Chicago archdiocese embraces change

LaudatoSiBy Joyce Duriga, Catholic News Service
CHICAGO — Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has set a goal of benchmarking all 2,700 buildings in the Archdiocese of Chicago to ensure that they are as energy efficient as possible.

He announced the goal during a July 24 news conference at Old St. Mary’s School on Michigan Avenue.

The news conference was held after Chicago’s archbishop toured the school with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“While it is a considerable undertaking, we have to set an example that it can be done and must be done if we are to fulfill our sustainability goals,” Archbishop Cupich said of the benchmarking goal.

“Let’s be honest, this entire effort to protect the environment for future generations will involve some very difficult choices in the future,” he said. “However, those choices will be less difficult if we all do what we can now to protect our common home.”

It is an effort to answer Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” the archbishop said.

Through benchmarking, churches, schools and other buildings will be evaluated for their water usage, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. Data will be tracked using the EPA’s free Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

McCarthy applauded the archdiocese’s efforts, saying it is “answering the pope’s call.”

This February, she noted, the Chicago Archdiocese partnered with the Energy Star program as part of its “commitment to climate action.”

“And with this step they’ve become the first U.S. archdiocese to commit to benchmarking and tracking energy and water emission performance,” she said. “We’re hoping they are setting the example for faith communities across the country to follow.”

Some buildings in the archdiocese are already eco-friendly. For example, St. Joseph College Seminary, completed in 2012, holds a gold LEED certification — LEED stands for Leadership in Energy &Environmental Design.

Archbishop Cupich praised his predecessor, the late Cardinal Francis E. George, for beginning the work to make the archdiocese more energy efficient. For the past three and a half years, the archdiocese’s facilities office has worked with parishes and schools to make them more energy efficient.

All of these efforts are fundamental to the Catholic Church’s social teaching on caring for our common home and our neighbors, Archbishop Cupich said.

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