ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Friars and their partners in ministry from 10 Holy Name ministries participated in this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice here last month. They came from parishes and schools up and down the East Coast — from North Carolina to New York — to discuss connections between climate change, migration and poverty in the United States and around the world.
More than 100 Franciscans and Franciscan-hearted persons attended the seventh annual EAD held March 13 to 16 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. They were among nearly 500 faith-based advocates who attended the gathering.
The 2009 theme, “Enough for All Creation,” resonated with Franciscan eco-spirituality in many of the weekend’s presentations and workshops. Living in better kinship with Mother Earth and creation seemed to be on everybody’s agenda, according to the Web site of the Franciscan Action Network (FAN). The Web site also said it was a good time and place to be Franciscan.
The gathering is sponsored by more than 40 organizations, including the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province.
Provincial Minister Warns Against Complacency
Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, spoke at the Saturday Mass, warning the growing flock to avoid numbness in doing the daunting work of advocacy. “By focusing on values and goodness, instead of the myriad instances of despair, we can behold God’s goodness in all creation,” he said.
Exhorting the assembly not merely to see but to behold, John acknowledged the role FAN must play in helping the world to discover this all-important difference.
FAN Executive Director Russell Testa, who also directs HNP’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, celebrated his 40th birthday during the EAD, saying what he wanted most for his birthday was “climate change legislation that supports people who are poor.”
The 800th birthday of the Franciscan way of life was hard to miss at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days, according to the FAN Web site, which was launched at last year’s EAD.
The multi-cultural choirs from St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., gave a rousing performance Friday evening setting the weekend tone that culminated in advocacy for climate change legislation on Capitol Hill on March 16, according to a FAN report. In worship space thoughtfully arranged with icons of Francis and Clare, seculars, religious sisters, and friars in habits imbued the nearly 800 ecumenical Christian advocates for social justice with a ubiquitous Franciscan spirit.
Testa picked up on the hopeful theme in observing the encouraging turnout of Franciscan-hearted people, despite economic adversity. “The market seems to be dying, but we just keep growing,” he said.
Holy Name’s Participants
Among the HNP members and friends who participated in the event were:
• Mathias Doyle, OFM, and Robert Breen, both of Siena College and members of HNP’s JPIC Directorate.
• Louis Canino, OFM, of St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C.
• William “Jud” Weiksnar, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony Church, Camden, N.J.
• Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md.
• Holy Name College’s Hugh Macsherry, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM, who played piano during the event
• Representatives of St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson, N.J.; St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J; St. Francis Church in Triangle, Va.; Immaculate Conception Church, Durham, N.C.; and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C.
In addition, representatives from Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Little Falls, N.J., formerly staffed by the friars of Holy Name Province, participated.
Breen, SFO, a professor of political science at Siena College and executive director of Franciscan Ecology Center in New York, gave the keynote address at a Saturday gathering of 80 to 100 Franciscan advocates on behalf of FAN. In his presentation, Breen sketched the evolution of an emerging Franciscan ethic, beginning with the creation story of Genesis and the covenant of Noah. Breen, who has been engaged by FAN to hone the organization’s Care for Creation (C4C) pilot program, developed the historical roots of the present eco-crisis.
The high-impact EAD weekend was “grounded in biblical witness and our shared traditions of justice, peace and integrity of creation,” according to the EAD brochure.
Next year’s EAD conference is scheduled for March 19 to 22, 2010.
Shown in the photo above are (seated) Sr. Josandra of the Bernadine Center in Chester, Pa.; Jud Weiksnar; Anne Tunney and Gina Staub of St. Francis Church, Triangle, Va.; (standing) Karen Simons and Richard Coaxum of St. Camillus Church; Hugh Macsherry and Jacek Orzechowski. Additional photos taken at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days appear on the Web site of the Franciscan Action Network.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.