This is the first in a series of articles describing the many ways that Holy Name Province ministries are advocating for justice, peace and creation care. From Western New York to the state of Florida, friars and their partners-in-ministry are taking action in support of the environment, God’s people and all of the creation. This article features recent events in the northern states. A similar round-up about initiatives in southern ministries will be published next month.
This week, Oct. 23 to 27, is National Week of Action for TPS. The Province’s Office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation encourages involvement to support the Temporary Protected Status of immigrants. Thousands of people to whom the Province ministers could be seriously affected by changes in policy. As Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted people, we must take action, said a recent email from the JPIC Office.
From a prayer procession, phone chain and movie night, to peace-building events, lectures, and interfaith gatherings, Holy Name Province parishes, ministries, and schools have been responding to the call of the Franciscan charism in a variety of ways — from traditional to creative and the simple to the more comprehensive.
Parishioners, community members, students, professors, and friars are working to make a difference in immigration, ecological and environmental, poverty, human rights and other important social justice issues. An overview is below.
► St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish, Hartford, Conn.
It wasn’t an ordinary movie night social at St. Patrick-St. Anthony. The parish’s screening this week of the film “In America” was much more than that. It lived up to its billing and achieved what it set out to do – stimulate an important community dialogue on immigration issues and encourage support for protections like the Dream Act and reinstatement of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The capacity audience watched the drama unfold of a family who is trying to immigrate to the U.S., but because they don’t have a sponsor, they have to enter through Canada. After reaching New York City, the family encounters many difficulties and hardships, unable to find housing and employment — the plight of thousands of immigrants across the country.
The evening didn’t end with the last credit rolling off the screen. Immediately following the film, viewers engaged in a facilitator-led discussion on immigration and related issues that went beyond the movie’s subject matter. Next month, the parish plans to tackle another important social justice issue – the environment.
► Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great Parish, New York City
Parishioners at this Upper West Side church joined Christians around the world in raising awareness of the urgency of caring for creation in response to global ecological crises. During the Season of Creation – which began on Sept. 1 and ended on the feast day of St. Francis on Oct. 4 – parishioners placed written prayers at the St. Francis shrine near the church altar during the offertory processions at Masses on the weekend of Sept. 30.
On the immigration front, stacks of flyers were left in the vestibule promoting the Oct. 1 DACA registration renewal event at the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street. In addition, the parish, in conjunction with the Migrant Center, is hosting a Spanish-language forum on Oct. 29. Titled “Immigration: Know Your Rights,” it will feature guest speakers and experts in immigrant rights.
Earlier this month, a planning meeting was held for a parish-sponsored homeless outreach initiative with JoyJ, a program that offers opportunities to individuals, groups, and organizations to provide food and necessities to homeless populations through direct contact and interaction.
► St. Bonaventure Parish, Allegany, N.Y.
Physically and metaphorically, bridges serve as important pathways across natural obstacles. So when parishioners were choosing a name for a new outreach program to help financially struggling residents in this upstate western New York community, they settled on “The Bridge” – an identity befitting an initiative that connects with people facing economic problems. Established about one year ago and funded completely by donations from parishioners – neighbors helping their neighbors in need – The Bridge has already provided $25,000 in financial assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent, utility and health care bills, and for such necessities as food and gasoline. Most recently, the Allegany parish participated in hurricane relief efforts for Puerto Rico through Catholic Charities USA.
Parishioners have also answered the call of the Knights of Columbus by embarking on a phone campaign to congressional representatives that asks for their support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R.36). Parishioners are receiving spiritual inspiration from the Holy Pontiff’s “Amoris Laetitia,” as parts of the post-synodal apostolic exhortations of Pope Francis are being published in the weekly bulletin until the document is published in full. The parish had previously done the same with “Laudato Si’,” the pope’s encyclical about the urgency of environmental challenges and the responsibilities of every living person in shaping the future of our planet.
► St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y.
The SBU Franciscan Center for Social Concerns used the feast of St. Francis to kick off a flurry of activity to advance education and awareness on the ethics of immigration, service to others, peace-building and other social justice matters. It was appropriate that Fr. David Couturier, OFM Cap., dean of the School of Franciscan Studies, lectured on the ethics of immigration – approaching the DACA issue from the uniquely Franciscan perspective of St. Francis’ special love and affinity for the needs of the rejected, marginalized and displaced. The rescinding of DACA and the subsequent ethical and moral impact on the lives and futures of 800,000 people and their families must be examined.
Other events included a group of panelists speaking first-hand on why students should contemplate one-year service opportunities; DACA stand-in-solidarity and interfaith prayer exercises, and peace events that included planting a symbolic peace pole on campus and a pause-for-peace prayer service in response to the mass shootings in Las Vegas.
► Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y.
In New York’s capital region, students at Siena usually take advantage of the daily campus-wide free period for themselves, but one day last month many found that giving up an hour of free time to participate in a protest decrying the White House’s decision to end the DACA program was both liberating and meaningful. The message of students was that an attack on DACA is an attack on all citizens. The protest began on the steps of the Sarazen Student Union, where speakers – including faculty and staff members and some students who are immigrants – voiced their concerns for working class and poor immigrants who are left vulnerable because the White House has pulled the safety net out from under them. Protesters walked around the campus and culminated the march when they returned to the student union.
► St. Mary’s Parish, Pompton Lakes, N.J.
Parishioners at St. Mary’s have been putting into action “Laudato Si,’” the second encyclical of Pope Francis – and they’re making sure that other organizations and neighboring parishes and communities are doing the same to acknowledge and implement the Holy Father’s urgent message about the need to address environmental challenges and shape the future of our planet.
This month, two parish committees that are part of St. Mary’s social justice ministry – Advocates for Justice and Franciscan Response to Fracking – held a two-week series titled “Before the Flood,” as part of its ongoing call to action on climate change and inequality. This phase of the parish’s “Laudato Si’” campaign began with an appeal to a new group — youth. The committees connected with the parish’s youth ministry, local high schools, colleges and universities to bring young people into the movement. The two-week series consisted of a presentation about climate change issues by the renowned Climate Reality Project, and the screening of the 2016 National Geographic film “Before the Flood,” which depicts dramatic climate change (and offers solutions) from actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s journeys around the world.
The parish’s social justice ministry and the efforts of these committees have gained significant traction as ecological and human rights-threatening issues, such as fracking and anti-immigration legislation, continue to gain momentum among government officials. The committees’ first two tiers of the “Laudato Si’” campaign included establishing the EarthActions website as a launch/educational vehicle for the pope’s “On Care for Our Common Home” encyclical, and organizing and spearheading related actions and activities with other groups that have joined the campaign.
Over the past few weeks, the Advocates for Justice Committee began a research and data-gathering initiative that will help shape a comprehensive plan to address DACA and other immigration issues. The committee plans to meet with the parish Hispanic Ministry to discuss the formation of a delegation tasked with making targeted visits to Congressional representatives to urge them to support the reinstatement of DACA in some form. In the meantime, a petition in support of DACA and an education campaign for those who want to learn more about this issue was launched on the website.
► St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Long Beach Island, N.J.
The friars at this Jersey shore community are doing their part to make sure that immigration rights issues are always on the minds of parishioners. Preaching at daily and Sunday Masses often reflects and raises consciousness about immigration issues, while the parish also provides relevant informational materials about DACA and immigration rights to the Latino community and other immigrant populations that are impacted and feel threatened by recent actions of the White House.
On the environmental front, the parish committee that advocates for JPIC issues have taken a leadership role in developing an effective plan to restore and protect the ecologically vital Barnegat Bay Estuary, whose plants and animals have been endangered by a high level of nitrogen. The committee has been meeting this month as a follow-up to a “ReClam the Bay” presentation it recently sponsored and will continue to lead the charge on this important local environmental issue.
► St. Paul Parish, Wilmington, Del.
Parishioners of St. Paul Parish have demonstrated that living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and responding to the Biblical obligation to care for the stranger, refugee, undocumented and immigrant, can be done with simplicity and humility. While most dioceses asked parishes to take up a special collection on a single Sunday for the victims of the recent earthquakes and hurricanes, parishioners at St. Paul reached deep into their pockets for several consecutive Sundays to help their suffering brothers and sisters in Mexico and the Caribbean. They are also remembering the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who are affected by the White House decision on DACA in the Prayer of the Faithful at Sunday Masses. The parish also lends its facilities to counseling programs that provide outreach to individuals and families.
► St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Md.
Earlier this month, parishioners carried out a campaign in which more than 2,000 people signed a letter to senators urging them to retain the Temporary Protected Status policy. Other ministries are encouraged by the HNP Office of JPIC to amplify this Franciscan advocacy effort. In addition to the issue around DACA/DREAMers, this issue needs advocacy,” according to the staff. The window of opportunity to advocate in support of the policy is soon closing. Helpful resources posted on the website of CLINIC, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., were recently shared by email with HNP ministries. Also in October, Silver Spring residents participated in the opening ceremonies of a Unity Walk in Maryland.
At Holy Name College, the Province’s formation residence adjacent to St. Camillus, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, recently taught a class on “Laudato Si’” and “Consistent Ethic of Life” for a group of postulants in the interprovincial postulancy program. In one of his writings, he said, “Given the gravity and urgency of global climate change, let me echo the words of St. Francis of Assisi who at the end of his life and ministry of compassion toward the poor said in all humility: ‘Brothers and sisters, let us begin anew, for up until now, we have done nothing.’”
— The information in this article was researched by the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, based in Silver Spring, Md., and compiled by the HNP Communications Office staff. Friars and ministry staff members are encouraged to submit news of future projects to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “Franciscans Object to President’s DACA Plans” – Sept. 13, 2017, HNP Today
- “US Franciscans Release Statement Following Charlottesville Violence” – Aug. 25, 2017, HNP Today
- “A Franciscan Statement on Global Climate Change” – Holy Name Province