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Stewards of the Earth: St. Francis church to host environmental forum

Unprecedented flooding at Yellowstone National Park.

Triple-digit heat waves in Phoenix.

Tornadic activity in West Virginia.

Thousands of acres of California forests on fire (again).

Polar ice caps breaking off and melting — in the middle of the Arctic winter.

For those of you with your Apocalyptic Weather scorecards at the ready, all of the above atmospheric disturbances, recent or otherwise, beg a question, depending upon one’s belief system.

That is: Does the Earth have a prayer, when it comes to climate change?

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Parish in Morgantown on Sunday is hosting a forum to address just that.

The event that runs from 1:30-2:30 p.m., features a discussion with the Rev. Rich McCouch, a Catholic priest who directs the Appalachian Institute, a regional outreach group housed at Wheeling University.

Lucia Valentine, a Catholic singer and songwriter whose music reflects her environmental activism, will also perform and present as part of the panel.

Charles DiSalvo, a WVU law professor and St. Francis parishioner, will moderate the discussion.

DiSalvo said the discussion will delve into both what Catholic social teaching says about climate change — and obligations people of faith might have to act.

The latter should be no question, Valentine said.

“My faith keeps me grounded in my climate work, as I believe that we are called to be stewards of the Earth,” she said.

Sunday’s forum is one more milepost on the journey of the Catholic church in the environmental cause.

In an apostolic letter from 1971, Pope Paul VI warned of “tragic consequences” if humankind failed to act in the good of the planet.

Four years later, then-Bishop Joseph Hodges of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia’s Catholic diocese, was among the 25 bishops from 13 states who signed the landmark pastoral letter on poverty and environmental blight in the Appalachian region.

“This Land is Home to me,” the title of that letter, received national attention for its unflinching take on what it was like to live here then.

At the time the letter was penned, several creeks and streams across West Virginia were tinted orange due to acid mine drainage.

In a letter to the faithful from Pope Francis in 2015, he echoed the warnings of Paul VI from 44 years previous.

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