JPIC Local Contacts Retreat: What is Your Piece of the Puzzle?

Sharon DeSipio, OFS Around the Province

Participants at the 2017 JPIC retreat during a break between discussions. The article’s author, Sharon DeSipio, is standing third from the right. (Photo courtesy of JPIC office)

Below is a reflection from a first-time attendee of Holy Name Province’s annual JPIC Local Contacts Retreat. Twelve ministries participated this year; St. Francis of Assisi Church (Long Beach Island, N.J.), Assumption Church-Friary (Wood-Ridge, N.J.); Catholic Center at University of Georgia (Athens, Ga.); Immaculate Conception Parish (Durham, N.C.); Migrant Center at Church of St. Francis of Assisi (West 31st Street, New York City); Mt. Irenaeus (West Clarksville, N.Y.); St. Anthony Shrine and Ministry Center (Boston, Mass.); St. Camillus Parish (Silver Spring, Md.); St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (Raleigh, N.C.); St. Francis of Assisi Parish (Triangle, Va.); St. Mary’s Parish (Pompton Lakes, N.J.); and St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish (Hartford, Conn.). Three friars, Julian Jagudilla, OFM, Jim McIntosh, OFM, and Gene Pistacchio, OFM, joined with lay partners-in-ministry for a weekend that provided discussion, sharing, and quiet reflection. The 2018 retreat will be held from July 13 to 15 at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C.

Although I am a woman of prayer and know a good bit about social justice — from taking graduate courses, teaching to catechists and in completing a JustFaith program — I still have not been motivated to get involved, get my hands dirty and make a difference. That is, until I journeyed to Easton, Pa., and spent July 21 to 23 at St. Francis Retreat House for the Province’s 2017 JPIC Local Contacts Retreat.

There was no hoopla or brass band, but there was community, dedicated enthusiasm, education, good food, comfortable accommodations, meaningful prayer, idea/experience-sharing, and hope. Parishioners, Secular Franciscans, staff members, and friars from Georgia to New York gathered together, focusing primarily on immigration and climate change.

Russ Testa, director of the Province’s JPIC Office, leads a talk. (Photo courtesy of JPIC office)

I came with an open mind and heart to gather information to take back to my parish and Secular Fraternity. I felt a bit sheepish knowing that I was not actively engaged in any social justice activities. I did not know exactly what to expect, but it took no time at all to be comfortably assimilated into the group and become immersed in the issues. When we left, my mind was spinning as I worked to process the numerous experiences and ideas that were shared.

Before going further, there needs to be clarification as to what social justice is. Social justice is part of Catholic Social Teaching, which is made up of two steps; one is almsgiving (or charity), and the other is social justice. Almsgiving is donating food, money, time, and the like, to help people with their day-to-day needs and is very important. Social justice is changing unjust systems/social structures and practices to give people the dignity and respect they are due and entitled to, simply because they are human beings created in the image and likeness of God. Almsgiving and social justice are both necessary. If almsgiving is giving people food to eat, social justice is teaching people how to farm their own food. Social justice is much more challenging, yet critical for a better world.

Upon reflection, it became clear to me that there are many ways individuals and groups can participate in social justice activities and make a difference:

  1. Gathering information about whatever issue concerns you.
  2. Breaking the information down into smaller segments.
  3. Viewing these segments like pieces of a puzzle.
  4. Deciding what piece of the puzzle you can address.
  5. Determining how your piece can fit into the greater picture.
  6. Collaborating or inviting others to help you with your piece of the puzzle.

Puzzles are solved one piece at a time, which makes me ask – What piece is yours?

Suggestions for those concerned about immigration:

  • Visit the Catholic Legal Immigration Network
  • Use caution when using the term ‘sanctuary’ as there may be legal ramifications – but consider how you can provide aid or support to immigrants in your community.
  • Contact or visit Fr. Julian at the Migrant Center of St. Francis Assisi Church on West 31st Street, New York City
  • Befriend a Spanish-speaking person or a Muslim person in your community. Learn what is going on in their community. Does anyone need help?
  • Engage in prison ministry at immigration detention centers or prisons
  • Some detainees are being housed in prisons although they are not criminals.
  • Some privately-owned prisons are housing detainees and are not permitting them any type of outside communication. These detainees may be completely isolated from their families and the outside world. Families may not know where they are.

Suggestions for those concerned about climate change:

  • Consider divesting your investments of fossil fuels
  • Check out your bank’s investments in fossil fuels
  • Analyze a fund at Fossil Free Funds
  • Subscribe to
  • Bring in a speaker on the topic and invite other faith communities to participate


  • Participate in programs such as JustFaith or Engaging Spirituality to gather people and build interest.
  • Pray the St. Francis Peace Prayer every Wednesday at noon, as per the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, N.Y.
  • Include a JPIC piece in your parish Sunday bulletin each week.
  • Pray daily, using a prayer such as this:


Dear God,
Teach me to be generous
To love and serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wound
To toil and not to seek to rest
To labor and to look for no reward
Except that of knowing that
I do your Holy Will.


Though this is just a smattering of all that was shared, it provides food for thought as to how you and I can get involved, get our hands dirty, and make a difference. Won’t you join me?

Peace and all good.

— Sharon DeSipio, who was professed as a Secular Franciscan 20 years ago, has been a member of St. Francis Assisi Parish on the New Jersey Shore since the 1980s. She has served as director of religious education as well as a member of the pastoral staff. DeSipio, who holds an MA degree in religious studies with a concentration in morality from St. Charles Seminary in Pennsylvania and a master’s in pastoral studies/liturgical Praxis from LaSalle University, is a project manager in the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. DeSipio has four children and six grandchildren.

Editor’s note: Information and resources on social justice work can be found on the Justice and Peace page of the Province’s website, as well as on the Holy Name Province JPIC Facebook page. Information about the Secular Franciscan Order can be found on the Who We Are page of the HNP website

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