BY TONI CASHNELLI
A story in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press is raising red flags about the environment in a state already reeling from a toxic water crisis in Flint.
Reporter Keith Matheny says the congregation that purchased Duns Scotus in 1996 is planning to install an exploratory oil well on its wooded property in Southfield, Mich. Word of Faith International Christian Center, owner of the friars’ former college, was approached last fall by Jordan Development Co. about drilling a test well on its 110 acres “to assess the viability of extracting oil there,” according to the Free Press. The company said seismic testing showed underground “anomalies” that could signal the presence of oil (Southfield-churchs-plans-oil-well-raise-concerns).
Last November after signing a lease agreement with Word of Faith, Jordan, an oil and gas exploration and development company, applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for permission to drill. Two miles away at Transfiguration Parish in Southfield, Pastor Bill Farris is “somewhat in disbelief because, if anything, environmental issues in the Detroit area are gaining steam right now.” An example: If MDEQ approves a request from Marathon Petroleum, the Southwest Detroit refinery will be permitted to release more pollutants into the air – ironically part of an effort to reduce sulfur levels in the gasoline it produces to meet new EPA standards.
Bill heard about the proposed drilling in Southfield “by word of mouth from parishioners who had gotten wind of it.” At this point, “I think there’s a lot of opposition to it.” Unfortunately, “One of the issues is that the area around the old Duns Scotus property doesn’t have a lot of residents, not enough to trigger a ban [on drilling].”
The ban he refers to is a set of restrictions imposed last year by the state when an oil well was drilled in Macomb County’s Shelby Township, 500 feet from a residential neighborhood – causing major disruption. As a result of that outcry, drilling is not permitted in a residential area “where there are 40 or more occupied structures in any 90-degree quadrant within 1,320 feet of the well location,” according to the Free Press. In Southfield there are 35 occupied dwellings near the proposed oil well – not enough to trigger the ban.
“The other thing of interest in this area is the Rouge River, which becomes a pretty large river flowing into the Detroit River,” says Bill. “A lot of streams that feed into it are located in this part of the county. You can’t drive one mile without crossing one of those streams. There are signs on all of them, ‘Ours to Protect’, asking people to take care of them.” An oil accident could impact some of the 48 municipalities that are part of the river’s 467-mile watershed. There aren’t enough residents near the property to trigger a ban on drilling.FILE PHOTOBill Farris, OFM
Besides the environment, neighbors are concerned about the possible impact on quality of life and property values. Word of Faith responded to questions about the drilling in a letter posted on its website and distributed by PR Newswire (wordoffaith). It begins, “…We have heard nothing but hype and distortions of the truth regarding the proposed drilling….” and continues, “We are very sympathetic to the concerns of our neighbors.” It stresses that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the controversial high-pressure process of extracting gas and oil, would not be used in Southfield.
Sunday, about 75 neighbors bearing signs such as “Thou Shalt Not Drill” gathered to protest the lease agreement. The group calling itself “Stop the Drilling in Southfield” plans to protest each Sunday “until the church reverses its plans or the state nixes the permit application,” Jay Greene wrote Jan. 17 in Crain’s Detroit Business (crainsdetroit.com).
Even if MDEQ approves the drilling, it could still be prevented by a 180-day moratorium on mining and oil and gas extraction imposed last October by the City of Southfield. Objections to the drilling are listed on the Southfield website in a report that predicts, “The City will have a new Ordinance in place before the moratorium expires in April 2016” (cityofsouthfield.com).
In the meantime, a town hall meeting on the proposed drilling is planned for Jan. 27.
“I might just go,” Bill says. “I don’t think there should be drilling in populous areas. If it were approved it would open up all sorts of possibilities for that and really decrease the quality of life. There’s always a possibility of something no one ever planned on, like that methane gas leak in California” that has driven thousands from their homes in Los Angeles in the past three months.
“I don’t think something of that magnitude would ever happen, but Detroit already has enough stress on its environment.”
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John Quigley previews his Feb. 6 talk in a YouTube video.
Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF
Henry Beck, OFM
Larry Zurek, OFMPage Polk, OFMNext month Fr. Page Polk and Fr. Larry Zurek will be commissioned by Pope Francis to serve the Church in a unique way during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
As two of 100 priests in the United States and 800 worldwide named Missionaries of Mercy, they are asked to be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness,” according to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Larry and Page will travel to Rome next month to receive the Pope’s mandate and be sent forth on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, during a celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Council describes the characteristics of this special corps on its website at im.va. The Missionaries should be “inspiring preachers of Mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate Confessors who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.” They will be invited by their diocesan bishops to give missions “or facilitate specific initiatives organized for the Jubilee, with particular attention given to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Holy Father will grant these Missionaries the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”
Nominated by SJB’s Provincial Council, Page and Larry were notified this week they had been accepted for service by the Pope.
The concert exceeded expectations.PHOTO BY MARILYN KERBER, SNDdeNTo celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, our own Toni Cashnelli suggested a concert by religious of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as a gift to the people. Promoted by the friars, it was an idea that caught fire and exceeded all expectations. On Jan. 17, over 120 men and women religious (about 20 friars!) gathered in St. Peter in Chains Cathedral to sing of our joy in living Gospel lives to a full church.
It was also a “concert of charisms,” with the choir composed of singers and musicians from 17 different religious communities. Directed by Fr. Fred Link and guided by a script written by Fr. Dan Anderson, the choice of music and the message were inspired by the words of Pope Francis on the consecrated life. Br. Gene Mayer coordinated a reception and each community shared materials about their community. Vocation Directors Luis Aponte-Merced and Larry Zurek were present to talk with any who expressed interest in knowing more; at least one young man wants to know more!
Thanks for all the ways you have promoted consecrated life (especially our own Franciscan life) during this past year. The special year may be ending, but we’ll continue to share our joy and invite others to share our way of life by living into the Year of Mercy.
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM
(Director Fred Link e-mailed his thanks to fellow committee members following
Sunday’s concert for consecrated life at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.)
Words truly can’t express the joy and gratitude I felt after our concert last evening and still feel and will continue to feel for a long time, I’m sure. I believe you will agree that what we were able to do last evening was truly something precious and glorious. …The Lord truly blessed our hard work.
I know you would all agree that Dan Anderson’s script and his eloquent proclamation of it was an absolutely key ingredient in the power of the concert we presented.
Our wonderful accompanists all deserved to take their own bows. And [soloists] Jeri, Terri, Mary Ellen and Gabriel, what gifts you are! Thank you for letting me be the director. I will never forget this event. … Let’s keep a song in our hearts and we’ll be spreading the good news of the blessing of our consecrated lives long after this official year ends.
– Fr. Fred Link, OFM
Above, concert Director Fred Link; right, about 20 friars took part.
Right, Kenn Beetz accompanied the choir.
PHOTOS BY STEVE TROSLEY for THE CATHOLIC TELEGRAPH
Chairs were set up in the back to accommodate the overflow crowd at the Cathedral.
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