JPIC Animators Meet, Worship at Mexico Border

Russell Testa Franciscan World

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation animators of the OFM, Capuchin and Conventual Franciscan provinces of North America met at their annual meeting at the Holy Cross Retreat House in Las Cruces, N.M. from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. The theme of the meeting was how the Franciscan tradition of migration should inform our response to the current situation of immigration.

The meeting of 21 animators and their guests is the third effort of the members of the First Order of Franciscans to join with scholars from the Franciscan intellectual tradition and social justice activists. The goal is to continue a more active conversation between these two vital parts of the Franciscan family.

Last week’s meeting approached its theme from an historical point of view.  Jack Clark Murphy, OFM, of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, outlined the history of the Franciscan migration of North America.  In this history, we recognize two timelines. The first, when Franciscans came with the European colonizing powers, particularly in the Southwest and California areas of what is now the United States. The second and current line has been with the wave of European migration to the U.S. in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this case, Franciscans often were equally refugees of economic and political oppression as the immigrants who they came to serve.

We are currently entering a new stage, one with a diminishing number of Franciscans in North America with a new wave of immigrants from throughout the entire world.  What does our tradition have to say to this situation?  The animators at the gathering are finalizing a statement and supporting resources that will be released in the next few months with reflection upon this question.

The highlight of the reflection was Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border on All Souls Day at which the bishops of El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez, Mexico dioceses presided. The altar comprised two tables touching each other at the fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico.

During the homily, Bishop Armando X. Ochoa, D.D. of El Paso noted that though borders may separate the two nations, they will not separate the good of the people and the Church. The sign of peace was a particularly powerful moment when people from both sides of the fence strained to touch fingers and offer each other the peace of Christ.  It became clear that solutions for the situation of immigration must be developed to make living and dynamic borders.