A “green” parish in the heart of Mumbai

Mar 11 , 2019 Stories

Fighting ecological lethargy, Fr. Vincent Vaz’s leadership has turned awareness into action.

In the middle of a city mainly known for noise and air pollution, the parish council of Holy Family Church has taken a stand for ecological awareness. Fr. Vincent Vaz, pastor of Holy Family, has taken inspiration from Pope Francis and the encyclical Laudato Si’ in his approach to “caring for the common home”. He has asked the members of his parish, from the youngest to the eldest, to take personal responsibility for educating their fellow humans about contemporary ecological challenges AND to suggest concrete actions to combat those challenges.

In a socio-economic environment that could best be described as “middle class”, Fr. Vincent felt that his mission was to push his congregation from simple knowing about the sad state of the environment, to actually doing something to improve it. Among the changes made:

-Composting bins have been made available and parishioners are urged to bring their organic waste.

-Only potted plants are used to decorate the sanctuary in order to protect trees and plants.

-The main billboard at the entrance to the parish grounds announces the “Holy Family Green Campus” and highlights a series of precepts that ensure the ecological character of the parish.

-The deceased are wrapped and buried in a shroud rather than a casket. This reduces the use of rare and precious wood and has quickly become the common practice in the parish cemetery next to the church.

Fr. Vincent was excited to see “Care for the Common Home” as one of the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus. With both Fr. Arturo Sosa, General Superior of the Society of Jesus, and Pope Francis calling for the protection of the environment, especially in areas in which ecological challenges exacerbate the plight of the poor and marginalized, Fr. Vincent believes he can build on the momentum of the parish and give new impetus to the “green parish” project he launched several years ago.

As committed as he is to tackling ecological challenges at the local level, Fr. Vincent understands that it is just part of his parish mission. In an environment in which Christians are but a minority, he knows that this interest in ecology can further isolate the parish from her neighbors. Therefore, in parallel with the green initiatives, the parish has encouraged, hosted and participated in interreligious dialogue and action - an invitation for ALL “people of good will” to come together and work for the common good. By example, on November 18th, Holy Family joined forces with the Sikh community on church grounds to serve meals to underprivileged families. This is but a single instance of an even under Fr. Vincent’s leadership that broke down barriers between people of different religions and economic conditions in order to achieve a greater common goal.