On Film: Issues of Justice, Peace and Creation Care

Fran Eskin-Royer Around the Province

Holy Name Province ministries take many approaches to sharing Franciscan justice, peace and integrity of creation themes with their communities. One popular method is through the screening of consciousness-raising films and the facilitation of follow-up discussions. Just this month, at least four Province ministries are showing films and holding conversations that highlight a range of important JPIC topics.

On Oct. 8 in Tampa, Fla., Sacred Heart Parish’s new Care for Creation Ministry showed the video documentary “Melting Ice, Mending Creation: a Catholic Approach to Climate Change.” The Catholic Climate Covenant promoted this film and a discussion guide among its Feast of St. Francis 2013 resources. The parish’s publicity for the event made clear the subject matter’s connection to the Franciscan charism: Through the example of St. Francis, we are reminded that a core value in Franciscan spirituality is recognizing the incarnate Christ in all of creation. We see ourselves in mutual relationship with God, one another, all living beings, and the environment itself.

That same evening in New York City, the St. Francis of Assisi Parish community in Manhattan was invited to watch “A Place at the Table,” a powerful documentary that illustrates the all too real hunger problem in America through three personal stories. The West 31st Street screening, put together by Franciscan Earth Corps., Franciscans Deliver and The Partnership for a Healthier New York City, allowed viewers not only to explore the issue of food insecurity in the U.S., but learn ways to help. The documentary looks beyond a direct service approach to the need for advocacy and political will on behalf of the poor and marginalized.

On Oct. 12, “After the Rain,” a drama set in South Africa in 1972, will be shown at St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center in Boston as part of its Franciscan Adult School’s Inconvenient Film Series – provocative films chosen to invite discussion. The film centers on the devastating effects of apartheid on three young people in South Africa. Its inclusion in the Shrine’s series demonstrates that artistic films can increase understanding and social awareness just as documentaries can. The Inconvenient Film Series is among the efforts featured on the JPIC Education through the Arts page of the Province’s website.

Later this month on Oct. 30, St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., will show “Gasland, Part II.” In his second film focused on the environmental issue of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” director Josh Fox looks at the long-term impact of the controversial gas extraction process.

A few of the Province’s New York and New Jersey parishes first organized together to explore the environmental issue after discussions at the 2011 JPIC Local Contacts Retreat. St. Mary’s formed its “Franciscan Response to Fracking” ministry around a Sept. 2011 parish screening of Fox’s first film “Gasland” (2010) that presents his initial investigation of the burgeoning technology.

These examples show the potential power of film in JPIC promotion in the Province’s ministries. Film’s ability to move people emotionally and move them to action with regard to Franciscan JPIC topics should not be overlooked.

— Fran Eskin-Royer is senior staff associate in the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, in Washington.

Editor’s note: Newsletter readers — both friars and laypeople — are welcomed to submit information to the HNP Communications Office about meaningful movies for possible inclusion in future issues of HNP Today.