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Faith-based entrepreneur Molly Burhans addresses Ursuline Community
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UA Communications

On December 2, Ursuline’s 75th Anniversary Speaker Series welcomed Molly Burhans, Founder and Executive Director of GoodLands, a social enterprise at the forefront of geospatial information policy, standards, and security related to the Catholic Church and affiliated organizations worldwide.  Molly is an internationally recognized leader in cartography, social entrepreneurship, conservation, and innovation for faith-based impact-driven property use and management.  

Burhans addressed a virtual audience of over 125 people that included Ursuline Academy students, alumnae, faculty and staff, and members of the public.  The presentation was moderated by student Sara Wheeler ‘22.  Burhans chronicled how her background as a cartographer (map-maker) and graphic artist combined with her evolving Catholic faith and her concern for the impact of climate change, resulting in a quest for solutions.  

While visiting the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican at the age of 26, Burhans discovered that there is no map of all of the properties of the Church, such as chapels, hospitals, schools, cemeteries. She was granted permission to create such a map and started a lab dedicated to that effort.  After considering the landholdings of the Church combined with the reach of its schools, health care institutions, and humanitarian efforts, she “started to think about the scale of Catholic land and how it could potentially be a powerful force for change, especially in the face of the climate crisis.”  At GoodLands, Burhans now works on proposals that would transform, for example, an ordinary parish into a verdant space that helps to connect people with creation or to grow food.  Her goal is to provide the information and tools to the Catholic Church in order to promote property management that has a positive impact on the world’s climate.

Burhans not only chronicled her professional journey, but also related her faith journey.  While studying aging theory as an undergraduate and contemplating why would anyone want to live forever, she concluded that love was the only answer, and had a mind shift. She began working with a Jesuit spiritual director and rededicated herself to her Catholic faith.  She concluded by expressing her hope for the current generation of young women to shape the future.   “I’m really hopeful because of your generation . . . the future is very open for solutions and they are more needed than ever,” she said.

The entire presentation can be viewed here.