Fr. John McCarthy, SJ, currently serves as socius to the provincial of the English Canada Province Jesuits.

Fr. John McCarthy, SJ: Nature as the Word of God for Jesuit Ecologist

October 2, 2015 — Have you heard the claim that faith and science are incompatible? Fr. John McCarthy, SJ, a Canadian Jesuit priest and ecologist, doesn’t buy it. In fact, he’s written extensively on how faith and science are not just compatible, but complementary.

“All creation is of God and has its own integrity and intrinsic value,” he says, adding, “Science is essential but never sufficient to address ecological issues in the long run.”

His latest musings on the topic are given in his new book “Do Monkeys Go to Heaven? Finding God in All Creation.”

The book, which was recently awarded third place in the Faith and Science Category by the Catholic Press Association, is about removing the distinction between secular and sacred. Fr. McCarthy ponders nature's revelation of God and God's boundless love of us, showing us the need to be both scientific and spiritual.

Make no mistake, Fr. McCarthy is no recreational dabbler when it comes to evolution and God. His earlier studies and work have explored the profound link between nature and the mystery of Divine Love. He received a bachelor’s in forest tree biology from the University of New Brunswick, a master’s in soil science from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in boreal forest ecology from the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Fr. McCarthy’s extensive ecological work has included writing and speaking on the relationship between theology and ecology; researching the biodiversity of lichens (a combination of a fungus and an algae); and working to protect the natural heritage of his beloved Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

In 2002, he was the recipient of the Canadian Environment Awards' Gold Medal in the Lands and Forests Category for his work in boreal forest conservation in Newfoundland. 

Fr. McCarthy doing field research in a forest in the Great Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland.

Besides his ecological work, Fr. McCarthy has served as chaplain and faculty member at St. Mark's College, UBC, and is currently the socius (assistant) to the provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada and responsible for the training of young Jesuits.

He is grateful that the Jesuits have always supported and encouraged his research, writing and speaking on all things related to nature.

Fr. McCarthy baptizing a baby at St. Mark’s Parish in Vancouver.

My vocation to science and to nature and my Jesuit vocation have come together as one and the same,” says Fr. McCarthy. “Nature speaks to us of God and of God’s love for us. I am blessed in my efforts to speak of nature as the creation of God.”

Born in 1958, he grew up surrounded by the beauty of Newfoundland. Fr. McCarthy speaks of his passion for nature: “At an early age I was seduced by nature; tempted by rock, wind and water, invited by barrens, bogs and forests, infatuated by the wilderness of my native Newfoundland. Mesmerized, obsessed, blinded, I fell for nature.”

He joined the Society of Jesus in 1983 and was ordained a priest in 1994. He studied philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. During his theology studies in Belgium and Canada he focused on the question, "Does matter really matter to Christianity?" 

Fr. McCarthy snowshoeing in the mountains of British Columbia.

When time permits, Fr. McCarthy may be found in the wilds of Newfoundland and Labrador, hiking and snowshoeing in the mountains of British Columbia, or even collecting lichens for his ongoing research.

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