Channel your passion for animals and the planet into a caring and supportive profession

Animal chaplains provide support for both animals and humans by using ritual, ceremony, and the tools of spiritual companionship. Our training program helps you fulfill your heart’s call to honor and celebrate the lives of all species, including how to companion them through joys and challenges. 

Our program is non-denominational and does not require students to have a specific religious or spiritual outlook. It will, though, prepare you to work with a diverse set of belief systems, so that you can support people regardless of their own outlook.

Program is offered annually. Contact us with any questions or schedule a consult with our program director by clicking below.

OR

 

2022-2023 ENROLLMENT UPDATE

Applications are now closed for the 2022 Cohort.

Our next training will begin Fall 2023. Early applications will open October 31. 

 
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Program Overview

 

Program Overview

Sixty-seven percent of homes are interspecies! Humans have practical and spiritual questions about what to do when animals are injured, sick, lost, or die.

 

The stress and grief we experience during these heartbreaking moments are real. Yet it is often denied because the loss is “not human.” Beyond our homes, how do we address the heartbreak we feel seeing a deer lying on the roadside or the extinction of species on our shared planet?

 

Animal chaplains provide support for both animals and humans by using ritual, ceremony, and the tools of spiritual companionship. Compassion Consortium’s Animal Chaplaincy Training helps you fulfill your heart’s call to honor and celebrate the lives of all species, including how to companion them through joys and challenges.

 

Our curriculum combines chaplaincy fundamentals and bereavement basics with best practices from the innovative fields of interspirituality, humane education, animal theology, nature spirituality, and human-animal studies. We offer a flexible program that develops the professional skills you need to:

 

  • Channel your passion for animals and the planet into a caring and supportive profession

  • Expand your healing business to include conscious and compassionate life transitions for animals and the humans who love them

  • Know what to do and say to help people navigate grief and loss in a meaningful way

  • Lead individuals and groups in interspecies practices designed to increase well-being and compassion

  • Develop creative rituals to support individuals, animal sanctuaries, nonprofits, veterinary practices, meditation centers, yoga programs, or religious communities

Our courses are offered online in order to be accessible to the widest audience and to avoid travel expenses (for you and the planet). Each July, we offer an optional 4-day in-person retreat to celebrate the past year's graduates and gather in community.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is this a religious program?

You do not need to be a religious person to become a chaplain, and we encourage people of all belief systems (or none) to apply, whether you are Buddhist, Christian, Vedic, Jewish, Wiccan, [insert your tradition here, we don't have room to type all 4000+], or you consider yourself secular. The Compassion Consortium itself is an interfaith, interspiritual, and interspecies organization.

In this program, you will not being asked to believe anything specific. However, as a chaplain you will need to be able to support people regardless of their belief system. For that reason, our program will teach you how to meet people "where they are" by exposing you to a wide range of beliefs about animals from religious/spiritual communities, scientific literature, and ethical discourses. We believe the more you know about how people have formed their beliefs about human/animal relationships, the more you can help people and other animals.

 

2. What is ordination? And do I need it? 

Ordination is a process of conferring a certain status on an individual, performed by an organization. It can look different in different organizations. Within this program, it means that you have completed all of the steps we think you need to become a professional animal chaplain, you have completed an individualized mentored capstone with us to step into your unique calling, and that we welcome you into our organization as a professional member. If you have more questions about whether or not you would like to pursue our 9-month ordination program versus our 6-month certification program, please schedule a consult with us and we can talk to you more about the difference.

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Curriculum & Monthly Time Commitment

 
 
 

Curriculum Components

Format

Training includes individual study and group sessions with faculty and guest speakers. Our program features curated reading and reflection, film discussions, peer-supported practice groups, 1-on-1 mentoring, and community-based experiential sessions. Optional in-person retreats are also available (details provided upon acceptance to the program).

Our three program options build based on your desired level of skills and knowledge. All students start the program together each September.
 

All students will take the Foundations Course and some will continue on to complete the Certificate Program. The 9-month Ordained Chaplain Training includes all of the content from both the Foundations Course and Certificate Program. See the Program Options & Fees Section below for more details on the courses, focus areas, and guidance on which program might be right for you.

Community

Our training programs are guided by the Compassion Consortium's Tenets of Agreement.

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Monthly Time Commitment

Total commitment:

All three programs require an estimated the same time commitment each week. The difference between our programs is not the amount of commitment each week, but rather the length of time you stay committed to the program (3, 6, or 9 months) and the learning outcomes.

DAILY:

15 min+ of mindfulness, meditation, or spiritual practice per day

  • A variety of options and tools will be provided

WEEKLY:

2 hours of online group classes every other week

  • Attend group classes the first and third Tuesdays of each month from 6-8 pm ET / 5-7 pm CT / 4-6 MT / 3-5 PT (Accommodations for video-based classes can be made by prior arrangement at enrollment)

2-4 hours of reading, listening, watching, and reflecting each week

  • Includes reading and listening to talks/podcasts 

  • Choose from a curated selection of films to watch and reflect on each month

  • We recognize some people learn visually, some like to be in their heads, others in their hearts, and others learn kinesthetically. We will help tailor your experience to your learning style and interests.

MONTHLY:

1 half-day of online group classes

  • We will gather as a learning community on the third Saturday of each month from 1-6 pm ET / 12-5 CT / 11-4 MT / 10-3 PT for immersive experiences and interactive interviews with guest expert lecturers working in the fields being studied

Dedicated mentoring with a member of our faculty via Zoom 

 

Our courses are offered online in order to be accessible to the widest audience and to avoid travel expenses (for you and the planet). We meet together three times each month via Zoom.

First month's schedule:

View full program schedule here

Each July, we offer an optional 4-day in-person retreat to celebrate the past year's graduates and gather in community.

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Program Options & Fees

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Foundation
Course

The basics for people curious about animal spirituality and companioning interspecies loss or those who want to expand their existing healing or counseling practice to include animals

View program content

Sept - Nov

$600

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Animal Chaplaincy Certificate Program

For people who work within spiritual communities, shelters, vet practices, or animal non-profits, or those who want to develop a business supporting animals and their humans

View program content

Sept - Feb

$1100

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Ordained Animal Chaplain Training

For people who want to be animal chaplains or in leadership positions supporting animals through life-stage rituals, and humans through messy interspecies ethics and ecological concerns.

View program content

Sept - May

$2200

Note: These program fees are cumulative. So, if you take the full 9-month program, the total cost is $2200. You do not need to separately pay for the other two programs first.

 

Program Options & Fees

Foundations Course 

3-month program

September - November

An experiential survey of practices and methods for addressing the spiritual needs of animals and humans who live or work with animals.

 

Who it's for:

  • People who are curious about becoming an animal chaplain and would like to learn more before committing to the full training program

  • Healers and spiritual directors/mentors who'd like to expand their yoga, coaching, massage, therapy, reiki, veterinary, or spiritual counseling, or wellness practice to support animals and their humans 

 

Focus areas:

Foundation curriculum

  • Interspecies Spirituality: Learn and practice mindfulness, meditative, and spirituality practices―in nature, with animals, and virtually through technology―designed to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and increase joy, compassion, and balance

  • Companioning Grief & Loss: Develop professional skills for companioning animals and humans through difficult health decisions, loss, death, and grief

  • Trauma Stewardship & Compassion Satisfaction: Practice self-care techniques designed specifically for animal lovers and earth warriors to manage heartbreak and increase resilience

 

Cost:

Course fee:

  • $600 when paid in full upon registration

  • $675 when paid in three monthly recurring payments of $225

 

Estimated self-purchased book & media cost: $100

 

Upon completion of program, participants are encouraged to become a member of the ongoing compassionate practice circle

Animal Chaplaincy Certificate Program

6-month program

September - February

Building on the learnings of the foundations course, our certificate program adds a more detailed look at the the human-animal bond more deeply, and learn practices for helping animals (and their humans) through life's transitions. Also includes an introduction to planetary ethics.

Who it's for:

  • People interested in practicing animal chaplaincy who already have experience or credentials in spiritual counseling, bereavement counseling, therapy, social work, or another companioning modality

  • People interested in the intersection of spirituality and science, such as the empirical evidence for improved health and wellness benefits of human-animal bonds

  • Pastors, rabbis, ministers, imams, priests or other clergy interested in bringing animal and planetary issues into their community in a meaningful way

  • Leadership teams, staff and volunteers working in animal shelters/sanctuaries, veterinary practices, humane education, or vegan advocacy who are interested in integrating spirituality and wellness into their organization

Focus areas:

Foundation curriculum

  • Interspecies Spirituality: Learn and practice mindfulness, meditative, and spirituality practices―in nature, with animals, and virtually through technology―designed to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and increase joy, compassion, and balance

  • Companioning Grief & Loss: Develop professional skills for companioning animals and humans through difficult health decisions, loss, death, and grief

  • Trauma Stewardship & Compassion Satisfaction: Practice self-care techniques designed specifically for animal lovers and earth warriors to manage heartbreak and increase resilience

Certificate curriculum

  • Anthrozoology & the Human-Animal Bond: Explore scientific, research-based evidence for the spiritual, mental wellness, health, and conservation benefits of the human-animal bonds

  • Rituals: Explore grief and transition rituals from around the world. Then learn to create rituals for animal healing, pet funerals, memorialization, ecological disasters, habitat and species loss, or to promote conservation and animal advocacy in spiritual communities. 

  • Eco-spirituality & Planetary Ethics: Learn creative communication methods that help humans increase their compassion for other species and the Earth and tackle tough ethical dilemmas in the more-than-human world

Course fee:

  • $1100 when paid in full upon registration*

  • $1200 when paid in two recurring payments of $600 (Registration Date / December 1)

  • $1260 when paid in six monthly recurring payments of $210

 

Estimated self-purchased book & media cost: $150 - 200

*This fee is for the entire 6-month certificate program, and is inclusive of the 3-month Foundations Course (not additional).

 

Micro-credential Certificate provided upon completion of program
(Compassion Consortium offers this program as adult education. Contact your professional organization, academic institution, religious institution,  or state licensing board to determine if this program will apply for CE credits or other ongoing educational requirements for you.)

 

Ordained Animal Chaplain Training

9-month program

September - May

Expanding the knowledge and skills developed in the foundations course and certificate program, you'll now tread more deeply in the area of bereavement care, learn to companion people of different faith traditions / belief systems, and work with our faculty to develop a plan for doing the work you feel called to do in the world.

Who its for:

  • People interested in becoming a professional animal chaplain

  • M. Div. seminary students (or graduates) whose program or denomination does not offer a path to an animal chaplaincy

  • Spiritual directors/companions, clergy, and coaches interested in developing their skills and capacity for supporting humans through animal loss, ecological grief, moral injury, compassion fatigue, vystopia, or other animal and earth-related challenges

Foundation curriculum

  • Interspecies Spirituality: Learn and practice mindfulness, meditative, and spirituality practices―in nature, with animals, and virtually through technology―designed to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and increase joy, compassion, and balance

  • Companioning Grief & Loss: Develop professional skills for companioning animals and humans through difficult health decisions, loss, death, and grief

  • Trauma Stewardship & Compassion Satisfaction: Practice self-care techniques designed specifically for animal lovers and earth warriors to manage heartbreak and increase resilience

Certificate curriculum

  • Anthrozoology & the Human-Animal Bond: Explore scientific, research-based evidence for the spiritual, mental wellness, health, and conservation benefits of the human-animal bonds

  • Rituals: Explore grief and transition rituals from around the world. Then learn to create rituals for animal healing, pet funerals, memorialization, ecological disasters, habitat and species loss, or to promote conservation and animal advocacy in spiritual communities. 

  • Eco-spirituality & Planetary Ethics: Learn creative communication methods that help humans increase their compassion for other species and the Earth and tackle tough ethical dilemmas in the more-than-human world

Chaplaincy skills curriculum​

  • Animal Theology: Learn what different religions and philosophical traditions "say" about animals, including tools and resources for supporting people of different spiritual paths 

  • Bereavement Care: Study different models for bereavement support. Then, develop your own authentic model for supporting people through animal loss, ecological grief, and other spiritual challenges. Engage in practicums to hone your skills for working with others in a safe, supportive space.

  • Creative Capstone: Guided by your faculty mentor, you'll work 1-on-1 to deepen your knowledge in your chosen area of emphasis. We'll curate readings and media for your unique call to support the more-than-human world. Then you'll complete a final reflective project to help launch your chaplaincy into the world.

 

Cost: 

  • $2200 when paid in full upon registration*

  • $2295 when paid in three recurring payments of $765
    (Registration Date / December 1 / March 1)

  • $2430 when paid in nine monthly recurring payments of $270

 

Estimated self-purchased book & media cost: $250 - 300

*This fee is for the entire 9-month ordination program, and is inclusive of the 3-month and 6-month program costs (not additional).

Certification of Ordination provided upon completion of program

(Compassion Consortium offers this program as adult education. Contact your professional organization, academic institution, religious institution,  or state licensing board to determine if this program will apply for CE credits or other ongoing educational requirements for you.)

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Apply!

Application Process

Admission requirements

Training is open to adults over 18 years of age, regardless of location, religious affiliation, ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Although people from all countries are encouraged to apply, our training will be in English and group events will be scheduled based on North American time zones. If you have questions about specific learning accommodations, please contact us.

Application steps

Fill out the application form to let us know about you and your educational interests. If you'd like to speak with us prior to applying, schedule a consultation session here.

 

Within 1 weeks of receiving your application, we will contact you with any questions we have, and then within 2 weeks, we will contact you with an admission decision and to help you finalize your enrollment and desired payment plan.

Application fee

$30 USD; upon acceptance to program will be credited to program cost. If you are accepted to the program, but choose not to enroll, application fee will be forfeited. 

Application deadline

For standard enrollment, please apply no later than August 31 to allow time to be onboarded to the program.  Late start enrollment is available through September 10. Contact us for details.

Scholarships

Reductions in tuition cost may be available for people whose income was less than $25,000 in the last calendar year or who have circumstances which make the program cost prohibitive. Availability of funding is based on current enrollment. Priority is given to people living with disabilities or who identify as within a BIPOC or APIDA community. Please contact us for more information.

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Program Faculty & Guest Presenters 

Our program is led by the founders of the Compassion Consortium, and also features guest interviews and panel discussions.

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Hello.
We can't wait to meet you.

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(Rev) Sarah Bowen
(she/her & they/them)

Program Director

Oversees the program and teaches core curriculum, weaving connections between your life experiences and our unique collection of expert knowledge facilitators.

Reverend Sarah Bowen is an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister, animal chaplain, and program director of Compassion Consortium's Animal Chaplaincy Training Program.

 

Especially interested in the intersection of spiritual values with animal welfare, Sarah is a fierce advocate for all creatures, teaching interspecies mindfulness practices, working with humans around the grief and loss of companion animals, loving up animals in shelters, and providing wildlife struck by cars a sacred sendoff.

Sarah has presented on animal death and interspecies spirituality in a wide range of venues, including the Best Friends National Conference, Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Compassion Arts Festival, Pace E Bene’s Campaign Nonviolence Action Week, Spiritual Directors International, and on numerous spirituality, animal advocacy, and conservation podcasts.

An award-winning author, her latest book is titled Sacred Sendoffs: An Animal Chaplain’s Advice for Surviving Animal Loss, Making Life Meaningful, and Trying to Heal the Planet. (April 2022, Monkfish Publishing). Sarah is a columnist for Spirituality & Health Magazine and her work has been featured in Parabola, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Light of Consciousness, Elephant Journal, mindbodygreen, Religious Dispatches, Religion News Service, and a wide range of spirituality media. Sarah was recently interviewed by a RNS Vatican news desk reporter for her response to Pope Francis’ suggestion that living with cats and dogs is “selfish.” 

 

She holds a BA in Human Ecology from Michigan State University, a MA in Religious Studies (specializing in the intersection of religion/spirituality and animals), from Chicago Theological Seminary, and an Alt M.Div from One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. A forever learner, she is completing ongoing post-graduate work in Anthrozoology & Humane Religious Studies. Sarah is also a faculty member at One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City, where she serves as a Dean.

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Marshall Hammer
(she/her & they/them)

Program Coordinator

 

Rev. Marshall Hammer assists the program director by facilitating program components and student technology as well as leading "listening room" experiences.

 

Marshall is an Interfaith/Interspiritual Minister & Reiki Practitioner who specializes in working with animals and their humans, remotely and in person. She facilitates a monthly peer-support group for folks experiencing grief after suicide loss and she's served on the NC Chapter Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Her ministry is sprouting through a contract with Crest View Addiction Recovery Center, facilitating weekly Spirituality topic groups with participants in the program. Marshall feels most alive in spaces where grief is present. (Where is it not?) She believes everyone benefits from feeling seen and accepted exactly where they are and knowing they're not alone. Marshall lives in the East Cherokee (Tsalaguwetiyi) Territory also known as Asheville, North Carolina.

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Victoria Moran
(she/her)

Compassionate Lifestyle Development

 

Victoria Moran specializes in helping people explore and adopt ahimsa-based, compassionate lifestyles.

A Compassion Consortium cofounder, Victoria is a certified life coach, certified holistic health coach, graduate of the T. Colin Campbell/e-Cornell program in plant-based nutrition, and a registered yoga instructor. She is the author of Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet; and the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, which trains and certifies Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators. 

​She has been featured on Oprah, Today, Good Morning America, and All Things Considered, as well as in the 2019 Curiosity Stream docu-series, The Future of Food. She also acted as lead producer of Thomas Jackson's documentary, A Prayer for Compassion. She lives with her husband, William Melton, their rescue dog, Forbes, and rescue pigeon, Thunder, in a green condo in Upper Manhattan. 

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William Melton
(he/him)

Compassionate Lifestyle Development

 

Rev. William Melton specializes in interspecies spirituality and  compassionate lifestyle development. 

William was, in his first career, an international business and technology lawyer living in seven countries and working in more than thirty others. This gave him exposure to myriad cultures and religions before he shifted gears to pursue a ministry of compassion dedicated to healing the suffering of animals, the environment and the human heart.

 

William left his 30-year legal career, enrolled in Seminary, and after being ordained by One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City, co-founded the Compassion Consortium, all in his quest to extend to all living beings the same compassion that is a foundational element of all religions and faith traditions. William is a Level-3 Animal Reiki Master, a Shelter Animal Reiki Association certified practitioner, and Fear Free Shelter certified practitioner. He offers animal chaplaincy and animal Reiki as part of his ministry.

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Marc Beckoff
(he/him)

Animal Empathy & Emotions

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

 

He has published 31 books (or 41 depending on you count multi-volume encyclopedias), won many awards for his research on animal behavior, animal emotions (cognitive ethology), compassionate conservation, and animal protection, has worked closely with Jane Goodall, and is a former Guggenheim Fellow. He also works closely with inmates at the Boulder County Jail.

 

In June 2022 Marc was recognized as a Hero by the Academy of Dog Trainers. His latest books are The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce), Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, and Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible (with Jessica Pierce) and he also publishes regularly for Psychology Today. Marc and Jessica's most recent book A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World Without Humans was published by Princeton University Press in October 2021. Dogs Demystified: An A-Z Guide to All Things Canine will be published by New World Library in March 2023. In 1986 Marc won the Master's age-graded Tour de France. His homepage is marcbekoff.com.

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Jessica Dolce
(she/her)

Managing Compassion Fatigue

Jessica Dolce is a Certified Compassion Fatigue Educator (CCFE) via The Green Cross who has trained through the Figley Institute, Tend Academy, and the International Association of Trauma Professionals. Most days you can find her teaching online (sometimes as adjunct faculty at UFL), coaching "compassionate badasses," and hosting her monthly membership community.

 

She brings her training in compassion resilience, positive psychology, and mindfulness facilitation to everything she does (even walking reactive dogs!). But no matter what she is doing, she is motivated by curiosity, compassion, and a rock-solid belief that self-care and service inherently belong together. More at jessicadolce.com

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Janel Griffieth
(she/her)

The Science of Hope & Underrepresentation in Animal Issues

Janel Griffieth is the CARE Centers Senior Director - Southeast Tier. She found her passion for non-profit work at the Oklahoma Humane Society, the largest animal non-profit organization in Oklahoma. There she led and grew the neonatal program saving the fragile lives of thousands of infant puppies and kittens. She has spoken to thousands of people about animal welfare and brought awareness to not only the plight of animals in the community but their human companions too. Janel truly believe every living being deserves a life free of unnecessary harm and violence. This translates to her other mission to bring societal awareness of domestic violence and trauma in our communities. Janel has an immense commitment to racial equity and bringing diverse groups of people together. Representation matters so it is important that every field have diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This is where real change comes from! She is a devout advocate for human and animal well-being.

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Stephanie Niemela
(she/her)

Diverse Animal Bodies & "Cripping" Animal Ethics

Steph is a lover of spiritual things as well as a dreamer, She is a licensed professional counselor who offers her clients care and presence with a hope that they feel a sense of increased empowerment, new coping skills, and a reduction in the symptoms that they are experiencing. She is also a self-proclaimed "Foodie." Steph is currently a Seminary student and hopes to one day pastor a church rooted in love and acceptance within the UCC denomination. She lives with her feline companions Magdalene Teresa and Marley Grace.

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Eva Kasprzycka
(she/her)

Bio to come

Jessica

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Susan Knilans
(she/her)

Living with Free-living Animals

Author of the classic New York Times Bestseller, Animals as Teachers and Healers: True Stories and Reflections, and What Bees Want: Beekeeping as Nature Intended, Susan's writings are published in more than twenty languages worldwide. 

 

She is a nationally recognized, passionate, and original voice on the subject of our emotional, biological, and sacred relationships with animals and wild nature.

A dynamic and gifted presenter, Susan is a powerful catalyst for personal growth and change. A long term-survivor of advanced cancer, She speaks from a rich body of lived experience, reminding us that our evolutionary journey toward becoming more fully human beings has included thousands of years of intimate connection with animals and the living Earth.