By: Kim Young, Creation Care Ministry, Nativity Catholic Church, Burke, VA

It’s a beautiful day in northern Virginia. I’ve just come in from the yard and in a few hours, I’ll be getting ready to travel to gaze into the eyes of a newborn grandson. New life and new beginnings. What am I doing to help sustain this planet that he will grow up in? As a naturalist, gardener and Creation Care leader, I could go in so many directions. I’ve chosen gardening with native plants and wildlife habitat—to do it, promote it, and most of all to love it. It’s the perfect prescription for our planet, our families and our psyche. 


The Global Catholic Climate Covenant has chosen ‘The Web of Life: Biodiversity as God’s blessing’ for the theme of this year’s Season of Creation, September 1-October 4.  The theme was chosen to help us meditate on two essential facts about creation: it comes from God, and we play a part in it. Among other goals, we are to learn more about the wildlife and ecology of our communities, teach our communities about God’s web of life, practice nature conservation in our homes, schools, churchyards and community spaces and give voice to the voiceless by advocating for nature in our home communities and beyond. 


Biodiversity is indeed one of the topics that Pope Francis addresses in his encyclical, Laudato Si. He says,  “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behavior…Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence … We have no such right.” A recent National Science Foundation report on loss of pollinator biodiversity stated that, “The average person can help. By filling their gardens with diverse, native plant species and limiting pesticides, anyone can create more pollinator-friendly spaces and help keep their local pollinator community diverse, healthy, and beautiful. 


So what are native plants? These are species that have co-evolved with the native insects, birds and other wildlife and are uniquely adapted for survival in the local climate and soil. They can generally survive without pesticides, fertilizers or outside watering once established. We can’t afford the lawn mono-culture that covers so much of our suburban landscape. It does not support nature’s essential food webs and ecosystems. We must recreate nature around our homes, churches, and other spaces. 


Perhaps you or members of your church community have some experience with gardening and are ready to start planting on church property! Bravo! There are many resources to assist you in planning and in some cases, with grants. Consult Earth Sangha, Plant NoVA Natives, Audubon at Home, and the National Wildlife Federation to name just a few.  If you want to gain experience before tackling a more public area, start at home with your own family and space, no matter the size. It is a wonderful opportunity to involve your children, who have an innate curiosity about the life around them—this is your opportunity to instill wonder in God’s wild creation, rather than fear. 


Your efforts to care for creation through gardening can expand as time and energy permits. Removing invasive plants, reducing lawn,  composting, eliminating use of fertilizers and pesticides, managing storm water on site, and harvesting rain in rain barrels are some additional steps that enhance the positive impact of native plant gardening.  Applying for and achieving certifications for your home or church property from Audubon, NWF, MonarchWatch and others is personally satisfying, but more importantly, your certificate or yard sign provide a conversation starter with neighbors and church members about what you are doing and why it is important. The Saint Kateri Habitat certification program encourages individuals and parishes to restore their spaces in a way that praises God and fosters a greater connection between people and nature. 


Fall is an ideal season to get started. Native plant sales abound; the ground is cooler and more moist. But if you need more time, winter is a great time for reflection, research and planning until spring calls you outside to enjoy and protect God’s Creation.  Just don’t wait too long to make a difference. 


Learn about Season of Creation events happening across Fairfax County!