Statement on Catholic Affiliation

GoodLands was created with the mission to enable the Catholic Church to use its extensive landholdings for good. Molly Burhans, a Catholic, an environmentalist, and the founder of GoodLands, had the insight that effective stewardship of Church-owned land could have an enormous positive impact on the environment given that the Church is one of the largest landholders in the world. GoodLands is an independent, non-profit corporation and is not officially affiliated with the Catholic Church or the Vatican. However, since its inception, GoodLands has been building relationships with key Church leaders, Vatican officials, and Catholic organizations and has developed projects for clients at many levels of the Catholic hierarchy in its quest to realize its mission. From parish-level environmentally sound practices to global coordination and use of land-based resources to address crises of climate, refugees, disease, and starvation, these lands hold the key to carrying out fundamental missions of the Church as well as providing the means to fully implement Pope Francis’ vision in Laudato Si.

Vatican Relations

GoodLands has developed datasets of significant global importance for the Catholic Church. Before we developed our data, in 2016, Molly met with the Secretary of State’s office in the Holy See and discussed her plans for mapping and requested approval for the project. The timeline below illustrates our history of Vatican communications and negotiations.

Timeline of Vatican Relationship

This timeline does not include all conferences, meetings, or affiliated Papal Audiences. 

Spring 2019

Molly finds a Catholic Foundation interested in supporting the establishment of a Vatican Cartography Institute with additional, necessary staff than those proposed. Molly returns to the Vatican to commence renegotiation of the Vatican Cartography Institute as a 6-12 month contracted project of GoodLands in which we help establish it, with our knowledge and data, and partner with a religious community to run it in perpetuity. The institute as proposed would:

  • Run meetings concerning definitions of terms with the Statistics Department and major Catholic stakeholders (including NGOs, university researchers, foundations, and religious communities working with relevant data)
  • Consult with the Secretary of State about data security and the Church
  • Bring together small working groups to develop guidelines for Catholic data usage and definitions
  • Establishing an authoritative boundary set of ecclesiastical jurisdictions and the systems for approval and maintenance of it

(Image taken during trip to Rome at Gregorian Pontifical University by Rebecca Pawloski)

Summer 2018

During a Papal Audience Molly presents Cardinal Turkson and Pope Francis a map. Shortly before her flight is set to leave she receives an email from the Vatican: the Pope has approved that Molly move to Rome and develop trial-basis cartography institute. Molly returns in the fall to discuss the terms. As proposed, without additional supporting staff, and with pressing duties for her recent Ashoka Fellowship award and diocesan client demand increasing, Molly postpones accepting the offer to establish the Cartography Institute as proposed. (Image Credit: Vatican Media)

Winter 2018

Inquiries about the office are met with limited response. Molly decides to remotely work and live there for one month (in the Jesuit Curia) to facilitate meetings and establish the direction of her work — whether it would focus on land, or she would leave GoodLands to work in the Vatican. When she arrives, she cannot access the office nor find the contact in the Secretary of State who gave her permission to use the office. After one month, she decides to leave Rome pursue GoodLands contributions to the world independently for the time being. She returns to the United States and establishes GoodLands office in New Haven, CT. (Image Credit: Molly Burhans)

Fall 2107

Molly meets with Archbishop (Cardinal) Becciu and shows him print versions of the maps that she has developed. He facilitates an immediate meeting with the Vatican Statistics Office. Molly is then offered an office in the Vatican Statistics department. (Image Credit: Molly Burhans)

Fall 2017

Between meetings, Molly is provided hospitality at Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence of Pope Francis and guest facility of the Vatican City State. Molly meets Bishops and Cardinals from around the world during meal times, learns about them and their communities, shares her maps, and discusses security. The Catholic leadership unanimously liked, and expressed interest in accessing the maps. (Photo Credit: Molly Burhans)

Fall 2017

Molly participates in the Vatican Youth Symposium for a second year and as a discussant at the Connectivity as a Human Right symposium. (Image Credit: Casina Pio IV)

Early 2017

Molly begins working (without contract) with individuals in the Scretariat of Communications on better understanding how Catholic Radio Infrastructure can facilitate internet delivery through Africa and other communications planning. (Image Credit: Vatican Radio)

Winter 2016

GoodLands officially premiers first global, data-based maps of the Catholic Church in History at the Vatican Arts and Technology Council. (Image Credit: Molly Burhans)

Fall 2016

Molly participates in the Vatican Youth Symposium and other conferences, including one on deforestation, where she reveals the maps that she has been directing the development of at Esri, as an invited researcher. (Image Credit: Casina Pio IV)

June 2016:

Molly first meets with Vatican officials and the secretary of State’s Office to inquire about geographic datasets and request permission to make them if they do not have them. She recieves approval. (Image Credit: Molly Burhans)