St. Ann of the Dunes is fitting location for Green Mass to celebrate God’s creation

BEVERLY SHORES – The large windows behind the sanctuary in St. Ann of the Dunes seemed to become a portal that allowed the faithful not only to hear the words Bishop Robert J. McClory’s homily, but to see God’s beauty of which he spoke about during the Green Mass on Sept. 6.

The nearly 75 people from throughout the diocese who gathered for the Mass were joined by squirrels who were busy running up and down the trees and the many birds visiting the bird feeders directly behind the bishop just outside the church’s windows.

The Green Mass is a celebration of God’s creation and is typically held during the Season of Creation, which begins on Sept. 1 (the World Day for Prayer for the Care of Creation) and continues to Oct. 4 (the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi).

St. Ann of the Dunes was selected because of the natural beauty which surrounds the church. The church is located in Beverly Shores, tucked away within the Dunes National Lakeshore.

“It was a no brainer. St Ann’s is a perfect location to celebrate creation. It’s such a beautiful place,” said Beth Casbon, moderator for the diocesan Social Teaching Commission.
Casbon said the Mass was the result of the commission’s 2021 summit which focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: Caring for our Common Home.” She added the focus is to call attention to an urgency in caring for the Earth and to help parishes identify opportunities to uphold life and care for all of God’s creation.
Bishop McClory tapped into the encyclical during his homily, as well as St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, also known as Canticle of the Creatures, based on Psalm 148. The bishop explained the words chosen by Pope Francis from St. Francis’s original text, “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” translates to “Praise be to you, my Lord.”
“It’s important to ground our understanding in that beautiful document given to us by Pope Francis,” said Bishop McClory.
The bishop quoted Pope Francis, “The world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” Bishop McClory explained the beauty given by God, “can move the heart, move the soul…for an experience with God.”
Bishop McClory explained how people can be drawn to God through truth, goodness and beauty. Using a beautiful sunset, the greenery of a forest and the dunes surrounding the church in the woods as examples, the bishop said within the beauty “we find ourselves with an appreciation so very close to us, that some can see in that beauty, the very reflection of God.”
The bishop stressed that as we imitate St. Francis, we have a responsibility to treat with great care this created world, “motivated by a great love of God, who loves us so much.”
Bishop McClory reiterated Pope Francis’s words that people need to return to simplicity. “Simplicity of life, the kind of Christian spirituality that focuses on the essentials by not being consumed, not being driven by the mere consumption of so many other things that of themselves, won’t bring joy,” stated the bishop. “It allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be spiritually detached from what we possess.”
Deacon Martin Brown echoed the bishop’s message on detachment and happiness. “The pandemic showed us we can really cut a lot of stuff out of our lives. How many times do we say, ‘this is on sale, I have to go buy it,’ despite having a whole closet full of clothes. Some people are more about things instead of what God’s given us. Be happy with what we’ve got.”
Deacon Brown sees himself as someone being “very in tune with the environment.” He shared how he spent a lot of time in the great outdoors throughout his life. “I always feel that when I’m outside, I’m in God’s Cathedral,” he said.  
“The Green Mass is a wonderful thing especially when it’s at a place like St. Ann. You’re sitting right in the heart of the national park. That’s a great setting for it,” said Deacon Brown. 
Karen Erminger, organist for St. Ann said the beauty surrounding the church in the woods makes every Mass seem like a Green Mass. “The Mass was beautiful. The bishop’s homily was beautiful tonight. Just the way he read the St. Francis’s prayer; the words from that prayer were beautiful and they moved me.”  
After everyone was gone, the husband/wife team of Terry and Nancy Kolasa, long time St. Ann parishioners, were busy washing the last of the dishes from the evening’s refreshments as they reflected on the bishop’s message and the meaning of the evening’s mass. 
“I grew up hearing how St. Francis of Assisi loved nature and the animals, but I wasn’t aware about his thoughts on creation,” said Terry.
Terry shared it’s in the outdoors that he finds the transcendental beauty the bishop mentioned in his homily. “I’ve always been an outdoor person. I’ve always respected nature and Mother Earth. When the sun goes down, I like to go stare out at the stars and see how beautiful it is,” Terry revealed.

Nancy added how great it was to see the bishop and hear his message, as well as all the smiling faces at mass. “Everyone who came to Mass appreciates nature, appreciates God’s creation,” she said.
Nancy’s summary of the night was quite simple and to the point, “just appreciate what God has given us and take care of it.”
Casbon was thrilled with the turnout and is excited to see what fruits will come from the Green Mass and the commission’s works. “Everything starts with prayer and celebration, but we really want to also go to the next step and work on some conservation efforts. Things that can be done in parishes. Our committee works to support the work in the parishes. I’m anxious to see where it will go with this group of people.”
Pope Francis’s Laudato Si can be found at:

Caption: Bishop Robert J. McClory gives his homily during the Green Mass at St. Ann of the Dunes on Sept. 6. (Bob Wellinski photo)