Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Lisa Gambee, Matt Cato, Marsha Weber and Maggie Maggio at the Catholic Sustainability Network meeting.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Lisa Gambee, Matt Cato, Marsha Weber and Maggie Maggio at the Catholic Sustainability Network meeting.
At this meeting, the agenda isn’t always what dictates the flow of discussion. Of course, members of the Catholic Sustainability Network are there to take home ideas to environmental committees in their own parishes, but they also come for fortification. It’s especially inspirational for those members who often find themselves swimming upstream alone in bringing sustainable practices to their parish community.

Once a month, these folks meet at 7 a.m., before they head to their respective jobs or daily responsibilities, for a spirited coffee klatch at the TaborSpace café in Southeast Portland. Those who can’t make it to the meetings in Portland stay in touch via email –minutes disseminate condensed themes that come up during meetings.

Lisa Gambee, a parishioner at the Madeleine Parish, was one of the founding members of the group.

“There is a lot of stuff that goes on in parishes,” she said. “There is no reason we need to reinvent the wheel.”

Especially because the people in this network are busy. Once you’ve been identified as the environmental champion of the parish, all things “green” tend to get directed your way, Gambee said.

Thankfully, through this network, Gambee and the others are discovering other like-minded Catholics who also want to be leaders and resources for the cause.

Last year during the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Pope Benedict pointed out that respect for creation and its preservation is central to the peaceful coexistence of the human race. He said, “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.”

Matt Cato represents not only the Archdiocese of Portland as director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, but also as a parishioner of St. Juan Diego Church. The Social Justice committee at that parish is currently on a Carbon Fast through the Lenten season, encouraging parishioners to remember to do things like walk or bike to church, telecommute to work and save fuel, reduce water consumption and recycle batteries.

Through his network contacts, he is constantly gleaning fodder for his diocesan office’s website, providing ideas and promoting projects in parishes all over the state.

During a recent meeting, he shared a message he heard during a homily by Archbishop John Vlazny – that Catholics’ purpose to evangelize and sometimes that happens one person at a time, and that is perfectly OK.

“Part of our Catholic faith requires us to have hope,” Cato said. “That helps me sometimes when I feel like we’re not going to make it.”

Along with hope comes persistence, added Sister Patricia Nagle, a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who also represents St. Philip Neri Parish at the meetings. She is an educator and consultant for Earth Home Ministries, an organization that empowers people to care for Earth, particularly in regard to climate change. She is also part of the Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns and Oregon Interfaith Power and Light.

“We’re nuisances,” she said, but added that they can follow in the footsteps of divinely inspired leaders. “Prophets live on the edge - they find different ways to emphasize the message until it is heard. But they don’t give up because they have hope.”

Maggie Maggio is a member of St. Andrew Church, where environmentalism and sustainability are engrained in the ethos of the parish. She came to be challenged.
“It’s a reminder to always be trying to do more,” she said.

Most recently, St. Andrew planted 40 new trees around the parish campus.

Marsha Weber is another regular attendee of the network meetings. She is the chairwoman of the St. Clare Parish Sustainable Living Committee.

At her own parish, she said, they take steps forward, like making plans toward a community garden, but sometimes steps backwards, too – like the reintroduction of Styrofoam cups at during parish events.

“I always come away renewed by everyone else’s passion because it’s easy to get discouraged,” Weber said.

Gambee said she just wished more Catholics would realize that sustainable living is part of their Catholic faith.

One of the seven key themes of Catholic Social Teaching is care for God’s creation. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.”