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White House honors local Franciscan sister for climate change advocacy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque woman is among 12 religious leaders in the nation honored by the White House on Monday for their effort in educating faith communities about climate change.

Sister Joan Brown flew to Washington, D.C., to accept the honor for her role with Interfaith Power and Light, a national group “spearheading the faith response to climate change.”

Sister Joan Brown

BROWN: Focused on environmental justice

Brown, a Franciscan sister, is the executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, based in Albuquerque. The local group works with churches and community groups to move them toward environmental awareness in practices in their organizations.

The award is part of the White House’s Champions of Change program, which honors “ordinary Americans” for their work and leadership to change their communities on a wide variety of issues.

Monday’s ceremony was for Climate Faith Leaders and included Brown and 11 others from around the nation.

The recipients also addressed an audience to discuss their projects and views about the connection between their faith and the Earth.

Brown’s main focus is environmental justice, a broad topic that includes “stewardship of creation” and sustainable energy.

“Sister Brown is just so persistent and persevering and just committed for the long haul,” said the Rev. Donna McNiel, director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches, a coalition of Catholic and Protestant churches. “The kind of work we do, the kind of advocacy we do … those are long term battles with lots of setbacks, and she knows that and she’s not in any denial, but she is committed to the end.”

McNiel said Brown works on several levels, from broad policy advocacy to hands-on changing light bulbs in churches to more energy-efficient bulbs.

“She is my environmental expert because she always has resources right on hand and can tutor me on issues I need help on, from the latest EPA regulation” to local resources, McNiel said.

Brown resides in the far North Valley.