STONEVILLE, N.C. — A friend recently told me, “You know what they say about Franciscans: ‘you’ve seen one Franciscan, you’ve seen one Franciscan!’” And so it is with Franciscan justice, peace and integrity of creation ministries.
When 19 representatives from nearly a dozen Holy Name Province ministries gathered at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center for the 2012 JPIC Local Contacts Retreat, the shared stories were rich and varied. The JPIC work celebrated at this ninth annual retreat from June 8 to 10 included:
- inspiring ongoing civic engagement by the local youth of Camden, N.J., growing from St. Anthony of Padua’s Martin Luther King Day of Community Organizing;
- efforts to encourage interfaith dialog through Ecumenical Bible studies and shared meals in Sullivan County, N.Y.;
- a collaboration between Raleigh’s Justice Theatre Group and a like-minded Palestinian theatre group;
- hard-won success in community-organizing efforts to address the high numbers of foreclosures in Virginia and bolster assistance to those who are “under water” with their mortgages.
- education and advocacy efforts around the issue of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in New Jersey ministries, including St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson and St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes;
- Latino-led efforts in Silver Spring to unite different parts of the community around JPIC advocacy, including a Bread for the World letter-writing campaign and state-level alternative energy action.
- the organization of a parish JPIC forum in response to the proposed dissolution of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act; the 2009 Act allows death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can prove that race was a significant factor in their sentence. Immaculate Conception invited Darryl Hunt, a wrongly convicted man who was exonerated after serving nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to speak as part of a panel on the impact of racial bias and fear on our judicial process.
In addition to sharing past initatives, each attending ministry presented an exciting JPIC plan for the coming year. Among them were:
- “How to be an Instrument of Peace,” an upcoming seminar at St. Francis Springs, to be led by Robert Menard, OFM. Information and registration details about the Aug. 18 workshop are available from Ann Bauer or by calling 336-573-3751.
- a civil discourse workshop put together in light of the contentious 2012 elections. Parishioners from other local New Jersey parishes are welcome to attend the Sept. 22 Pompton Lakes event. More information is available through St. Mary’s Church at 973-835-0374;
- a South Carolina parish effort to help those in the surrounding neighborhood with voter registration, given the increased requirements in the state; the community also hopes to help the elderly of the community with transportation to the polls;
- continued community education around the climate change issue, through use of the recently published Franciscan Climate Change Statement (e.g., including portions of the document in the bulletin; incorporating thought provoking aspects of it into the intercessory prayers).
Participants welcomed the time to share both successes and challenges in their work, and to be able to dialog with others working to promote justice efforts in the context of a ministry.
“The retreat reminded me that we all are working within a larger body – the Province. You can reach out to others for resources and support. That can really buoy you when the work gets tough,” said Frank Lesko, coordinator of Justice and Peace at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh. Lesko recognized that the Raleigh JPIC ministry isn’t working all on its own, but within the context of the Holy Name Province.
The group had a rich exchange about the different community-organizing efforts going on in some Holy Name Province ministries, with participants offering suggestions and examples of what had worked in a particular ministry’s experience.
Those gathered also provided input for the ongoing development of Holy Name Province’s JPIC Plan of Action “We really value being able to bring more PIM and friar feedback back to the JPIC Directorate. The plan is not a static document,” said JPIC Office director Russell Testa who facilitated the brainstorming process and discussion.
The HNP ministries that sent representatives to the 2012 retreat included Holy Cross Church in Callicoon, N.Y.; St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J.; Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C.; St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C.; St. Bonaventure Church, Paterson, N.J.; St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J.; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Raleigh, N.C.; Holy Name College, Silver Spring, Md.; St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md.; St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Stoneville, N.C.; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Triangle, Va.
Five friars also participated in the weekend: Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, chair, JPIC Directorate who is based at St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, Md., George Camacho, OFM, of Holy Name College, Silver Spring, who is spending some of the summer in Camden, N.J., Louis Canino, OFM, director, St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Karl Koenig, OFM, a JPIC Directorate member who serves at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Camden; and Daniel McLellan, OFM, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, Durham, N.C.
Retreat participants voiced appreciation for the time set aside during the weekend for prayer and quiet reflection and for the Center’s wonderful hospitality and setting. Jacek led a spiritual exercise with the theme, “Saints and the Book of Nature.” The exercise allowed the group to partner up and reflect on rich creation-centered quotes with the center’s beautiful grounds as the backdrop. It was a fitting follow-up to an earlier retreat session that focused on the care for creation portion of the JPIC Plan of Action and allowed the group to spend time with the Franciscan Climate Change statement.
At the end of the weekend, as the group members shared final thoughts before breaking for closing liturgy and lunch, one participant reflected, “You know, I think we’re at a time where many of us are challenged by where the Church is; well I’m leaving this weekend encouraged — encouraged by what everyone continues to do in their ministries.” May we all take time, as these retreatants did, to “refill our wells” so that we remain grounded in our gospel call!
— Fran Eskin-Royer is a staff member of the Province’s JPIC Office in Silver Spring, Md.