JPIC Local Contacts Retreat Proves Valuable to First-Time Participant

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This article was submitted by a staff member of the Province’s parish in northern Virginia, one of many HNP ministries active in supporting social justice causes. He wrote it as a personal reflection rather than a news report to convey how his initial skepticism about attending the retreat evolved into one of appreciation and renewal.

MARRIOTTSVILLE, Md. — I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to go. The thing is, I’m not all that crazy about conferences. But it’s my job, I told myself. So, out of professional necessity, I succumbed.

Sadly — but in all honesty — that is how I initially approached Holy Name Province’s 10th annual Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Local Contacts Retreat held at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center in Marriottsville from June 21 to 23.

The flyer read “this event promises to be an excellent opportunity to recharge your efforts for JPIC ministry, share progress on the Holy Name Province JPIC Plan of Action and help with future directions.”

Now, having just returned from what was my first JPIC local retreat, I am happy to report that the event kept its promise. In fact, the retreat was so much more.

Holy Name Province’s JPIC director Russ Testa and senior staff assistant Fran Eskin-Royer led us through a balanced and thorough retreat. It was both constructive and contemplative in all the right ways.

Experience and Inspiration
Bon Secours is a wonderful place – friendly staff, great food and facilities, not to mention, peaceful and picturesque grounds.

Our guest speaker was Joseph Rozansky, OFM, director of the Order’s JPIC office in Rome, Italy. He explained in detail how the office works, who it works with, what the priorities are, how the staff members arrive at decisions, and how we all fit in. Not only was it informative, but I’m now more aware of the many resources available to me and more connected to the larger Franciscan JPIC family. I was able to have a one-on-one conversation with Fr. Joe that I very much appreciated and valued, given his experience and expertise — and all without the flight to Rome.

Other friars in attendance were George Camacho, OFM, Louis Canino, OFM, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, Gene Pistacchio, OFM, and Gonzalo de Jesus Torres-Acosta, OFM.

Other Holy Name Province ministries present included St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church, Hartford, Conn.; St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center, Boston, Mass.; Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Md.; St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring; St. Anthony of Padua Church, Camden, N.J.; St. Bonaventure Church, Paterson, N.J.; St. Mary’s Church, Pompton Lakes, N.J.; Holy Name of Jesus Church, New York City; Immaculate Conception Church, Durham, N.C.; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Raleigh, N.C.; St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Stoneville, N.C.; and St. Anthony of Padua Church, Greenville, S.C.

We celebrated many JPIC ministry initiatives, including interfaith peacemaking, environmental justice, community organizing, human trafficking, faith formation, and much more.

However, the retreat was not just a working session.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was surrounded by dedicated and truly genuine people. The friars and those from the ministries represented were the heartbeat and inspiration of the weekend.

I wasn’t prepared — as focused on work as I was — for the fact that I might begin new friendships at the retreat. And while I benefited greatly from the opportunity to directly engage with counterparts from around the Province on a variety of JPIC issues, it was the building of relationships and the energetic collaboration that truly were the life-giving and mobilizing takeaways of the weekend.

Encouragement and Renewal
Whether it was our formal instruction and sharing times, periods of prayer, silence and reflection, the celebration of this being the 10th annual retreat, our time in Mass, or the many spontaneous conversations and meals we enjoyed together, I — and, I imagine, everyone — left feeling encouraged and ready to return to our varied JPIC activities with renewed Franciscan vision and energy.

Personally, I was able to review my work and strategize priorities. It offered me time to percolate ideas and more deeply understand God’s leading. I was able to learn, sharpen, and raise the bar for myself and the ministry I’m blessed to coordinate alongside Paul Breslin, OFM, Frank Critch, OFM, and Kevin Downey, OFM.

It is for all these reasons why I can’t wait for next year’s retreat.

As I drove away, though, I couldn’t escape the feeling that we were just scratching the surface. Under Russ and Fran’s leadership, I think we can take this united JPIC front to the next level in years to come.

There was one bad thing about the retreat, and that was that it ended. For a guy who wasn’t sure he wanted to go, that about says it all!

— Rob Goraieb, OFS, has served as coordinator of Franciscan Action and Advocacy at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., since summer 2012.