WASHINGTON — More than 40 participants, including six friars from 17 HNP ministries, took part last month in the 2012 Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference titled “Is THIS the Fast I Seek? Economy, Livelihood and Our National Priorities.” The theme enabled participants to focus on how to advocate for a federal budget that will best assist those who are poor.
“We kept hearing that a fundamental understanding of a nation’s morality can be drawn from how its budget addresses the needs of persons who are poor. At present, we clearly aren’t doing very well,” said Anne Tunney of St. Francis Church in Triangle, Va.
The weekend of prayer, speakers, and workshops hit a crescendo on Monday with its usual highpoint of congressional office lobby visits. At this difficult political and economic time, the message to members of Congress was clear: we must pass a federal budget that puts among its priorities the needs of persons who are poor, both those in the U.S. and abroad.
A new element added this year was the inclusion of advocacy workshops focused on the development of grass-roots organizing skills. EAD conference planners wanted to assist participants in building more effective teams in their home ministries for the work of advocacy.
The desire is for Ecumenical Advocacy Days to be more than an advocacy-focused weekend for a select group in Washington, D.C., but a means of energizing the larger Christian community as a whole for advocacy. To this end, this year’s agenda included an initiative encouraging “home state/district” advocacy visits with members of Congress when they are not in Washington, particularly during the Memorial Day and July Fourth congressional recesses. Tools for setting up and holding these local visits were included in the recent April JPIC Resource Mailing and also may be found on the Justice and Peace section of HNP.org.
With the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Spirit of Assisi and the EAD focus on the needs of those who are poor, Franciscans were particularly energized at this year’s gathering. The coalescing of Franciscan priorities and focus with the EAD theme resulted in many new HNP ministries participating, as well as other HNP participants from past years returning.
This improved participation brought new energy and the potential for an increase in coordinated advocacy action. Joseph Kotula, OFM, who brought four students from St. Bonaventure University, commented, “I found the gathering really hopeful. It was great to be with so many people talking about prophetic witness who also had a desire to fit it into their lives. And I know the experience of the lobby visits really left an impression on the students. It was new for them — and it provided a great opportunity for them to put their faith into action.”
In addition to Joe Kotula and the students from St. Bonaventure, representatives from the following HNP ministries were in Washington for the March conference: St. Anthony Shrine, Boston; St. Patrick-St. Anthony, Hartford, Conn.; Holy Name of Jesus, 96th Street in New York City; St. Mary Parish, Obernberg, N.Y.; St. Bonaventure, Paterson, N.J.; St. Mary Parish, Pompton Lakes, N.J.; St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden, N.J.; St. Camillus Parish, Silver Spring, Md.; Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Md.; St. Francis Parish in Triangle; Immaculate Conception, Durham, N.C.; St. Francis, Raleigh, N.C; St. Francis Springs, Stoneville, N.C.; St. Anthony Parish, Greenville, S.C.; and the UGA Catholic Center in Athens. In addition, Ronald Pecci, OFM, and the Holy Name Province postulants participated in the Sunday skills workshops, while they were in the D.C. area for other commitments.
Other HNP friars present at the Advocacy Days 2012 included: Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, who drove in from SBU to offer grace before the closing banquet; Stephen DeWitt, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md.; Hugh Macsherry, OFM, from Camden; and Jim McIntosh, OFM, of Boston.
Mark your calendar for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2013: April 5 to 8, 2013.
— Russ Testa is director of the Holy Name Province Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. Fran Eskin-Royer, senior staff assistant in the JPIC Office, also contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: Since early last year, the JPIC in Action section of the HNP Justice and Peace webpage has been sharing news of how the many ministries around Holy Name Province put their social justice ideas into action.