FAN Director Honored at White House for Environment Efforts

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

Patrick Carolan

Patrick Carolan, third from left, at the White House, with Odile Coirier, fellow honoree Sr. Joan Brown, OSF, and Franciscan Action Network’s Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF. (Photo courtesy of Janine Walsh)

WASHINGTON — The White House recognized Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, last month for his environmental work. He and 11 other faith leaders from around the country were recognized on July 20 as part of the White House’s “Champions of Change” program.

“It was nice to be with people with whom I work,” said Carolan. “Pope Francis’s encyclical talks about interconnectedness and this event demonstrated that theme.”

The two Catholics in the group were both Franciscans, “which is a testimony to the work Franciscans do for the environment,” said Carolan, who has been directing FAN since 2010. The other Catholic was Sr. Joan Brown, OSF, of the Rochester, Minn., Franciscan community, who is executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light.

Advocacy and Passion
The event included two panel discussions that enabled the honorees to “talk about our work and our passions, said Carolan. Guest speakers included Jonathan Reyes of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities, according to the White House website. New champions are honored every four months.

“I’m deeply honored and grateful for this recognition by the White House,” said Carolan. “It is my hope that our efforts will help bring greater awareness to the urgent need of all people to address the climate crisis.”

Several media outlets reported on the Champions of Change event, including the Connecticut Post, which described Carolan’s professional background, and Connecticut’s Cable Channel 12 News, which described how Carolan’s passion for protecting the environment began at an early age.

Earlier this year, FAN and many others around the world in fasting for climate justice as part of an initiative organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.

FAN Initiatives
In addition to working to preserve the environment, the Franciscan Action Network advocates for immigration reform, and advocates against human trafficking and gun violence.

FAN staff members are also helping to publicize a film whose goal is to promote peace. The movie, scheduled for release in 2016, is called “The Sultan and Saint” and is being produced by an educational film company for distribution to public television stations. The movie, according to Unity Productions Foundation, will tell “the story of Sultan Malik al-Kamil, a notable, but largely unknown statesman raised in the court of his uncle, the legendary Saladin, and St. Francis of Assisi, one of the giants of Christian thought and practice. This 60-minute film told by scholars and with dramatic reenactments, will show how these two heroic men risked it all to meet in the middle of the Fifth Crusade with a goal of promoting peace, while staying true to their faith traditions and developing a mutual appreciation.”

The summer season has also brought some social events to FAN’s team. The day after the White House event, Carolan and others honored Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, FAN’s director of advocacy, with a special Mass and reception for her milestone birthday. Joseph Nangle, OFM, a member of the Franciscan Action Network board, was among attendees at the celebration, held at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.

Updates about FAN’s projects can be found on FAN’s Facebook page.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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