Jaculyn Hanrahan is a resident of Coeburn, VA and Director and Co-Founder with Susan Hedge of the Appalachian Faith & Ecology Center. Jaculyn’s religious community, the Congregation de Notre Dame of Montreal, 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 that attempted to create massive landfills locally for out of state garbage. Completing her law degree at the 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 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 Catholic activists responding to the push for increased coal production, coal generated electric plants, “clean coal” technology, 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 Catholic Diocese closed the Appalachian Office in late 2009, Jaculyn worked with Norton, VA Attorney 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 is 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 works of communities of faith who seek to understand the exquisite uniqueness of the Central Appalachian cultural with its biological diversity.
University of Virginia School of Law, Class of 1993, Juris Doctor
University of Notre Dame, Indiana, MA Theology 1981
Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT Class of 1972, BA English