Brother’s ministry is ‘healing the Earth’


NATURE-LOVER: Franciscan Brother James Lockman serves as an advisor to the Diocese of San Diego’s Creation Care Ministry. (Credit: Christina Bagaglio Slentz)

Share this article:

SAN DIEGO — Brother James Lockman, OFM, serves as advisor to the Diocese of San Diego’s Creation Care Ministry.

The 71-year-old Franciscan was born in Santa Monica. Brother Lockman entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1981 in Portland, Oregon. He professed his first vows in 1984 at Mission Santa Barbara and his perpetual vows in Oakland in 1987.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Botany and a master’s degree in Environmental Horticulture from the University of California, Davis, as well as a master’s in Theology from the Franciscan School of Theology.

Question: What role did the Catholic faith play during your formative years?
Answer: I was baptized Catholic as an infant, was an altar boy for four or five years, and went to Catholic school all the way through high school. I was a seventh-grader when the Second Vatican Council concluded in 1965, so, in my youth, I had one foot in the pre-Vatican II era and the other foot post-Vatican II.

When did you first encounter the Franciscans?
It was in 1966. I was 14 years old and a Boy Scout. I had set out to earn a Catholic Scouting emblem called Ad Altare Dei. One of the things that I had to do was to take part in a pilgrimage. So, two buddies and I rode our bikes up to Malibu to the Serra Retreat House, which belongs to the West Coast Franciscan Province. That’s where I met the friars.

Father Hugh Noonan opened the door. He was a big guy, with a big smile and very welcoming. He had us come in, he showed us around, and that left an impression. I was struck by the Franciscans’ joy.

How did you recognize a call to religious life?
As a graduate student at UC Davis, I had a religious awakening and got involved with the Newman Center.

In the summer of 1977, I went on an eight-day retreat. The priest guiding me on the retreat told me that he thought I might have a vocation to religious life.

I explored the idea with my spiritual director. With her encouragement, I visited the Franciscan School of Theology, which was then in Berkeley but has since relocated to the University of San Diego campus. There, I met more Franciscans and became even more interested.

Do you remember when you fell in love with nature?
When I was 2 years old, I looked out the window into our back yard one morning and saw a peach tree in full bloom. I actually crawled out of the house, and my worried mother finally found me there beneath its branches. The light was shining on the flowers in a way that was very beautiful. I still have a very vivid picture of that experience. Looking back, it was close to mystical.

What are the religious or spiritual dimensions of protecting the environment?
The idea of respect for God’s creation isn’t just a modern notion. I think that elements of this go back throughout our Judeo-Christian history.

Also, in the 13th century, St. Francis had a very strong sense that humans should think of each element of God’s creation as our brother or sister. He composed the “Canticle of Creation,” from which Pope Francis got the title of his environmental-themed encyclical “Laudato Si.” The saint wrote this song, not only to give praise to God for all of creation, but also to address the environmental degradation that he saw around him.

Care for creation is also tied to our concern for the poor. While richer countries might be able to protect themselves through mitigation of the effects of climate change, the consequences largely will be borne by the two-thirds of the world that is poor.

What types of ministries have you been involved in as a Franciscan?
After making my solemn vows, I was immediately appointed as our province’s vocations director and served in that role for six years, beginning in the late Eighties.

I also had the opportunity to work in Brazil with an NGO that was focused on sustainable pathways for development in the Amazon. I did tropical forest research with them from 1995 to 2002.

Later, I was asked to serve as guardian and executive director of Mission San Luis Rey from 2006 to 2010. The City of Oceanside’s planning commission asked us to do a property development plan for the entire 50-acre mission. I was asked to apply my ecological knowledge to make it as green as possible. A commission member told me that the Franciscans were 100 years ahead of most other people in Oceanside in bringing ecological thinking into their development plans.

What is your current assignment, and when did that begin?
In 2010, I basically begged to get back into my field of applied ecology. I got a job with Tierra Data, Inc., a local firm that works on a variety of environmental projects, including natural resource management planning as well as biological monitoring for public works and development projects.

I was able to establish the restoration ecology division of the company. With my colleagues, we’ve done over 1,000 acres of habitat restoration in San Diego County alone.

When I explain my work to my fellow friars, instead of using the technical words, I simply say that my ministry is healing the earth.

Can you talk about your work with the diocese on Creation Care Ministry?
Around 2015, Father Emmet Farrell asked to pick my brain about how “Laudato Si” could be implemented in the San Diego Diocese. Then, in 2021, he brought me in as a technical advisor for the diocese’s tree-planting campaign, which planted/distributed more than 50 good-sized trees throughout the diocese.

In late 2022, I requested to go from full-time to part-time at Tierra Data. That made me more available to work with outside groups, including the diocese’s Creation Care Ministry. Our Creation Care Ministry team has big plans for the upcoming year.

Tags: , , ,

Recent News

You May Also Like

‘It’s a wonderful adventure’

News around the diocese: Academic Decathlon, tenebrae service among many upcoming events

Obituary: Father Michael Blastic, OFM

Ministry’s ‘awesome’ impact on young people

‘Everything is forgivable’

‘I had no desire to go back to make more money’