Nun calls the faithful to an 'ecological ministry'

  • Sister Joan Brown


NAME Joan Brown

VOCATION Head of the Ecological Ministry of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Order of St. Francis

AGE 51

HOME BASE Albuquerque, New Mexico

MOST NOTED FOR Taking on social and environmental issues with a Catholic sensibility

INSPIRED BY Catholic priest and philosopher Thomas Berry, who said, "If we lose the grandeur of the natural world, we will lose our sense of the Divine."

SHE SAYS "Practicality has to mesh with the spirit."

The trouble with Christianity, says Sister Joan Brown, is that it's too often "confined to a building." "Jesus was called to the wilderness to listen to God. He was not called to the synagogue," she says. "But we haven't reflected on that in the Christian religion."

Brown, a lifelong Catholic and a Franciscan nun, grew up on a farm in the bluestem prairie near Emporia, Kan. Her rural upbringing, she says, gave her a reverence for the natural world, and a sister with Down syndrome stirred her devotion to social change. "I think my sense of justice came from having her as a sister, and seeing how people aren't respected fully for who they are," she says.

Brown later studied religion and ecology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Influenced by Mary Evelyn Tucker, a noted scholar of religion and ecology, Brown concluded that meaningful, long-term social change is best wrought through religious institutions.

"Our time is so short, and the issues are so critical. How can we cause deep changes?" she asks. "It could be through churches and religion, through a combination of education and advocacy."

Brown's mission has taken her from Kansas to California to Colorado to New Mexico, where she has lived and worked for more than 10 years. After arriving in the Land of Enchantment, she first worked with Tierra Madre, a nonprofit group that uses natural building materials such as straw bales to construct homes for low-income families in southern New Mexico. Eventually, she moved to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which includes most of northern New Mexico and is headquartered in Albuquerque. There, she began an "ecological ministry" — one of only a handful of full-time environmental positions in the Catholic Church within the United States — with the support of Joan Leahigh, then the director of the Archdiocese's Social Justice program.

In her job at the ministry, Brown takes her message of Christian-based ecological stewardship to Catholics — and people of other denominations — through workshops, writings and other outreach projects. Her workdays are long, and she often volunteers to organize events such as the annual "Celebrating Sacred Food and Water" conference, sponsored by New Mexico's three Catholic dioceses and the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service. She also helps run "Stewards of Creation," a nine-month weekend training program for spiritually minded environmental justice activists.

During her day-to-day work on water and agriculture issues, Brown has helped small farmers and environmental groups find common ground. As an environmentalist, a social justice activist and a Catholic, she says, "I'm sort of walking this line in between, recognizing there's truth on both sides."

Brown's superiors in the archdiocese are generally supportive of her work, and allow her a great deal of autonomy in choosing projects. But church members, she says, sometimes have misgivings. "Some people think, 'Why should we be concerned about the earth? We need to be concerned about people,' without realizing they're interrelated," she says.

For Brown, spirituality and respect for the natural world are most often expressed in the routines of daily life — by keeping the thermostat down, or by growing food in the backyard. But these small, individual actions are part of a much broader vision. "We need a larger shift in the whole consciousness that touches on spirituality, culture and attitudes," Brown says. "Otherwise, we're just doing Band-Aids."

The author writes from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities.
  • HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • at RCAC. See the full description at Apply at [email protected]
  • The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Hiring a part-time ranch manager to live on The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch property in Hayden, CO. Responsibilities include: facility maintenance of historic ranch house,...
  • unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • 10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209,
  • Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @

У нашей компании интересный веб портал на тематику купить аккумулятор в харькове аккумулятор харьков