Discussion of Pope Francis’ Letter Open to the Public

Contact: Becky Park

Discussion of Pope Francis’ Letter Open to the Public
(Download and print a flyer for the event)

The public is invited to join a discussion of the letter from Pope Francis to all people, “Laudato SI: On Care for Our Common Home.” Free and open to all, the series is sponsored by a collection of local faith groups and climate activists.

This “brown bag lunch event” will take place at the Charleston Library on Oct. 5, 7, and 9 (Mon., Wed., and Fri.) from noon to 1 pm. Participants are encouraged to bring a lunch; a sandwich tray and drinks will also be available.

Discussion leaders and the topics they will focus on include:

Monday – Discussion led by Father John Rausch and Pastor Jim Walther. The topic will be: what an Encyclical or papal letter is, what is its place in history and what are the fundamental changes Pope Francis asks all people to make in their world view and behavior.

Wednesday – Jeannie Kirkhope and Robin Wilson will lead a discussion on what climate change is doing to our planet–what is actually happening–and how this is reflected in the Encyclical.

Friday – Kate Kosydar (and others yet to be determined) will lead a discussion about how climate change will effect and is effecting the poor, creating suffering among those least responsible for global warming, and how this will increasingly effect all people.

Each event will include information about solutions to the climate crisis.

Event sponsors include:
WV Council of Churches
WV Interfaith Power & Light
Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Charleston WV
Energy Efficient West Virginia
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
WV 350
Catholic Committee on Appalachia

Information about our discussion leaders. Contact information is available for interviews.

Father John S. Rausch, a Glenmary priest living in Stanton, Kentucky, coordinates a ministry of Appalachian Justice Education.

Over the years, he has taught with Coady International Institute, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Berea, Kentucky, plus organized the Mountain Management Institute to serve the business needs of Appalachian cooperatives.  His overseas workshops include Ghana, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Bangladesh and Haiti.

Fr. John conducts tours of Appalachia introducing people to the ministries and social issues of the region.  During these tours he combines social analysis with theological reflection encouraging a conversion of heart in participants.  A strong environmentalist, he speaks against the devastation of mountaintop removal and encourages sustainable economic development.  He organized three worker-owned businesses in Central Appalachia and champions the rights of workers.  On a continual basis John sees the effects of globalization within the Appalachian region from environmental degradation to corporate concentration of power, and his voice blends economic analysis with Catholic social teachings.

Having a masters degree in economics and a masters of divinity degree, he writes frequently for Catholic publications.  Fr. John was named the recipient of the 2007 “Teacher of Peace” award presented by Pax Christi, U.S.A.  His hobby is cooking.

Pastor James A. Walther II is a native of western Pennsylvania and holds a BFA in from Alma College in Michigan and a Masters of Divinity from a Pittsburgh seminary. Relocating to West Virginia in 1988, Jim served at Winfield, Oakhurst and South Hills Presbyterian churches and First Presbyterian Church in St. Albans before becoming pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Elkview in 1997.

As a visiting professor, Jim taught the New Testament at WV State University for two terms. He has worked in an auto body shop and rides a vintage motorcycle, enjoys birdwatching and sings with the Kanawha Kordsmen.

Robin Wilson is a long-time peace, economic justice, and environmental activist living in a co-housing land trust community in Roane County.  Robin holds a BA in Biology and Social Studies Education from Glenville State College, helped found Spring Creek Natural Foods, and has served on the Board of Roane County Family Health Care and the WV Economic Justice Project.

Robin has previously served as a teacher and social worker with at-risk youth in Charleston.  He enjoys mixing a deep love of nature, Buddhism, yoga, home grown vegetables, and Quaker social concerns to build a better world. He ran for WV Senate in 2014, winning endorsements from environmental groups and the UMWA. He said of the campaign, “I did not want to watch another election where the issues of poverty, corporate control, and global warming were not discussed.”

Jeannie Kirkhope first came to West Virginia to volunteer at a farm for transitioning homeless men from Washington, DC, a Catholic Worker project, located in Alderson. Later, she taught in an inner city school and earned a master’s degree in theology from Seattle University, then returned to manage the transition farm.

Jeannie settled in Spencer, WV in 2002, where she lives a solitary, contemplative life and connects with her neighbors. She hosts college students on alternative spring breaks, offering environmental education and the chance to work and connect with community members in West Virginia.

Jeannie also serves as a part-time educator and newsletter writer for the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, a social justice and environmental organization, and is the founding director of the Appalachian Catholic Worker and the E.C.O. Center.

Kate Kosydar is many things, including wife, mother, advocate, disciple. She earned a BA in Religious Studies from WVU, and a MA in Pastoral Ministry from Duquesne University.  Her Master’s practicum focused on small faith communities using the weekly Gospel readings to encourage living faith experiences.

Kate is passionate about mobilizing folks to address justice issues in Appalachia. Through her ministry with Catholic Charities WV, she works with people from all over West Virginia.

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