Catholic Climate Ambassadors

Nelson Araque Diana, Florida
B.A. Philosophy and Literature, M.A. in Pastoral Ministries
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 able to share the authentic Catholic teaching on climate change with the Church’s Spanish-speaking community.

Ed Biersmith, MPS, Ph. D Monroe, Louisiana
M.A. in Pastoral Studies, Loyola New Orleans; Ph.D. University of Kansas Lawrence
Dr. Biersmith taught a JustFaith Climate Change Short Course at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church. He is able to share both the scientific and theological understanding of climate change with the wider Catholic community.

Patty Bowman Seattle, Washington
B.A. in History, Stanford University; J.D. Harvard Law School; M.A. in Biblical Studies, Graduate Theological Union; MAPS, Seattle University
Patty is the Executive Director of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle. Sponsored by 22 religious communities, IPJC acts for justice in the church and in the world.  Patty previously served as Director of Outreach and Advocacy at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, and as Adjunct Faculty at Seattle University in the Scripture and Leadership Training (SALT) Program. She is available to 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 public policies.

Valerie Chapman Portland, Oregon
M. Education/Religious Education, University of Portland; M.Div. Equivalent, Marylhurst University; Certificate in Pastoral Leadership, Seattle University; D.M., San Francisco Theological Seminary
Valerie serves as the Pastoral Administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Portland, Oregon. Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Take and Eat: Reconnecting to God, Community and Creation through the Food We Eat,” and linked environmental awareness with a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. She is able to share her deep understanding of Catholic teaching, and to help parishes make Creation a priority in decision-making.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
B.S. in Elementary Education, Chestnut Hill College; M.A. in Religious Studies, Saint Thomas Aquinas University; Ed.S., Seton Hall University
Sr. Clark is the Director of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 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.

Bill Dinges, Ph.D. Washington, DC
Ph.D. in American Studies; Masters in History
Dr. Bill Dinges is an Ordinary Professor of Religion and Culture in the School of Theology and Religious Studies and a fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America. He has been on the faculty at Catholic University for the past thirty-one years. He also represents the Association of Catholic College and Universities on Catholic Climate Covenant's Steering Committee and is involved with the Archdiocese of Washington's Creation Care Team. He is a committed educator and engaging presenter, with expertise in Religion in America, Religious Movements, Religion and Social Change, Fundamentalism, and Religion and Ecology. 

Gerry Gacioch, M.D. Fairport, New York
B.S. in Biology; M.D.; Fellowships in Cardiology and Interventional Cardiology; Masters in Medical Management
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 and is able 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 Ann Arbor, Michigan
B.A. in Sociology, Madonna University; M.A. in Religious Studies, University of Detroit; MSW in Community Organizing and Administration, Wayne State University; Sabbatical year internship at Michaela Farm studying organic agriculture and ecospirituality
Patricia is the Board Chair at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit and serves on the Adrian Dominican's Resilient Communities Committee. She retired as the Executive Director for Voices for Earth Justice in 2017, and she taught Sociology at Macomb Community College and Schoolcraft Community College for 15 years in total. She is especially passionate about how climate change relates to the Catholic Social Teaching. Patricia is able to share a wealth of ecumenical experience with Catholic audiences.

Katie Hirschboeck, Ph. D. Tuscon, Arizona
B.S. in Geography, University of Wisconsin; M.S. in Geography and Ph.D. in Geosciences, University of Arizona
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 is able to share both a scientific and theological understanding of climate change with the wider Catholic community.

Kyle Kramer Louisville, KY
B.A. in Religious Studies and B.A. in Germanic Studies, Indiana University and Universitaet Hamburg; M.Div., Emory University
Kyle is the Executive Director of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, KY, which offers programming in spirituality, ecology, and social compassion. He is the former director of graduate lay degree programs and spiritual formation for Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. Kyle and his family spent fifteen years as organic farmers and homesteaders in Spencer County, Indiana. Kyle is a current columnist for St. Anthony Messenger magazine, a former columnist for America magazine, and is the author of A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt (Ave Maria Press, 2010).

Sr. Barbara O'Donnell, HM Villa Maria, Pennsylvania
B.A. in Elementary Education, St. John College, Cleveland; M.A. in Religious Education, LaSalle University, Philadelphia; M.A. in Earth Literacy, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Terra Haute
Sister O’Donnell is a staff member with Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center, where she focuses on EcoSpirituality and EcoJustice. She has also served 11 years as Director of EverGreen, the ecological ministry of Sisters of Humility of Mary. She is able 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
B.A., Harvard University; M.S., M.Phil., and Ph.D., Columbia University
Dr. Potosnak is Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Program at DePaul University. He is able 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
B.A. in Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College
Betsy is the former Environmental Justice Director at Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Stockton. Betsy has spent more than 35 years working in the environmental field.  She began her career as the Conservation Coordinator for the Sierra Club, Angeles Chapter and then worked as a legislative deputy for Los Angeles City Council member Ruth Galanter. She served as the Associate Director of the Mono Lake Committee and as the Executive Director of Friends of the River, California’s statewide river conservation organization.  She has also worked for the federal government as the water conservation manager for the Mid-Pacific Region of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, encompassing Northern California, Nevada, and Southern Oregon. She volunteers as a Catholic Climate Ambassador and as a jail visitation volunteer for Loaves and Fishes, a Sacramento-based organization serving the homeless and destitute.  She is active in her parish, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Sacramento.

Susan Searle Gunnison, Colorado
M.A. in Pastoral Ministry, Loyola, New Orleans
Susan is Adjunct Faculty for The Center for Ministry Development. With over twenty years’ experience in youth and young adult ministry, Susan is able 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
B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering, United States Air Force Academy; M.A. in Management and Supervision, Central Michigan University; M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Stanford University; Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Stanford University
Dr. Strawa has spent 20 years 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 is able to motivate people to more fully address climate change through their Catholic faith.

Vie Thorgren Denver, Colorado
B.S. in Education, Indiana University; M.A. in Counseling Psychology, University of West Florida; D.Min. in Spiritual Theology, Graduate Theological Foundation
Dr. Thorgren is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, CO. Dr. Thorgren has nearly 40 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
B.A., Fontbonne College; M.Ed. in Religious Studies, Boston College
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 able 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.