The Catholic University of America

April 20, 2009

Message for Earth Week and Earth Day

The Catholic University of America is pleased to join so many other universities, colleges, organizations and individuals in the celebration of "Earth Week 2009." For us at CUA, honoring the earth and the environment is not simply a matter of responding to an important social, political or secular cause --- it is a way of celebrating our Creator and the gifts of His creation. In the Book of Genesis, the sacred author reminds us "God looked at everything He made, and He found it very good (Genesis 1: 31)." The scriptures also remind us that we have a responsibility to steward the gifts of God's creation.

Last Friday, we commemorated the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to our campus. He has reminded us often throughout his pontificate, that we must "always respect creation and promote an environmental culture that is based on respect for ethical values, the protection of life, an economy of solidarity and sustainable development." It is his strong conviction that "we cannot simply do what we want with this earth of ours, with what has been entrusted to us … obedience to the voice of the earth is more important for our future happiness ... than the desires of the moment. Our earth is talking to us and we must listen to it and decipher its message if we want to survive."

There are so many things that we can do to respond to the "voice of the earth" as it echoes the voice of its/our Creator. As an institution, The Catholic University of America is making every effort to support the creation of a sustainable environment on campus in our landscaping, construction and renovation projects. But the call to "be green" goes further and deeper than that. We are called as individual members of the university community to respond. As I walk the campus, I shake my head so often: Why are lights left burning in buildings through the night, sometimes for days on end? Why is garbage strewn so thoughtlessly about the campus when trash bins are only a few feet away? Why are windows left open, doors propped open allowing heat or air-conditioning to escape their intended spaces, causing utility bills to sky-rocket? Why so much waste of paper? The list goes on and on.

Earth Day, Earth Week remain purely symbolic and will remain so until people make it their personal responsibility to participate on the most basic levels in earth's compelling message. We are responsible. We are the earth's stewards. We have been entrusted by God with something "very good." Let's make sure future generations also have the chance to enjoy it.

Please join the university community on Wednesday, April 22, in celebrating Earth Day on campus as we pray with the Psalmist, "The Lord's are the earth and its fullness (Psalm 24: 1)."

Very Reverend David M. O'Connell, C.M.