Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation
And especially for our Brother Sun,
Who brings us the day and the light;
He is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.
-The Canticle of Creation, St. Francis of Assisi
Solar panels are an exciting technology that allows electricity to be created directly from sunlight. They provide clean energy and are better for the environment than regular sources of electricity. Currently, there are plans to have a solar array installed on the roof of Our Lady of the Road. By using solar panels for its electricity, OLR will be able to get energy from sources that align with its values.
OLR also hopes to become a solar installation training and job center. This way, both the social and environmental aspects of caring for God’s creation can be addressed.
What are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. Particles of light, called photons, knock electrons free, generating an electric current that can be used to make electricity.
Unfortunately, most electricity is made by burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal, and OLR requires a large amount to energy to operate. These greenhouse gases stay in Earth’s atmosphere, polluting our air and contributing to climate change. This leads to a warming of the globe, which contributes to rising sea levels, ocean dead zones, droughts and extreme weather patterns.
Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy is renewable, because, although there is a limited amount of fossil fuels, there is plenty of sunlight. Since solar energy comes directly from the sun, it is a greener alternative and is much kinder to our Earth. With solar panels, OLR will save hundreds of dollars a month on electricity costs.
Why the Catholic Worker?
When Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin started the Catholic Worker movement in 1933, they desired to, as Peter put it, create “a new society in the shell of the old.”
An important part of this new society is a green revolution, which allows people to rediscover their bonds with the land. This makes sustainability a focus of the Worker’s ministry, recognizing that God calls us to environmental stewardship.
There is also a profound connection between caring for the environment and promoting the dignity of the most vulnerable people. The people who are most affected by climate change tend to be those in poorer countries, where the majority of the population are subsistence farmers. People who are unable to move as the sea level rises or droughts continue are harmed the most by climate change, and they are often the people who contribute to it the least.
By installing solar panels, OLR will be able to get energy that promotes the common good.
Catholic Social Teaching
A principle of Catholic Social Teaching is caring for God’s Creation, recognizing that stewardship of creation shows respect to the Creator.
“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” —Laudato Si, 139
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis makes the obligation of the Christian as a member of this planet very clear. He recognizes that it is our duty to take care of this Earth, reducing the footprint we leave on this planet.
This invitation to a renewed sense of community with all of creation is not exclusive to Catholics or Christians. It is an invitation he makes to all people of goodwill.
“All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation.” —Laudato Si, 14
With OLR using solar energy, we are all able to participate more fully in this green revolution, by using energy directly from the sun.