From its inception in 1993, the USCCB Environmental Justice Program has sought to urge Catholics throughout the country to become more aware of the links between reverence for the environment and social action on behalf of those negatively impacted by the environment. As a result, a primary thrust of the program has been to develop local programs and local leadership to ensure that the message of environmental justice became part of the fabric of Catholic life, especially as that life impacts low income communities. One of the ways this has been accomplished is through a grants program.
The first grants were rather small ($500 to $2,000) to assist parishes with projects ranging from community gardens to school curriculum development to community education campaigns. EJP funded over 130 such projects. Later, larger amounts of money helped fund projects that were state-wide or regional in scale. Unfortunately, the ability to fund such projects is no longer an ongoing part of our program on a consistent basis.
Nevertheless, we share with you stories of some of these programs in the hope that you might want replicate one of these projects in your own parish or diocese. We have organized many of the small grants according to the categories found in the 1993 U.S. bishops' statement, Communities of Salt and Light . This document suggests that the best social ministry programs are those that are integrated into all aspects of parish life, rather than being add-ons or optional efforts.
Parish and Local Community Groups: Models and Programs