About Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center

Director:  Sister Jaculyn Hanrahan CND
Jaculyn Hanrahan is a resident of Coeburn, VA, and Director of the Appalachian Faith & Ecology Center. Jaculyn’s religious community, the Congregation of

Notre Dame, missioned her to Southwest Virginia in 1982, where she taught English at Hurley High School. Jaculyn’s first eleven years in the coalfields taught her the importance of community organizing mountain style as the local community struggled to keep from being destroyed by frequent flooding and economic development which was to include creating massive landfills there for out of state garbage. Completing her law degree at University of Virginia in 1996, Jaculyn continued her ministry through 2005 with Client Centered Legal Services of Southwest Virginia, Inc., Castlewood, VA, a law firm handling civil cases for low income people in the coalfields. These twelve years taught Jaculyn the necessity of coalition building especially in the face of ongoing campaigns to frame the economic decisions for the coalfields as "jobs versus the environment.”

In late 2005 Serving as Director of the Appalachian Office of Justice and Peace, under the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Jaculyn continued to partner with regional not-for-profits, local government agencies, and numerous parishes in response to the push for increased coal production, coal generated electric plants, clean coal technology, and escalation of mountain top removal coal mining, fracking procedures to retrieve gas from underground sites,

and the illegal marketing practices which led to an abuse of the drug Oxycontin. This last assault changed the face of the region’s families and economy in no less a way than the practices of Mountain Top Removal changed the physical landscape of the region.

When the Diocese closed the Appalachian Office in late 2009, Jaculyn worked with Joe Wolfe, in his Federal Black Lung Claims department with claims arising in Southwest Virginia due to the increase in cases of complicated Black Lung Disease. During this same time, Jaculyn and Susan Hedge, Ecological Educator, artist, and current GreenFaith fellow set out to continue the ecological work that had been a legacy of the Appalachian Office of Justice and Peace and its forebears. They recognized that there was a new legacy which was emerging from the newly formed partnerships with the local, regional, national and international groups, NFPs (not-for-profits), and the small "circles of hope” each and all of whom had been responding with courage to the ecological crisis and economic battles over coal fired electric plants and ash landfills so much a part of life here in Southwest Virginia but now seen within a global context. Those global connections are there for all to see. We are all in the transition. It is the transition from our industrialized economic society to a more integral human-earth society. We are seeing the end of the era of cheap fossil fuels, its impact on our carbon-drenched atmosphere and its contributing to global climate change.

Their joint efforts resulted in the founding of The Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center. The Center dedicated to educating people of faith about the current issues impacting the ecological integrity of Central Appalachia and how those same issues impact the ecological integrity of Earth. We connect the words and works of communities of faith who seek to understand the particular uniqueness of the Central Appalachian cultural and biological diversity. www.appfaithecocenter.org

Educational Background:

University of Virginia School of Law, Class of 1996, Juris Doctor

University of Notre Dame, Indiana, MA Theology 1981

Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, Class of 1972, BA English

Ecological Educator:  Susan L. Hedge

Susan Hedge is the ecological educator for the Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center and a GreenFaith Fellow 2010.http://greenfaith.org/ Following retirement from the University of Florida’s Extension Service as Lee County Extension Director, she received a master’s degree in pastoral theology from Berry University and worked for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond as an ecological educator in the Appalachian Office of Justice and Peace. She divides here time between SW Virginia and Fort Myers, Florida where her family lives on a ten acre horse ranchette.

The Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center

The Mission of the Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center is educating people of faith about the current issues that impact the ecological integrity of Central Appalachia and how those same issues have an impact on the ecological integrity of  Earth.

The inspiration for this work is two fold:

Appalachian Pastorals:  "This Land is Home to Me" and "At Home in the Web of Life"

Work of the New Cosmology, particularly of the tradition of Thomas Berry, as it specifically applies to Central Appalachia.

We now live in a historical moment when we have the gift of awareness that the Earth is a single sacred community and that there is no human community separate from the larger community of life that supports us and of which we are a part. 

This appeal comes from the oldest living mountain chain on our planet with the highest level of temperate zone climate biodiversity in the world. 

Join us in prayer, contribution and awareness for our newest venture, 

The Appalachian Faith and Ecology Center

  • Recognizes those denominations and traditions whose spiritualities see that ecology is at the heart of faith
  • Works with local and regional, national and international groups who see a mutual connection between ecological sustainability in Appalachia and in their own home communities
We adopt a set of religiously based Principles of Environmental Justice that guide our education, advocacy and research in Central Appalachia.

  1. Giving voice to the "treasure in the field" of the Bio-Diversified realities of Southwest Virginia
  2. Seeing Earth as the Beloved Creation and Possession of the Divine
  3. Stewarding Earth to Which We already Belong
  4. Promoting Environmental Justice, addressing Environmental Racism     AFEC confirms that the Divine commands humanity to care for the poor and vulnerable, protecting them from environmental injustice, racism and harm.  We will advocate for policies that ensure that an unfair burden of environmental harm does not fall on those most vulnerable communities.
  5. Protecting All Living Things and the Web of Creation                                      AFEC recognizes the serious threats that some forms of human activity pose to the earth, we will advocate for policies that support the protection of endangered life forms and ecosystems.
  6. In taking our positions, we will rely on a preponderance of scientific evidence, relying on data gathered by groups whose objectivity and credentials are well recognized.  We also affirm that uncertainty does not justify inaction environmentally, particularly in cases where the risk to human health and the environment seem probable.
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