Muddy Boot Makes the News

The current issue of the National Catholic Reporter features a great story of Catholics taking their faith seriously and living it in the world. It also just so happens to be a story about my old parish in Portland and features some fabulous quotes by some of my friends talking about the Muddy Boot Festival.

It's so amazing to have seen this growing understanding of the connection between our faith in our Creator and our care for Creation. It started at St. Phil's with the Columbia River Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Northwest. Some folks at St. Phil's got together to see how they might try to live that aspect of their faith as a community of faith.
The Muddy Boot Organic Festival, which held its fourth annual event this Sept. 11-13, marks for St. Philip Neri Parish not only a means of evangelization, reaching out to the wider community in this heavily unchurched region, but also a transition in its own identity. Its longtime Italian-American membership is aging, while many of the younger parishioners stepping forward to take the lead bring not that ethnic identity, but a strong environmental consciousness. ...

Even before Muddy Boot was launched, St. Philip Neri had already taken steps toward promoting sustainability, inspired in part by the 2001 Columbia River pastoral letter issued by U.S. and Canadian bishops of the Pacific Northwest. One of the parish’s major projects in response to that call was to create a bio-swale on the property -- a piece of land with native plants, designed to collect rainwater from the parking lot, instead of it running into storm drains, and filter out pollutants before it returns to the water table or to the Willamette River.

“There are a lot of young Portlanders who have this value of wanting to care for creation, and the Columbia River pastoral letter appeals to that group,” said Dr. Debbie Murphy, 38, who serves as a medical volunteer at the festival (“mostly sunscreen and Band-Aids,” she says). “The festival was born out of this idea.”

Much of this started as I had one foot out of parish life, leaving my role with the Peace & Justice Commision and Pastoral Council and beginning my journey with the Sisters. I personally had little or nothing to do with any of it. In a way, this put me in a privileged position as I was able to see the seeds that were planted grow and bloom into something absolutely amazing!

What's truly wonderful is to see what can happen when the layity have the support and guidance of the clergy, but are also given the freedom to dream dreams. Seeds are planted and then they grow. Fr. Steve was the pastor when those seeds were planted 6 or 7 years ago. Then Fr. Rich was there when the festival started 4 years ago. Fr. Jerry is there now. But the festival started with the folks in the pews ... Greg and Debbie and Jackie and Dolly and Mark and Matthew and the list goes on and on. Very cool!

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