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Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Catholic Multicultural Center Engages Members Through Community Environment Program


Alyssa Engebretson

This past October the Community Environment program at the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) bussed participants to Indian Lake Park to hike and explore nature. The hike included information about the different frog species in the area, edible plants, and the importance and significance of oak savannas. They ended the excursion with a picnic to relax and enjoy the lake.

CMC is a local social services agency providing educational services as well as spiritual and cultural activities to the public. Programs include a free meal program, which includes some of the produce grown at their food pantry garden, an Employment Search Assistance program, a Homework Club program for elementary and middle school students, and a Culinary Creations Catering Social Enterprise for those looking for food service job training and professional development. They also offer English as a Second Language Classes and Citizenship Classes. 
In addition, their Community Environment program, coordinated by Laura Green & Antonio Quintanilla, was founded in 2014 and finds ways to care for the environment and connect with underrepresented groups in environmental stewardship conversations and programming. Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income individuals, people of color and immigrants. The program holistically serves those in need by offering a platform for people who are often excluded from climate action conversations. They do this through education and stewardship-based events that emphasize the Catholic teaching of caring for creation, which is protecting people and the environment by living out one’s faith through relationships with all of God’s creation.

Throughout the year the Community Environment in-person educational events use Popular Education, which focuses on everyone as simultaneously a teacher and a learner. At their events chairs are arranged in a circle, allowing for discussion and interaction with all the participants. They also lead field trips (like the trip to Indian Lake) where they spend time in nature and host volunteer events, such as their annual Wingra Creek cleanup. 

Last November the group hosted a virtual event called Faith & Climate Change, which included a presentation developed by the Spanish Catholic Outreach subgroup of Citizens Climate Lobby, which aims to build political will for climate change solutions. The presentation discussed why climate action is important from a creation standpoint and how to get involved through political advocacy. The presentation highlighted the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato si’ on care for our home. This message is sent to all the Roman Catholic bishops, giving guidance to Catholics on how they can care for creation. 

In March the group held a virtual climate event, called Climate Change in the Americas, where presenters from Costa Rica, Mexico, Columbia, and Florida discussed climate issues and solutions with participants from Wisconsin and other U.S states. The presenters talked about how climate change is impacting their county or region, what their peers are doing about it, and shared a call to action on climate change for people in the United States. 

And at the Green Neighborhoods Picnic over the summer, the Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, CMC, and other community partners received feedback from members of the community about what changes they want to see in regards to water resources, transportation, green spaces and home energy use. These recommendations will be used for inspiration for events and further discussions in the future. 

The Catholic Multicultural Center is committed to enacting change within their own facilities based on these beliefs. In 2014 the CMC installed solar panels, which helps reduce their energy bill. In addition, the CMC installed a demand-controller HVAC system that allows them to set the thermostat in different rooms to reduce their building’s energy use. They have also replaced their over 500  fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs. Further, CMC’s Community Environment program participants designed and installed a rain garden.The rain garden captures and filters stormwater runoff so it can soak into the ground, which prevents polluted water from running into our lake and streams, reducing flooding and replenishing the groundwater’s water supply. All of these efforts help save CMC money, which translates to additional funding for their programming.

CMC provides resources and programs that bring people together, creating a platform for everyone’s voice to be heard. Their programs facilitate conversation about climate issues and solutions through events, programs, educational presentations, and meaningful connections in the Madison area. In 2022 CMC is planning events that will engage individuals of all different backgrounds, races and ethnicities in climate and environmental equity programming and discussions.

Alyssa Engebretson

Alyssa Engebretson


Alyssa is a senior at Edgewood College studying Communications with a concentration in Media and Message. She is passionate about fighting climate change and is excited to connect with the community and articulate the benefits of creating a more sustainable world through decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally friendly practices.



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