A tribute to Dr. John Dorner 1947 - 2023
Celebration of a life that exemplified loving and caring for all of Creation
With a mixture of regret and fond remembrances we bid Dr. John Dorner goodbye. John has been called home to his place in heaven. The light of his smile and the warmth of his love for all life will continue to glow in our hearts as we carry on the work that he so passionately and generously began.
“Through my whole life there was this sense of care for creation. And also, this sense that God loves us,” he said in an interview for the Catholic Register. “… what really matters in life is to appreciate our being — that we are loved by God and we can share that love we experience with others. How do we do that? There are so many ways. The sense of integral ecology is a big part of it.”
During his career in education he was a teacher and principal in several Ottawa Catholic schools, and was well esteemed by peers as an active member of the Ottawa Catholic School Board Environmental Stewardship Committee.
He did not slow down in retirement. For fifteen years he volunteered with the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall as Coordinator of the Care of Creation ministry. One of his many accomplishments while there include the document Care for God's Creation: A Guide for Parishes. The document was referenced in a Vatican publication; Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home – Five Years after Laudato Si’, and is becoming an important resource for Catholic responses to Laudato Si’ in parishes across the country.
In recent years John also advised the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on the development of a seven-year Laudato Si’ Action Plan, to implement environmental sustainability in various sectors of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.
As a member of the Mouvement Laudato Si’ Movement – Canada (MLSM Canada) Advisory Circle, John’s quiet and persistent devotion to caring for all of creation was an inspiration and guiding light. He had been a member of our Advisory Circle since before our launch in 2019, when we were known as the Canadian chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. He made significant contributions to our formation, and his patience and compassion modeled for us how we can do our work with hope and joy.
|John and Agnes attended the 2019 Green Churches Network fall forum to promote the fledgling Global Catholic Climate Movement – Canada chapter.|
John used positive language to be encouraging, while making it clear how important and appropriate it is to address climate change and care for all life from a Catholic perspective.
The video, Celebrating a life that exemplified loving and caring for God's Creation: In his own words, John Dorner reflects on what motivated his journey, was recorded in a 2020 Advisory Circle meeting where John led reflections about what brings us to this work of caring for creation. Connections made during his career and ministry with the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall have opened doors for the work of MLSM – Canada that we could not otherwise have achieved.
Video edited, with thanks, by Kevin Moynihan, www.kmproductions.ca.
John also worked closely with Greening Sacred Spaces – Ottawa, a Program of Faith & the Common Good, in a variety of capacities. In 2022 John was presented with the Green Leadership Award by GSS – Ottawa in recognition of his dedication and leadership in interfaith environmental community building.
John Dorner represented Holy Canadian Martyrs Parish in the winter of 2020 and received from Katherine Forster, GSS Ottawa staff member, a Sustainable Garden prize from “The Birds and the Bees of Sustainable Gardening” program.
Photo courtesy GSS-Ottawa
John Dorner was recognized by Pope Frances with the presentation of the Benerementi Medal in March of 2022, an honour awarded for extraordinary service to the Catholic Church and community. Archbishop of Ottawa-Cornwall Marcel Damphousse presented the award in recognition of Dr. John Dorner's career in Catholic education, his work in social and climate justice, for his outstanding service to the cause of refugees, the poor, the elderly and sick, and his witness to the faith in many areas of life inside the Church and in the community.
What follows are warm remembrances from many who loved and worked with John. He will be missed, and we will think of him often as his leadership and legacy continues to be a beacon for generations to come.
Exciting Celebrations and Events for May are at the bottom of the newsletter.
Blessings and peace during this Easter season.
MOUVEMENT LAUDATO SI' MOVEMENT Canada
The Dorner family have named MLSM Canada as their charity of choice for donations in his memory. Donations can be made here.
John Dorner was an excellent example of thinking globally and acting locally regarding care for the environment from a Christian perspective. Or to put it another way, he saw things on the macro and micro levels.
In the big picture, John helped the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and the Archdiocese of Ottawa (now the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall) to articulate and encourage environmental stewardship.
Closer to home, he fostered community gardening at his parish church and took the lead in introducing recycling steps at the Diocesan Centre. He talked the talk and walked the walk.
Charming man that he was, John was easy to approach; graciousness and respect for the other came naturally to him after a long career in education. He volunteered his time to assist the Archdiocese of Ottawa commit to responsible stewardship. He knew that while the issues were complex and pressing, incremental steps were the best way to get there. He was always grateful for my support and that of other leaders of his endeavours.
We shall miss him and grieve his loss but rejoice that he planted seeds of efforts to build a better and sustainable world by supporting his children and grandchildren even on his deathbed.
Rest in peace, John, good and faithful servant.
Archbishop Emeritus Terrence Prendergast SJ, Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall
John Dorner moved the world with his simple grace. He and Anna opened their home to me in my first days at Faith & the Common Good. I had heard so much about him. How did he accomplish so much? As I toured around Ottawa with him, witnessing the deep respect his creation care work was accorded in local Mosques, seeing primary schools whose concrete playgrounds he helped green, and visiting small parishes who he supported to walk more gently on the earth, I understood. He led with his faith. The power of God was seen in John's love of Creation and moved us all to action.
Lucy Cummings – former Executive Director of Faith & the Common Good, Director, Faith Sector Resilience, New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS). Director@Kindred Works
John Dorner, educator, psychologist, husband, father and grandfather, worked tirelessly for a decade and a half as a volunteer eco-justice leader for the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. From the depth of his Christian conviction, John was never one-dimensional. Among other pursuits, John also played key roles in the Archdiocesan Council of Development and Peace – CARITAS Canada, as well as advising the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario’s Social Affairs Commission and the Mouvement Laudato Si Movement – Canada.
What I appreciated most about John, however, was not the quantity of tasks that he accomplished, but rather the quality of his work and presence as he worked. John always assumed good intentions, and he regarded people with affection – even those who were not committed to the causes that were so dear to his heart.
Anna and John – a formidable and complimentary couple – were committed to each other, their faith, their community and God’s Creation. What an inspiration for modern day Christian activism!
Joe Gunn - Executive Director/Directeur général, Centre Oblat • A Voice for Justice
I have not had the pleasure of working with John Dorner, but ever since I have arrived in the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall, everyone spoke highly of our friend John. Beyond being a kind and compassionate soul, his love and concern for the common home we share was something he passionately lived for. Advocate and promoter of Laudato Si , he has helped numerous people to be engaged in their faith in caring for God’s creation. May he rest in peace in the eternal home of our Father.
Archbishop Marcel Damphousse, Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall
We profoundly miss John's wisdom, his sunny disposition and gentle perseverance. But his inspiration remains!
Mireille Church, Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall Care of our Common Home Ministry
Prayers and deep gratitude for John Dorner whose quiet wisdom and persistent witness and action over many years were a leading light for growing creation care in the Church.
Karen Van Loon, MLSM Canada Advisory Circle, and FCG On Care of Our Common Home program coordinator
C'est avec grande tristesse que j'ai appris hier le décès de mon bon ami John, un homme de foi, un grand chrétien, un grand environnementaliste. J'ai eu le bonheur de côtoyer John presque tous les jours alors que nous travaillions tous les deux au Centre diocésain de l'archidiocèse d'Ottawa et de collaborer avec lui à la rédaction et traduction de son livre Prendre soin de la Création de Dieu. Un guide pour les paroisses. Un appel urgent à passer à l'action paru en 2019. John était un homme engagé qui cherchait toujours à relever le côté positif des situations et des personnes. Il me parlait toujours avec beaucoup d'affection de son épouse Anna et de sa famille. John ressentait qu'il avait une mission à accomplir et il l'a accomplie avec brio. Merci John pour tout le bien et la joie que tu a semé autour de toi. Le Seigneur t'accueille certainement à grands bras ouverts.
It was with great sadness that I learned yesterday of the death of my good friend John, a man of faith, a great Christian, a great environmentalist. I had the pleasure of working with John almost every day while we both worked at the Diocesan Center of the Archdiocese of Ottawa and collaborating with him in the writing and translation of his book Caring for God's Creation. A guide for parishes. An urgent call to action published in 2019. John was a committed man who always sought to see the positive side of situations and people. He always spoke to me with great affection about his wife Anna and her family. John felt he had a mission to accomplish and he accomplished it brilliantly. Thank you John for all the good and joy you have sown around you. The Lord certainly welcomes you with wide open arms.
Gilles Marleau, Orléans, Ontario
John Dorner was a long-standing contributing member of the Social Affairs Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Only recently, illness forced him to step back. We are grateful for his generous contribution to the Commission and for his strong witness to the importance of Laudato Si, and ecological awareness. John lived his faith – and strengthened ours! May he meet the Lord he has served passionately throughout his life!
Bishop of Hamilton Douglas Crosby, OMI on behalf of the Bishops of Ontario Social Affairs Committee members past and present
Dr. John Dorner volunteered for many years at the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall as the Coordinator of Creation Care Ministry. John was a man of deep faith who every day tried to make things a little better. He cared deeply for those who were suffering and for all of God’s creation. John was an incredible leader and inspired those around him to be better. With John’s passing, he in his gentle humble way, will be advocating directly to God for blessing upon his loved ones and for fortitude for those who standing up as stewards for the environment.
Ted J. Hurley, Coordinator of English Mission and Pastoral Services | Coordinateur de la mission et des services pastoraux en anglais, Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall
I had the blessing to work with John Dorner for several years at the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall. He was passionate about caring for the environment, both the natural world and the human environment of relationships between people. John was the one of the most sincere, gentle, authentic, faith-filled, dedicated and caring people I have ever met and I will miss his smile, wisdom and most of all, his friendship. May he rest in peace and may the Lord console Anna and his family.
Reverend Geoffrey Kerslake
John Dorner was a dear friend and mentor to me and a tireless volunteer and animator with the Ottawa Greening Sacred Spaces chapter. Generous, kind, thoughtful, and committed to interfaith dialogue, John took part in every aspect of faith community greening around the city, and was known and cherished by volunteers of every spiritual background. I will never forget his incredible support as I learned the ropes at GSS Ottawa and his amazing example of caring for creation. John is remembered not only as a leader for faith-based environmentalism but as an incredibly generous, kind, and thoughtful friend, colleague, and mentor to many of us at GSS Ottawa and around Canada.
Thank you so much for everything, John.
Charlie Scromeda, Energy Coordinator, Greening Sacred Spaces Ottawa
Mother Earth remembers, and we will never forget, John’s gentle and caring way of being, his passion and commitment for action on climate change, and his determination to protect the environment for future generations. His contributions live on, and Heaven rejoices.
Bridget Doherty, Executive Director, Lead on Peace and Interfaith Relations, Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
You can read more about John and his work:
Congratulations to the parish of St. Joseph, in Ottawa, on their commitment to move parish financial assets towards renewable energy investments and away from fossil fuel infrastructure. In their April 23, 2023 Bulletin Christopher Adam, parish Executive Director, wrote:
St. Joseph parish sanctuary in summer. Photo courtesy of parish website: https://www.st-josephs.ca/
“As a parish, justice-related issues are integral parts of the Oblate charism that grounds us. Care for Creation is also part of our Christian spirituality. Over the past years we have become more conscious of the importance of environmental justice, with the 2015 Papal encyclical Laudato Si’ calling us to be intentional in safeguarding the natural world around us, which faces degradation and exploitation at the hands of human and particularly corporate activity. Caring for Creation means that the “use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – need to be progressively replaced without delay” (Laudato Si’ 165). Consequently, this entails “spreading the use of ethical, responsible, and integral criteria for investments, avoiding the support to companies that harm…environmental ecology (for example fossil fuels)” (stated in “Journey Toward Our Common Home, Five Years after Laudato Si”, Interdicasterial Working Group of The Holy See on Integral Ecology, p. 178, 179.)”
… The Parish’s Statement of Investment Policies and Guidelines calls for investing “ethically in socially responsible companies and financial institutions, including by taking an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach.” Among the considerations when investing in a company or financial institution is “the effect of their operations on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”
The Parish can announce that it has divested of the one Canadian fossil fuel company previously in our portfolio and is committed to investing in green energy. We have registered this decision with the Laudato Si’ Movement and the National Catholic Reporter has included us in a recent article.”
The Congrégation de Notre Dame – Visitation Province have continued their financial support.
Several private donors have sent one time or monthly donations through the Faith & the Common Good Canada Helps page for the MLSM Canada fund in memory of John Dorner.
1. Second Annual Laudato Si’ Retreat: CARE for OUR COMMON HOME
You are invited to participate in the Care of Our Common Home Retreat at Jericho House, Wainfleet, Ontario in partnership with MSLM Canada, June 2-4, 2023.
In a relaxed atmosphere of conversation and building connections, throughout the weekend our chats will be launched with short presentations from
- Noreen Allossery-Walsh, OSU, Seeds of Hope facilitator, Ursuline Sisters of Chatham
- Paul Beaudette, former Program Leader, Religion and Family Life at Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
- Lowell Bliss, Director of Eden Vigil Institute for Adaptive Leadership and the Environment
- Roman Caruk, Environmental activist and retired educator with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board
- Randoph Haluza-DeLay, Applied social scientist; Environmental Justice advocate and co-editor of Speaking for Ourselves: Environmental Justice in Canada and How the World's Religions are Responding to Climate Change
- George McKibbon, Environmental consultant with McKibbon Wakefield Inc. and the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD)
- Deirdre Pike, Justice and Outreach Program Consultant for the Anglican Diocese of Niagara
- Agnes Richard, Coordinator, MLSM Canada
- Luke Wilson, CEO of A Rocha, Canada
The grace of this retreat is drawn from the knowledge and expertise of the participants; Laudato Si’ Animators, municipal environmental planners, educators, faith inspired environmentalists, and participants at United Nations conferences COP 27 and COP15. Please join us and share this invitation through your networks.
The retreat begins with dinner at 5:30 on Friday, June 2 and ends with lunch on Sunday, June 4. The cost for normal residential participation is $255.00. A Jericho House grant enables the fee to be simply a “free will” offering of your choice and ability.
For further information and to register, please contact either Br. Bill Carrothers, cfc or Sr. Jacquie Keefe, cssf before May 24 at [email protected].
2. Five amazing eco-leaders, inspired by their own spiritual traditions and Pope Francis’ letter to the world, Laudato Si’, will share their thoughts in conversation about the documentary film THE LETTER.
Watch the film first at home by visiting this site, then come join us in person at the Mary Ward Centre on May 25th for an Interfaith conversation with
- Roop Singh Sidhu, President, EcoSikh Canada
- Emilio Rodriguez, Policy Analyst, Refugee & Migrant Rights at CPJ, WEF Global Shaper, OYW Peace Ambassador
- Yusra Shafi, International student from Kuwait at the University of Toronto, and Youth Delegate at COP27
- Noah MacDonald, Member of Michipicoten First Nation and Canon Lawyer with the Archdiocese of Toronto
- Kehkashan Basu, United Nations Human Rights Champion & Founder-President of Green Hope Foundation
To register for this free event visit Eventbrite.
3. Save the date! September 27, 6 – 8 pm Eastern. Watch for news of a national MLSM Canada virtual meeting coming during the 2023 Season of Creation.
4. Season of Creation theme 2023 Let Justice and Peace Flow
The theme was launched in a webinar in March, and you can watch a summary here. Visit the website and register to receive news of events and resource materials you can share with your community, and to assist with your own event planning. “As the people of God, we must work together on behalf of all Creation, as part of that mighty river of peace and justice.”
5. Urge Senators to Redress Environmental Racism and Support Bill C-226 with this letter writing campaign from KAIROS Canada. Visit the KAIROS campaign page here for more information and how to make your voice heard by Senators.
If Bill C-226, becomes law, it will be an effective tool for addressing environmental racism in Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities across Canada. It will require the government to examine the links between racialization, socio-economic status and environmental risk, and develop Canada’s first national strategy on environmental racism and environmental justice.