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St. Joachim’s Church, a historic church in Chateauguay, Que., has joined the Green Church program.

"Green" designation for historic Quebec church

By  Erin Morawetz, The Catholic Register
  • July 2, 2012

St. Joachim’s, a small, historic parish in Châteauguay, Que., is going environmentally friendly in a big way.

The parish has joined “Green Church,” a national program developed by the Centre for Ecumenism that assists churches in adopting environmental practices, like becoming more energy and water efficient and buying local or organic.

St. Joachim is the first parish in the Valleyfield diocese to be recognized as eco-friendly, adopting the Green Church slogan, “For the love of God, let’s take care of the Earth.”

Norman Levesque, director of the program, said every new church that joins is adding to a growing movement.

“It’s spreading ecumenically and geographically,” Levesque said. “It’s spreading in every direction.”

Levesque said this growth is a result of the three pillars of the program — awareness, spirituality and action. But, he says, there are generally two different reactions within parishes.

“One (reaction) is a total refusal of a folklore ecological theology, this caricature we have of green ideology and people refuse that,” Levesque said. “For (these places), it takes a bit of teaching on Church doctrine and the theology of creation to realize that it is a part of our tradition. It’s in our Catholic tradition, our Christian tradition.

“The other reaction is, ‘Well, it’s about time that as a Church, we start taking care of creation.’ ”  

Unlike newer buildings that can be fitted with efficient lights, windows and heating devices, St. Joachim is a historic building, established in 1735 and declared a historic monument of Quebec in 1957, and nine years ago a national historic site.

Levesque said out of more than 40 churches that are part of the program, at least four others are historic buildings.

Efforts to have a church, even a historic one, considered green do not have to be drastic, said Levesque. Some of the things the people of St. Joachim parish are doing include recycling and composting, installing a bike rack, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, using energy efficient light bulbs, purchasing local food and having homilies that focus on the environment and preservation of creation several times a year. The parish is also hoping to purchase a bus to bring parishioners to and from Mass so fewer cars are used.

Levesque said the Green Church movement really starts within the parish.

“It’s not an environmental model smacked into a Christian community,” Levesque said. “It’s actually the other way around. You have Christians in a church (who) are reflecting on the environmental crisis and trying to answer to that crisis.”

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