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Catholic Climate Ambassadors        

We are pleased to introduce 19 trained Catholic Climate Ambassadors.  These 19 Ambassadors are available to offer presentations on the moral implications of climate change consistent with Catholic teaching as outlined by our Holy Father in his World Day of Peace Message of 2010, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation, and in the U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement, Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good.

The Catholic Climate Covenant, the organization responsible for the Ambassador program, plays a pivotal role in the U.S. Catholic response to the enormous challenge of climate change. The Catholic Climate Covenant and its many partners, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has developed strategies for to foster the spiritual formation and education of Catholics, to create resources, programs and projects that engage youth, families and parishioners, and to spur action that leads to public policy change at local, national and international levels.

The Catholic Climate Ambassador program is intended to accelerate these efforts by raising the awareness of Catholics around the U.S. who worship in our parishes, learn in our schools and lead our many ministries. The Ambassadors are charged with  promoting the Catholic Climate Covenant: The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.

Please contact any of the following Ambassadors for a speaking engagement.  Ambassador travel expenses are expected to be covered by the Organization sponsoring their speaking engagement.

View Catholic Climate Ambassadors in a larger map.

Nelson Araque
Diana, Florida

Education:  B.A. Philosophy and Literature, M.A. in Pastoral Ministries
Background:  Nelson teaches theology at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Nelson sees raising awareness of the economic, political, social, and moral effects of climate change.  He is especially excited to share the authentic Catholic teaching on climate change with the Church’s Spanish-speaking community.

Ed Biersmith, MPS, Ph.D.
Monroe, Louisiana

Education: Master’s In Pastoral Studies Loyola New Orleans, Ph.D. University of Kansas Lawrence
Background:  Dr. Biersmith is currently a Chemistry, Mathematics, Reading, Speed Reading, ACT/SAT prep tutor and owner of Sylvan Learning Center in Monroe, LA.  Dr. Biersmith taught a JustFaith Climate Change Short Course at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, and hopes to share both the scientific and theological understanding of climate change with the wider Catholic community.

Patty Bowman
Seattle, Washington

Education:  BA in History, Stanford University,  JD Harvard Law School,  MA, Biblical Studies, Graduate Theological Union,  MAPS, Seattle University
Background:  Patty is the Director of Social Outreach and Advocacy at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, WA, and served as Adjunct Faculty at Seattle University in the Scripture and Leadership Training (SALT) Program from 2000 – 2006. She hopes to help educate Catholics about the church’s teaching on environmental issues, and on climate change in particular, with the aim of empowering and inspiring Catholics to change their own consumption habits and to advocate for better government policies.

Patrick Carolan
Stratford, Connecticut

Education:  Southern Connecticut State University- BA Education, Psychology
Background:  Patrick is the Executive Director of the Franciscan Action network, a member organization of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and partner of the Catholic Climate Covenant.  Patrick has a deep understanding of Catholic Social Teaching, and a firm belief that the earth is God’s creation and we honor God and show our love for God by taking care of all of his creation.   He is excited to share the Church’s authentic teaching on climate change with the wider Church community.

Fr. Joseph P. Carver, S.J.
Seattle, Washington

Education: BA, St. Joseph’s University Philadelphia, PA, MA, Oxford University Medieval History & Theology
MA, Philosophy Fordham University, MA, Spiritual Direction & Counseling Fordham University, MDiv, MTS and STL in Ecology and Spirituality UC Berkeley and JSTB
Background:  Fr. Carver teaches Theology at Seattle Preparatory School, where he is also part of the Community Ministry Team.  Fr. Carver believes deeply that ecological awareness and action leads us more deeply into the sacramental life of the Church, and brings a lifetime of passion about spirituality and ecology to the Ambassadors program.

Valerie Chapman
Portland, Oregon

Education: M. Education/ Religious Education University of Portland, 1989, Marylhurst University, Marylhurst Oregon 2004-2006 (M. Div. Equivalency), Seattle University Certificate in Pastoral Leadership Program May 2006, San Francisco Theological Seminary Doctorate in Ministry, May 2009
Background: Valerie currently serves as the Pastoral Administrator of St Francis of Assisi Parish in Portland, Oregon. She recently finished her dissertation titled “Take and Eat: Reconnecting to God, Community and Creation through the Food We Eat,” which linked environmental awareness with a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  She hopes to share her deep understanding of Catholic teaching with her audiences, and to especially help parishes make Creation a priority in decision-making.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Education: Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ,  Ed.S., Educational Specialist,  St. Thomas Aquinas University, Rome, Italy, M. A., Religious Studies, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA ,B.S., Elementary Education
Background:  Sr. Clark is the Director of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center, in Philadelphia, PA, and serves as Special Assistant to the President for Sustainability of Chestnut Hill College.  As a Sister of Saint Joseph and a Catholic educator, Sr. Clark recognizes a need for education about the issue of climate change and the responsibility of Catholics to respond from a faith perspective.

Gerry Gacioch, M.D.
Fairport, New York

Education:  BS Biology, MD, Fellowships in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology, Masters in Medical Management, Interventional Cardiologist at Rochester Cardiopulmonary Group, PC, Chief of Cardiology, Rochester Heart Institute at Rochester General Hospital
Background:  Dr. Gacioch is Chief of Cardiology at the Rochester Heart Institute at Rochester General Hospital.  He helped found the Care of God’s Creation” Ministry at Church of the Transfiguration (Pittsford, NY), and hopes to help Catholics learn about Catholic Social Teaching and our particular commitments to care for God’s Creation and exercise an option for the poor.

Patricia Gillis
Southfield, Michigan

Education: Madonna University- BA Sociology, University of Detroit- Mercy- MA Religious Studies, Wayne State University- MSW Community Organizing and Administration, Sabbatical year internship at Michaela Farm with the Oldenburg, IN Franciscans studying organic agriculture and ecospirituality
Background: Patricia is the executive director of Voices for Earth Justice, and teaches Sociology part time at Macomb Community College.  She was deeply inspired by the USCCB document Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good, and is especially passionate about how climate change relates to the Catholic Social Teaching.  Patricia brings a wealth of ecumenical experience to the Catholic Climate Ambassadors program.

Katie Hirschboeck, Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona

Education:  University of Wisconsin: B.S. in Geography, minor in Geology & M.S. in Geography,  University of Arizona: Ph.D. in Geosciences, minor in Geography
Background:  Dr. Hirschboeck is Associate Professor of Climatology, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona.  Dr. Hirschboeck sees the issue of climate change as one which concerns her vibrant Catholic faith, commitment to Catholic Social Teaching and its Consistent Ethic of Life, and profession as a scientist.  She hopes to share both a scientific and theological understanding of climate change with the wider Catholic community.

Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner
Santa Clara, California

Education:  BS Biology, Santa Clara University, MBA, Santa Clara University
Background: Lindsey is the Director of the Office of Sustainability at Santa Clara University.  She has a deep passion for sustainability, and a unique perspective about how that is both grounded in and animated by Catholic mission and identity at Jesuit University.

Kyle Kramer
Lamar, Indiana

Education: Double BA (Religious Studies and Germanic Studies), Indiana University and Universitaet Hamburg (Germany). Master of Divinity, Emory University.
Background:  Kyle is an organic farmer, America columnist, and director of graduate lay ministry programs at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.  He is especially concerned about the effect of climate change on agricultural systems.  He hopes to encourage people of faith to embrace healthier ways of relating to Creation – as an ecological necessity but also as a deeply satisfying and authentic spiritual practice for individuals and for communities.  His latest book is A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt (Sorin Books, 2010).

Sr. Barbara O’Donnell, HM
Villa Maria, Pennsylvania

Education:  BA in Elementary Education from St. John College, Cleveland, OH, MA in Religious Education from LaSalle University, Philadelphia, MA in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Terra Haute
Background:  Sister O’Donnell is a staff member with Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, PA, where she focuses EcoSpirituality and EcoJustice.  She has also served 11 years as Director of EverGreen, the ecological ministry of Sisters of Humility of Mary.  She hopes to use Church teaching to help Catholics see the connection between local and global, and to realize that climate change affects all of God’s creation with a major impact on those who are poor.

Mark Potosnak, Ph.D.
Chicago, Illinois

Education: BA ’94,Harvard, MS ’98, MPhil ’00, PhD ’02, Columbia
Background:  Dr. Potosnak is Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Program at DePaul University.  He is excited to share both his passionate Catholic faith and scientific understanding of climate change with the wider Church, and to help Catholics recognize the impacts of climate change as well as what they can do to more fully care for God’s Creation.

Betsy Reifsnider
Stockton, California

Education: B.A., Occidental College, majored in Diplomacy and World Affairs, 1978
Background:   Betsy is the Environmental Justice Coordinator at Catholic Charities in Stockton, CA, and the policy director for California Interfaith Power and Light.  She has a strong desire to share the church’s authentic teaching on climate change and environmental justice, and is especially proficient in the area of public policy.

Susan Searle
Gunnison, Colorado

Education: MA Pastoral Ministry, Loyola, New Orleans
Background:  Susan is Adjunct Faculty for The Center for Ministry Development.  She feels that it is important for Catholics to recognize their part in restoring balance to our planet, and hopes to do so by sharing the Church’s unique teachings on creation care and climate change.  With over twenty years experience in youth and young adult ministry, Susan hopes to share the important message of climate change with the young people of the church and to those who minister with them.

Anthony (Tony) Strawa, Ph.D.
San Jose, California

Education: Ph.D., Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, M.S., Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Stanford University, M.A., Management and Supervision, Central Michigan University,  B.S. Aeronautical Engineering, United States Air Force Academy
Background:  Dr. Strawa has spent the last 20 years of his professional life working as an Atmospheric Scientist with NASA, and is currently the Chair of the Diocese of San Jose Climate Change Initiative.  Dr. Strawa recognizes climate change as one of the great challenges facing humanity this century from a scientific, economic, and ethical perspective, and feels called to motivate people to more fully address climate change through their Catholic faith.

Vie Thorgren
Denver, Colorado

Education: B.S. in Education from Indiana University, M.A. in Counseling Psychology from University of West Florida, D.Min in spiritual theology from Graduate Theological Foundation
Background:  Dr. Thorgren is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, CO.  Dr. Thorgren has over thirty-six years professional experience in researching, designing and implementing programs that address social issues.  Her cross-cultural experience in South Korea and Kenya and her degrees in education, counseling psychology and spiritual theology have served to enhance her integrated thinking.

Sr. Rose Marie Tresp, RSM
Belmont, North Carolina

Education: BA at Fontbonne College, St. Louis, MO, M.Ed. at Boston College in Religious Studies
Background:  Sr. Tresp is the Director of Justice for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas South Central Community.  Sr. Tresp understands that issues about the environment and climate change will continue to affect all of the other issues with which the Sisters of Mercy are concerned, especially immigration and racism.  She is excited to share the Church’s teaching on creation care and climate change with Catholic audiences, and to demonstrate how this issue affects much more than just natural ecology.

Nelson Araque