Blessed Sacrament Parish Wins National Stewardship Award

By Angie Iafrate
SOUTH CHARLESTON—Blessed Sacrament Parish in South Charleston was named one of five national Cool Congregations Challenge winners by Interfaith Power and Light, an organization which mobilizes faith communities across the United States in the call to care for creation through sustainable practices.
Awards were announced in the spring for projects completed in the previous calendar year. Judging criteria included the following: a well-defined project with measurable benefits; creativity and resourcefulness in executing the project; congregant engagement in the project; and community inspiration. Blessed Sacrament was awarded a prize of $1,000 as the contest winner in the Energy Saver category for its upgrade of all lighting in the worship space. The upgrade resulted in an 82 percent reduction in energy use.
Congregant engagement was a significant factor in Blessed Sacrament’s designation as a winner this year. Two members of the parish’s  energy efficiency committee are electrical engineers and were able to successfully guide several volunteer laborers from the parish through the process of installing the lighting. This resulted in not only a drastic savings in labor expenses, but also in more enthusiasm from other members of the parish who saw their friends and neighbors thoroughly invested in the project’s completion. In total, the parish reworked over 300 fluorescent fixtures to use LED light tubes, and motion sensors were installed in lower-use areas. Father John Finnell, Blessed Sacrament pastor, expressed gratitude for the long-term vision of his parishioners, acknowledging the many hours of work they invested in the project.
“I am very grateful to God and our parish Energy Efficiency team who have worked long and hard for several years to shrink our use of electricity.  They added even more hours of labor to prepare the application for the Cool Congregation prize.” He also noted the importance of general support from the parish, adding, “I am also grateful that our parish community, through our Finance Council, is able and willing to invest the funds needed for this type of project.  All of us at Blessed Sacrament were delighted with the news that we had won the grant. It serves to reinforce our determination to continue to improve our stewardship of the wonderful resources God has given us.”
Blessed Sacrament continues its commitment to stewardship through additional projects in 2019, including an investment in 47 new energy-efficient windows and plans to install an insulated roof over the parish gym this summer.
West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, the state affiliate of the national network, invites anyone interested in learning more about how West Virginians can join the ongoing call to stewardship or how congregations can apply for the next Cool Congregations Challenge to send e-mail, visit the website at, or find WVIPL on Facebook to learn more.