Men of the Trees (now known as the International Tree Foundation) based in the UK. This charity works on projects involving reforestation, environmental protection and community-building. It is credited with being responsible for the successful planting of 27 billion trees in 30 countries.
Next, the crowd heard from speakers representing a wide range of Christian and non-Christian faith traditions, including: Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic, Syro-Malabar Catholic, Mennonite, Doukhobor, Tibetan Buddhist, Unitarian, United Church, Lutheran, Hindu, Muslim, Evangelical Orthodox, Presbyterian, and Indigenous. Most of the speakers shared a prayer or spiritual reflection and provided a few examples of what their tradition did to address ecological challenges.
The WUCWO committee entrusted with implementing the “Healthy Planet” resolution passed in Dakar, Senegal, in October, 2018, has included, as part of its action plan, the declaration that one Saturday in September of each year, notably falling within the period designated as the Season of Creation, shall be set aside as EARTH ACTION DAY. On that day, people throughout the world are encouraged to organize “clean-up” drives through their organizations, parishes, or schools, with an emphasis on cleaning up beaches and areas adjacent to bodies of water, whether they be oceans, rivers, or lakes, to ensure that this valuable natural resource, which is essential for all plant and animal life, is safe, clean, and plentiful.
WUCWO Board member, Canada