St. Gabriel’s Church in Toronto is an architectural statement about God’s connection with creation. Photo by Michael Swan

A parish far ahead of its time

By 
  • June 28, 2015

TORONTO - Almost 10 years ago, St. Gabriel’s Church was built for Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. Toronto’s only LEED certified church, St. Gabriel’s is recognized for more than its energy-efficient design. The Passionist parish is an architectural statement about the connection between God and creation.

For St. Gabriel’s parishioners, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home is more than another encyclical. It’s an affirmation of the collective commitment the parish makes every Sunday as it gathers to praise God and revere God’s gift in the natural world.

“We have to preserve the world we live in. We have to look at the way we live,” said Calvin Li on his way home from the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass three days after Pope Francis’ encyclical swept into Catholic consciousness.

“It’s the biggest piece of news in years,” said Blair Day, chatting just outside the sanctuary doors. “He’s talking not just to Catholics but to the whole world.”

At St. Gabriel’s, the whole parish is paying attention to the Pope’s message on the morality of climate change, said Day.

“He’s going much deeper than carbon taxes and cap and trade,” he said.

The parish will bring in eco-theologian Dennis Patrick O’Hara for a one-night seminar on Laudato Si’ June 30. Parishioner Lily D’Gama plans to be there.

The Passionist Fathers’ dedication to the environment and social justice as more than a side issue — as something that comes up in homilies, parish bulletin notes, youth ministry and all kinds of programming — is a major part of why D’Gama has chosen St. Gabriel’s as her parish. With standing room only at the 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday Masses, she’s not alone.

“This is one of the few parishes that talks about it at all,” she said.

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