September 8, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Roman Catholics around the world celebrate many key liturgical seasons: Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. Now Catholics can join their Protestant sisters and brothers in a deeper celebration of a new liturgical season: the Season of Creation, held annually from September 1 through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Season of Creation gives people of faith the opportunity to focus on God as Creator and on their need to appreciate and reverence creation and to cherish and protect Earth. This year’s theme is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope.”
Father James E. Hug, SJ, Sacramental Minister for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, wrote a Catholic liturgical guide, Season of Creation 2020: Jubilee Time for the Earth, to help Catholic communities celebrate the special themes of the Season of Creation in conjunction with the liturgical readings and prayers already designated for Sundays and weekdays during this period. Father Jim has been writing these liturgical guides for the past three years to bring out the themes of Season of Creation during the Sunday Liturgies at which he presides for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“One of the things I found out when I started looking into the Season of Creation in the ecumenical world was that they had a website and they would create liturgies for use during the season, with special readings more oriented toward environmental themes – and Catholics didn’t have the freedom to do that,” Father Jim said. “I decided I would keep in front of me the ecological crisis and what we’re facing and use the normal readings for the Sundays of Ordinary time and ask what they said about this situation.”
This year’s liturgical guide includes commentary on each Sunday’s readings and how they pertain to environmental issues and suggestions for the Opening Prayer, Penitential Rite, intercessions, Prayer over the Gifts, Prayer after Communion, and the Final blessing. In addition, Denise Mathias, Motherhouse Music Minister, suggested hymns and responsorial psalms to go with each Sunday’s theme.
This summer, as Father Jim prepared for the 2020 Season of Creation, he heard from Amy Woolam Echeverria, Chair of the Board for the Global Catholic Climate Movement. She was involved with the Vatican Dicastery (office) for Promoting Integral Human Development, which wanted to create materials to promote Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’ and the Season of Creation. Father Jim sent his materials to her, and they were developed and designed into a document that was disseminated throughout the world.
Through Amy, Father Jim said, he began to get positive feedback from around the world, including Latin America, Australia, Oceana, and England. “I certainly had huge amounts of energy,” he said. “It’s exciting. There’s a sense that this is part of a new mission, a new contribution that I’m being asked to make.”
Father Jim has long been active in social justice issues. Before ministering with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2013, he served for 28 years – 24 years as Director – at the Center of Concern, a social justice institute based in Washington, D.C. “Our focus was on analyzing the social structures of injustice, but particularly economic,” Father Jim said. “Through that kind of work, ecology kept showing up.”
He became more involved in environmental issues in 2008 when an Ignatian Associate asked him to develop a workshop for a conference on creation. While doing his research, he said, “I realized how integral the ecology issues were to the social justice-systemic justice set of concerns that I was working on.”
Father Jim sees all social justice issues as interrelated. He said he is resonates the most with Pope Francis’ statement in Laudato Si’ that the world doesn’t face two crises – economic and ecological – but one “complex, interrelated crisis.”
“I’ve found myself throughout my professional life trying to help people see that we are part of huge systems,” Father Jim said. “We live simultaneously on the interior level, the interpersonal level … and in communities, in societies, in systems that govern how we develop and how we live.”
Father Jim emphasized that focus on the environment is a component of the Catholic faith. “There’s so much in our tradition about nature,” he said. “The gifts of nature [are] gifts from God, given to be shared and cared for.” But, he said, our culture values consuming resources to the point that it has become destructive to our planet. “The simplest and most direct way to say it is you can’t say you love your neighbor if you poison their water or air, increase their respiratory diseases, or push them off their land.”
Scientists have been warning about the planet being about a decade from reaching the “tipping points” that would bring about irreversible effects of climate change, Father Jim said. He hopes his liturgy guide can help Catholics to make the connection between social justice and environmental issues, understand their responsibilities, and move our society to action.
“It’s exciting to be part of something that is needed, recognized, and going somewhere,” Father Jim said. “That’s what our mission is all about.”