United States
“Mapping Church assets to care for the common home”

Molly Burhans

03 September 2022

The girl who dreamed of becoming a dancer claims that “the Church is the main non-state provider of health services, humanitarian aid, and education. Its role can be crucial for the defence of the common home, succeeding where governments have failed so far. Starting from within”.

Molly Burhans, born in New York 33 years ago, discovered her love for God and Creation at the end of an arduous process, garnered through the study of Dorothy Day and Ignatian spirituality. Even a few years before Laudato si’ she understood that caring for the common home is not a matter of fashion, but of faith. For it was Yahweh who entrusted Adam and Eve with the mission to care for the Garden so that life could exist and unfold in fullness and dignity. Molly, at one point, even thought of becoming a nun, a “peasant nun” or a “forest-keeper nun'”.  In the end, she discovered her vocation in cartography, directing it as she did so in her own way by founding the GoodLands association, with which Molly professionally maps Church property so that the Church can manage it more efficiently and sustainably. Bringing order to Church property, land and otherwise, is no small challenge that she has been tackling since 2013. No one knows the exact amount. Often parishes, dioceses, congregations struggle to keep track, sometimes ignoring their exact boundaries. Molly started counting them using an empirical method, by asking churches in her area. The turning point came when, during her master’s degree at the Conway School in landscape design, she encountered the G.I.S. Company’s ArcMap software. Since then, GoodLands’ activity has been frenetic. In 2016, Molly took advantage of a conference in Nairobi to stop by the Vatican and explain the project to certain officials. Two years later, she was able to present it to Pope Francis, who proposed that she set up a mapping institute for the Holy See. With the pandemic, the idea was put on ice, but Molly is optimistic, and sooner or later the institute will start up. In the meantime, she continues to “photograph” Church properties and offer support to administer them from the perspective of integral ecology. At the moment, she is busy in New Haven where she has mapped the Church jurisdiction. “If we do this work well, not only will we be able to combat global warming, but we will be able to revolutionize our work with Creation”. (lucia capuzzi )