Getting at the Core of Pope Francis’s Message

Shannon O’Neill Around the Province

Pope Francis at JPIC retreat

Pope Francis popped by to visit during the recent meeting of the Province’s JPIC Directorate. (Photo courtesy of Russ Testa)

Thirty Holy Name Province friars and partners-in-ministry — representing 20 HNP ministries — recently gathered in Malvern, Pa., for the 2015 JPIC Local Contacts Retreat. Discussions at the retreat as well as much of the preceding directorate meeting focused on Pope Francis’s encyclical, “Laudatao Si’.” Below, Shannon O’Neill of Siena College, a member of Holy Name Province’s JPIC Directorate, shares a reflection about the weekend.

Holy Name Province’s annual JPIC — Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation — Local Contacts Retreat was held from July 17 to 19 at the Malvern Retreat House, outside of Philadelphia. Because of the recent release of the pope’s encyclical on integral ecology, this was a particularly exciting time to convene. Given how meaningful this encyclical is to Franciscans, and how we are being called upon to step out as leaders on this issue, the weekend included media training so we could learn how to best lend our voices to the call for change. The encyclical makes clear that the time for change is now.

Kellie Anderson-Picallo, from New York City’s Auburn Media Group, led the motivating media training, showing how to get our core message about the encyclical out to as many different mediums as possible. We had the opportunity to have a mock interview filmed with Kellie peppering us with challenging questions meant to provoke us and knock us off message.

As fellow retreat participant and JPIC Directorate member Bob Menard, OFM, said, “The media training forced me to think specifically about how I might get the message of Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home) out into the Clemson University campus community where I minister. We need to challenge the faculty, administrators and students to talk across disciplines, and challenge generations to respond adequately to the urgent cry of the earth and the vulnerable within it. I felt the challenge, appreciated the training and will engage others in the necessary transformation.”


Kellie Anderson-Picallo of Auburn Media, center, interviews Alicia Dominguez of St. Paul’s Parish in Wilmington, Del., about the pope’s message. Listening is Russ Testa, director of the Province’s JPIC Office. (Photo courtesy of Jud Weiksnar)

It was exciting to watch so many wonderfully articulate and committed members of our Province speak their beautiful truth that change is possible — to be agents of hope for that change.

Though climate change is the focus of this teaching, it is contextualized in the larger human and ecological context of economic and social injustices. We have an opportunity to address so many injustices that harm the earth and the least among us: the mining and processing of non-renewable resources that leave the earth barren and the local ecology in ruins, and that are processed at the expense of the health and safety of the working and landless poor; the fact that when we in the global north purchase cheap goods, someone is paying the cost and usually it is the least among us — the sweatshop worker who made the mall clothing, the child slave who harvested the drugstore cocoa, the First Nations tribes whose lands are being destroyed by the tar sands fields so we have cheap fuel. As I read the document, what became increasingly clear as never before is that every economic decision is a theological statement.

Franciscans are being called upon to lead people on issues of environmental and social justice, to speak with moral authority. The Province’s JPIC Directorate and local contacts are ready and excited to see what more the pope’s visit in late September will bring. We are prepared to answer the call to advocate for change, to preach for change, and to be the change.

Dr. Shannon O’Neill is director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women at Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y. 

Editor’s note: With the recent release of Laudato Si’ and the mandate of the 2014 Provincial Chapter calling for increased outreach to the media, the Province’s JPIC Office opted to devote a full retreat day to the training, using the encyclical as the focus. During the balance of the weekend, the group discussed the pope’s letter, and resources and plans for studying and promoting its messages in HNP ministries over the next few years. The JPIC section of will serve as a repository for encyclical resources.

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