Two Catholics are among a dozen faith leaders who will be honored at the White House July 20 for their work on climate change.
Franciscan Sister Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, and Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, were named Champions of Change by President Barack Obama.
Both told Catholic News Service they were surprised by the honor.
“There are a lot of people out there who do really good work. It’s a blessing into be among the 12,” said Carolan, whose work in helping form the Global Catholic Climate Movement earlier this year was cited by the White House.
“All the people being honored are people that I work with. It shows how connected this community is, which is what Pope Francis talks about in the encyclical (“Laudato Si’”) — that we all need to be connected and we all are connected,” he said.
Sister Joan said she was humbled to be selected for the honor and that she was but one of many people in the faith community who are working on raising awareness about climate change and protecting the environment.
“In the work I do with New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light we collaborate with a number of different organizations because we find we when we work together we can do a lot of good,” she said.
The basic work of education and organizing never ends for the Franciscan nun from Minnesota, but she acknowledged she is seeing inroads into understanding the importance of caring for God’s creation.
“I’m actually finding more and more people of faith are making these connections and seeing the issues are quite large and needing to be engaged at some level,” she said.
The White House said in a statement that the 12 leaders “have demonstrated clear leadership across the United States and around the world through their grass-roots efforts to green their communities and educate others on the moral and social justice implications of climate change.”
Other honorees include Huda Alkaff, founder and director of the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin; Steven Beumer, member of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Winter Park, Florida; Cassandra Carmichael, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment; the Rev. Gerald Durley, dean of Clark Atlanta University; Nana Firman, member, Green Mosque Initiative of the Islamic Society of North America; Rachel Lamb, chair of the steering committee for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action; the Rev. Kim Morrow, executive director, Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light; Rabbi Marc Soloway, chair of the Rabbinic Advisory Board for Hazon, a Jewish organization promoting sustainability; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus; and Susan Viswanath, co-founder of Women for Afghan Women.