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MHR Lenten prayer series centered on social justice issues

March 27, 2015
Christina Gray

Delicate white candles were the only illumination in the darkened sanctuary of Most Holy Redeemer church on March 18 when two dozen or so parishioners gathered in solidarity to pray, sing and reflect on the devastation of the natural environment and its disproportional impact on the poorest people on the planet.

The contemplative evening event was the last of four Lenten prayer services the parish organized on Wednesday evenings to “rekindle our hunger and thirst for social justice.” Participants were welcomed to the church during Lent to reflect on four major issues that affect women, men and children worldwide.

The “Reflect and Renew” series started on Feb. 25 with a prayer service to end racial injustice. It continued on March 4 with prayers for peace and an end to conflict, violence and war, and on March 11 with prayer for the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution. The series ended on March 18 with a service calling for “an end to ecological destruction and the will to reverse the damage humans have done to the environment.”

“Human dominion over the earth does not mean the right to greedily acquire and destroy its resources,” said Social Justice Ministry member Mercy Sister Marilyn Morgan, who presided over the prayer service. “We pause to think about our response to this challenging problem that confronts us.”

The service included song and scriptural readings from Genesis, Leviticus, the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. It ended with a “Litany of Environmental Confessions,” read by lector Maria Brann.

“God of creation, we confess that instead of acting compassionately and gently toward all forms of life, humanity has behaved wantonly and recklessly,” she said. “Help us acknowledge that we must act now and wake up to our moral obligations and that the future of our beautiful planet is in our hands.”

“We can no longer afford not to act,” said lector Joe Fernicola. “Let us not respond in principle, let us respond in practice.”

Pope Francis has spoken out loudly on all three topics in his first two years and is preparing an encyclical on the environment due out this summer that is expected to reiterate his frequent calls for governments and individuals to take steps to combat climate change, a phenomenon he attributes in part to human activity.

In February, he stated that protection of creation is part of our Christian identity, not an ideological option.

“A Christian who does not protect creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God; that work that was born from the love of God for us,” Francis said.

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