A new livesimply award scheme has been launched to encourage Catholic parishes to undertake environmental projects and help people in need. The new award scheme was launched in Clifton Cathedral on 20 May 2011 by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, who chairs the International Department of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“We want to be known as people who care for God’s Creation” said Bishop Lang, “and the new award helps parishes to do practical things that make a difference to help treasure our world”.
Hilary Farey of St Bonaventure’s parish in Bishopston, Bristol spoke at the event of livesimply initiatives in her parish over the past six months to care for the environment and the victims of environmental problems, such as climate change. Parish lunches, children’s liturgies on the livesimply theme have taken place and a regular livesimply ‘Thought for the Week’ in the parish newsletter.
The parish carbon footprint has been worked out and ongoing projects to reduce it include improved insulation in the presbytery and the possibility of solar panels on the church roof. Parish recycling days and ‘bring and buy’ events on different themes have ensured the re-use of unwanted items and raised money for CAFOD projects.
“We are delighted to be a pilot parish for the livesimply parish award” Hilary said, “and living simply is not just about consuming less, but is a whole attitude to the way we live our lives”. Musicians from the parish played at the launch and children from St Bonaventure’s primary school sang the special livesimply song, ‘Reach out to the world’, to rapturous applause from an enthusiastic congregation of several hundred.
The livesimply award, created in partnership between CAFOD and Eco-congregation England and Wales, encourages parishes to demonstrate at least nine ways in which they are changing the way they impact on the environment and support those in developing countries.
Pope Benedict’s words in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate have been inspirational, say parishes. He wrote: “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole”.
Award-winning parishes will receive a wooden plaque, made from the recycled wood of old church pews. A new website supports parish involvement in the award scheme, giving plenty of ideas for action, study and prayer.
Since 2006, nearly 80 Catholic organisations, including CAFOD and the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales, have been encouraging Catholics to live simply, sustainably with creation and in solidarity with communities living in poverty.
The parish award is the latest initiative to support this goal. From ‘greening’ church buildings and fair trade to ‘green’ liturgies and planting trees, there are many ways to win an award.
* For more information: www.livesimplyaward.org.uk 
* Contact information: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org  or phone 0114 263 6421.
© Ellen Teague is a freelance Catholic journalist who works regularly for The Tablet, JUSTICE magazine, Independent Catholic News, Redemptorist Publications and the Messenger of St Anthony. She is also a member of the Columban Missionary Society Justice and Peace team, and chairs the Environment Working Group of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales.