Mumbai’s Roman Catholic Church is creating ‘eco-ambassadors’ as part of its larger plan to ‘green the church’. In the last five years, nearly 170 citizens have completed a certificate course offered by the Archdiocesan Office for Environment.
A part of the larger environment movement in the church, the course originated with the ‘Laudato Si’ document released by the Vatican headquarters in 2015. The paper details the Christian response to the global ecological crises and how church members have to stop calamities. The document lists a seven-point goal, including ecological education, ecological spirituality, and community empowerment.
“The goal is to create eco-ambassadors; people who will speak on behalf of the voiceless, the creation,” said Father Luke Rodrigues, parish priest at St Peter’s Church, Bandra, and the course director. “We also want them to be ambassadors of the church – a critical mass that will attract others,” he said.
The course consists of six sessions with modules on eco-spirituality, ecological crisis; the church’s documents on the issue; eco-justice; participatory action; and a practical project that requires the aspiring eco-warriors to initiate an environment-ameliorating project in their housing colony, parish, or school. This can include recycling of waste and composting of organic refuse. The current batch, which began its sessions in September 2023, will receive its valediction in February 2024.
Rodrigues added that the certificate may not open up career opportunities for participants, but the course creates confident church members who could provide leadership in environmental programmes. The course is open to everyone irrespective of their religious affiliation, and at least non-Christians have completed the programme.
Pramila Lewis, a former banker who lives in Andheri took the course between September 2022 and January 2023. Lewis said that she was already involved in the environmental activities at the Holy Family Church, Chakala. “We have had a ‘care for creation’ group for the last 20 years but our activities had fizzled out during the Covid pandemic. We wanted to restart the work and I was among 10 people from the parish who enrolled for the course,” said Lewis.
Pauline Fernandes from Orlem, Malad, who was in the first batch of the course in 2019, has created the ‘Environment Cell of Orlem’ at the Our Lady of Lourdes parish, one of the largest in the city. She has taken part in beach cleaning activities at Aksa Beach and organises a dry-waste collection project in her parish.
What they do
They conduct ‘white elephant’ sale where people sell unused appliances, clothes, and other products; create compost out of kitchen waste for use as fertilisers; collect unused pages from school notebooks to make new stationery for underprivileged students; beach clean-ups; encourage people to donate wedding gowns; and organise campaigns to reduce food waste.