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Lighting Up An Austin Parish View Comments

Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda


Consistently ranked among the country’s most environmentally conscious cities, Austin has spent decades educating its citizens on being good energy stewards. By 2020, this gateway to the Texas Hill Country aims to be carbon neutral, powering itself solely on clean energy.

The parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena in southwest Austin joined this effort in August 2010 by using a very generous estate gift to develop solar energy.

“Everyone can talk,” notes Father Patrick Coakley, pastor. “What is important is that we begin to do
something!”

Setting an Example

Solar Electricity Handbook, 2010 Edition (Greenstream, 2010), by Michael Boxwell. This simple, practical guide to solar energy assumes no previous knowledge.

Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2zjdtxrisc for a U.S. Department of Energy one-minute, animated video showing how solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.

With an average of 300 sunny days a year, central Texas is a good bet for solar energy. St. Catherine’s is the first parish in the diocese to install solar panels. This makes it the largest Catholic installation in Texas—and only one of 10 churches nationwide—to initiate a green project of this magnitude.

The $100,000 project, named after its benefactor, the late Charles Kolodzey, is expected to cut the parish’s energy costs by a third.

Its 126 smoked-glass solar panels (32.67 kilowatts) have been placed on carports that cover a handicapped parking area and have an expected life of 20-25 years. The panels supply light at night and shade during the hot Texas days—and provide enough energy for the parish’s administrative offices.

According to Austin-based Meridian Solar, the designing company, the project will offset 32 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year—the equivalent of planting 2,500 trees. “The power we’re generating already would power four domestic homes,” says the pastor, a native of Cork, Ireland. The panels are expected to save the parish $8,000 annually in energy costs. “It’s going very well! We are very pleased.”

Caring for Mother Earth

This is not St. Catherine of Siena’s first effort at being environmentally conscious. For several years the parish’s Earth Care Ministry has educated the parish’s 3,800 families, challenging everyone to be environmental stewards in all areas of their lives, such as conserving water, keeping a low-carbon diet and promoting eating from local food sources.

In addition to expanding its solar structure in the future, the parish hopes to develop rainwater collection and use Xeriscape™ (waterconservation landscaping) throughout its 8.8-acre campus.

“We are trying to reduce our carbon footprint one step at a time. We all need to take personal responsibility for caring for our environment,” notes Missionary of the Sacred Heart Father Coakley.

“This has changed the mind-set of the parish. It’s always in our vocabulary, no matter what ministry we are discussing. It’s changed the way we think about what we do.”


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Fidelis of Sigmaringen: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. 
<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

 
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