Willow sculpture of St Kateri Tekakwitha set in the grounds of the parish

Parishes and schools respond to Bishop’s call for ecological conversion

Wednesday 17th January 2024

As we settle into the pace of the new year, now is the perfect time to consider some of the key goals we’d like to achieve over the coming months.

In October last year, Bishop John shared a pastoral letter reflecting on Pope Francis’ recent environmental exhortation, Laudate Deum, reminding us that each and every person has a part to play in repairing the damage to our common home.

In response to the pope’s message, Bishop John took the opportunity to ask all parishes and schools across the diocese to make a priority of having environmental groups to champion good practice and to be active in conversation to bring about the “ecological conversion” Pope Francis calls us to.

For years, our parishes and schools have been shining examples of how to respond to this mission, sharing fantastic updates of community gardens, social outreach, creative masterpieces made out of recycled materials, sustainable gardening, and more.

To encourage us as we look at opportunities to further our commitment to caring for our common home this year, we’re finding out a little more about some of the projects and activities in our diocese.

Eco Garden and Willow Sculpture, St Ambrose Barlow

This Swinton parish celebrated the end of last year’s Season of Creation with a special Mass and blessing of its new ecological garden and willow sculpture.

Led by Bishop John, this wonderful occasion celebrated the fantastic work of the parish, spearheaded by three girls from the Faith in Action Youth Group.

Following visits to our very own Laudato Si’ Centre, the group set about transforming a neglected piece of land beside the presbytery into a plant, animal, and insect-friendly garden for the whole community.

However, the focal point of this beautiful garden is a remarkable six-foot tall willow sculpture of 16th-century Native American saint Kateri Tekakwitha, patron saint of ecology and the environment. This impressive structure was created by artist Cherry Chung and financed by the tireless fundraising efforts of the girls and the parish.

The garden has now been dedicated to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and we look forward to learning more about this remarkable garden and its patron saint over the coming months.

Willow sculpture of St Kateri Tekakwitha set in the grounds of the parish

“Fratelli Tutti” Pledges, Guardian Angels’ RCPS in Bury

One of our primary schools embarked on this new year by making a series of pledges to take care of community and common home.

Year 5 students from Guardian Angels Primary School in Bury have been studying Pope Francis’ document Fratelli Tutti and how we are called to strive for peace and solidarity for the common good of all.

The students reflected on the theme of fraternity and our Christian duty to preserve and uphold the dignity of each and every person and the creation entrusted to us by God.

Determined to turn these ideals into concrete action, the students each made a pledge of things they could do in response to Pope Francis’ teachings.

From litter picking to fundraising; reducing carbon footprints to sharing a kind word, the pledges of Guardian Angels are set to inspire us on our path to ecological conversion this year.

A table display featuring the colourful pledges of the pupils, a framed photo of Pope Francis, a wooden cross, and a lit candle

Our Lady and St Gerard’s RCPS, Lostock Hall

This Lancashire primary school has responded to Bishop John’s call for ecological conversion by creating a beautiful peace garden and allotment in the school grounds.

The garden has been designed to ensure it is fully accessible and has a range of insect-attracting shrubs and wild flower areas. The garden has log and stone piles and a shallow pond to enhance learning and encourage wildlife. In support of that wildlife, the school Laudato Si’ group has been fundraising to buy bird feeders and feed, and generous parents have donated seeds, birdhouses, and nesting materials to make the garden a real haven for our feathered friends. The school PTA has also raised funds to purchase gardening supplies and educational resources to support outdoor learning in science. The school has also attended a “Let’s Get Growing” event to help plan its growing strategy, as well as a “Clean Air Crew” event to learn more about eco-friendly approaches.

The garden also has an area for reflection and worship for groups and individuals to spend time in prayer and reflection and to learn more about our Christian mission to be good stewards of the earth.

Collage of photos showing accessible planters, accessible pathways, and pupils learning about gardening and science.

Laudato Si’ Garden, St Cuthbert’s in Bolton

For over a year, parishioners have been working hard to create this beautiful outdoor space; providing a quiet area for prayer and reflection for all faiths and none.

This once overgrown space surrounding St Joseph’s church has been transformed into a most colourful corner of creation, complete with raised beds for plants and shrubs, new hedge borders, and a small pond with aquatic plants. Plans are also in place for herb growing, bee keeping, and installing bug houses to protect and nurture our local wildlife and biodiversity.

Photo showing the garden covered with bark, yellow and white flowers in raised planters at the front, a wooden bench opposite a table, which is beneath a beautiful tree. In the background, the are two more planters with green shoots, a bird bath, and another wooden bench in the corner in the sunshine.

Pauline O’Rourke, a member of the parish leadership team at St Cuthbert’s, is delighted to share news of the garden and to invite people to pop by and spend a little time in the peace and quiet of this charming space.

She said: “It is intended the garden will be used by our parish schoolchildren to help them on their journey to ecological conversion: to learn about the care of creation, and the importance of the effects of climate change in our world. But there are also seating areas for people to just sit quietly or for prayer and reflection.

“We all know life can be hectic, but studies show that even a small amount of time in the calm and quiet of nature can have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing, as well as helping us reconnect to Creator God and reflect on our role as stewards of his creation.”

Further afield

We’re always delighted to hear news from dioceses across England and Wales – and even as far as New Jersey and Australia – about our environmental resources! We particularly loved seeing photos from St Teresa’s Primary School in Upholland (Archdiocese of Liverpool) who used our Walk for Creation Guide as the basis of a prayerful walking reflection in their beautiful grounds!

Photo showing the backs of school children making the Sign of the Cross, with a teacher and two students either side leading the reflection

Do you have a project you’d like to share with us? Do you have plans to start an environment group and share the message of ecological conversion in your parish? Get in touch at communications@dioceseofsalford.org.uk. For further ideas on beginning an environmental project in your parish or school, why not take a look at our Getting Started in your Parish page?



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Tagged | Around the Diocese | Bishop John | Environment | faith in action | Parishes | Pope Francis | Saints | Schools | Youth

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