Living the Gospel: JPIC Happenings Around the Province

Fran Eskin-Royer Around the Province

Holy Name Province’s Office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation continues to collect information about recent JPIC efforts in HNP friaries and ministries. The summary below shows the many ways friars and lay partners live out the gospel call to justice, peace and creation care.  

The JPIC Office staff looks forward to its work with the JPIC Directorate as it considers JPIC at the Province level. Because of the size of the new directorate, the group plans to divide into subgroups to allow more concentrated focus on three priority JPIC issue areas.

Below are summaries of recent JPIC efforts from HNP friars and partners-in-ministry:

Given the current political climate toward the “other” and the Chapter 2017 Immigration Mandate, it is no surprise that many ministries are focused on assisting our immigrant brothers and sisters:

► In Durham, N.C., Immaculate Conception Church held a benefit concert on Oct. 7 to raise funds for undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation, in sanctuary, or held in the county jail because they cannot make bail. The concert raised over $6,000 for the bail/sanctuary fund, which will be administered by the parish.

► In New York City, Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great Parish recently sent signed petitions requesting the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people from Nicaragua, Honduras and other countries impacted by recent policy changes to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, as well as their state senators and congressional representatives. The community obtained more than 460 signatures from parishioners the weekend of Oct. 28 to 29.

Some progress is being made on TPS. Although Secretary Duke terminated TPS for Nicaragua and Haiti, her decision allows those individuals to seek alternative immigration status or arrange for their departure by Jan. 5, 2019 for Nicaragua and July 22, 2019, for Haiti. Duke postponed the Honduras TPS decision until July 5, 2018, to allow time to assess additional information. She called on Congress to enact a permanent solution for this matter.

These updates were published in the bulletin, along with the phone and email contact for the Department of Homeland Security for parishioners from the impacted immigrant communities. Also noted was the American Promise Act, H.R. 4253, introduced by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). The bill would afford these immigrants legal permanent residence and create an opportunity for citizenship. Her email address was also provided so parishioners could voice their support for the bill.

On Oct. 29, Holy Name of Jesus Parish, in partnership with the Migrant Center at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, hosted a “Know Your Rights” information session for Spanish-speakers.

► The JPIC Committee at the Franciscan Interprovincial Post-Novitiate in Chicago recently sponsored a talk at Catholic Theological Union by Ramón Marquez, executive director of La 72 Immigration and Refugee Center in Tenosique, Mexico. Ramón worked with student friars Casey Cole, OFM, and Christian Seno, OFM, during their internship at the safe house last summer.In addition, a good portion of the Chicago community participated in a La Posada march on Dec. 15. The event was in support of those affected in this country immigration issues and served as a reminder that the Holy Family, too, suffered as refugees.

Christian Seno speaks during an event at La 72, a migrant and refugee shelter in Tenosique, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Christian Seno)

► In Silver Spring, Md., Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, a resident of Holy Name College, attended a rally on Dec. 6 in support of Dreamers and TPS recipients. His Facebook post that day reported: “Their [the TPS recipients’ and Dreamers’] struggle reminded me of the speech by Frederick Douglass in 1857: ‘The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.’ Jacek then urged his Facebook friends to call their members of Congress at 888-704-9446 and demand a clean Dream Act.

Supporters of the Dec. 6 Dreamers Act rally in Washington urging Congress to pass a bill that allows Dreamers to permanently stay in the United States. (Photo courtesy of Jacek Orzechowski)

Standing with the Poor/Ending the Cycle of Poverty
Several communities reported their response to Pope Francis’ inaugural World Day of the Poor on Nov. 19. Through this initiative, the pope wanted “to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, to embrace the culture of encounter” and to act with “openness and sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity.” Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, encouraged friars to mark the day at their ministries. 

► In Buffalo, N.Y., at Ss. Columba-Brigid Parish, pastor Jud Weiksnar, OFM, focused his homilies during the Nov. 18-19 weekend on the pope’s initiative. Prior to the weekend, Jud conducted an informal survey at weekend Masses and discovered that only two people out of about 250 knew about the inaugural World Day of the Poor. In his Nov. 18-19 homily, Jud spoke about the initiative and highlighted the parish’s on-site center for homeless families – Family Promise – and their onsite food pantry. Also, having learned from another informal parish survey that not a single person participating knew the focus of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, he shared how the campaign supports programs that lift people out of poverty.

Friars at St. Francis of Assisi in New York City and Mt. Irenaeus in West Clarksville, N.Y., also offered homilies reflecting on World Day of the Poor during Nov. 18 weekend Masses.

► In Boston, St. Anthony Shrine has allied with Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice in their advocacy work to help the poor and vulnerable in the community. Recently, the Shrine has contributed signatures for petitions to 1.) increase the minimum wage to $15; and 2.) guarantee paid family and medical leave.

► In Silver Spring, the Holy Name College community included special prayers and intercessions for the poor during evening prayer on Nov. 19. Their evening Eucharistic Adoration incorporated a series of readings from “Love Not in Word But In Deed,” a resource created for the World Day of the Poor, followed by meditation.

Jud, pastor of Ss. Columba-Brigid Parish in Buffalo, N.Y., left, with Timothy Dauenhauer, who is in residence there. (Photo courtesy of Jud Weiksnar)

Interfaith Dialogue
In northern Virginia, Ignatius Harding, OFM, and parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle attended the 34th Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Nov. 21 at the Jewish Congregation of Adat Reyim in Springfield, Va. Faith communities in attendance included Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Christian faiths. The service began with a “Call to Unity and Thankful Praise” by Rabbi Bruce Aft. Leaders from the faith communities lead services while adult and youth choirs joined together to sing songs of peace. Gathering together around the theme of “Rebuilding Hope,” the faith communities enjoyed an evening of prayer, song, and fellowship.

Catholic Social Teaching and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
At a recent meeting of parish leaders at Ss. Columba-Brigid, those gathered discussed the fact that very few parishioners were familiar with Catholic Social Teaching (CST), and that the RCIA had not taken place in about five years. The group wanted to revive RCIA, and also wanted to teach about Catholic Social Teaching, but did not have the time or personnel for both initiatives. The quandary led them to decide to try a new approach: combining the two efforts. The weekly program started the first week of Advent and will conclude during Holy Week.Typically, RCIA devotes one or two sessions, toward the end of the program, to Catholic Social Teaching. At the Buffalo parish, the RCIA team is integrating CST into each lesson. For example, in the section on “Sin, Reconciliation, and Mercy,” the group will discuss the criminal justice system and capital punishment. In the section on baptism, they will talk about water, the right to clean water, and the local Waterkeeper group. In the section on Genesis and creation, the team will use “Laudato Si’’” as a framework for discussion.The group did an online search but were not able to find other models for this approach. In the Franciscan tradition, they are making the road by walking it.

Fair Trade and Sustainability

► On Dec. 2 and 3, Immaculate Conception Parish held its annual Advent Alternative Gift Fair with 17 exhibitors. Each year, the Advent Alternative Gift Fair provides parishioners with an opportunity to reach out to those on the margins through the agencies represented at the fair – agencies that strive to provide dignity and create a more just distribution of the Earth’s resources. The fair offers beautiful gifts for the holidays that also have a significant impact on someone living in poverty in the U.S. and across the globe. All items sold at the fair are Fair Trade, meaning that the producer or artisan receives a just wage or price for his or her work. Or, customers may make a donation in someone’s honor directly to an organization or ministry in lieu of a material gift. By “alternative” giving, participants can avoid excessive holiday consumption and give a monetary gift to worthwhile organizations in the community and around the world in honor of loved ones and friends.2017 marked the 14th anniversary of Immaculate Conception’s Advent Alternative Gift Fair. Over the last 13 years, the parish contributed more than $210,000 to 40 global and local non-profits.

  • Participants of the gift fair at Immaculate Conception Parish which focused on education with regard to global labor and economic conditions. (Image courtesy of Immaculate Conception Parish)

► In Western New York, the friars from Mt. Irenaeus buy two seasonal shares of Canticle Farm, a local CSA that provides healthy, locally grown food. While the friars enjoy one share, the second is donated to local food pantries and the Warming House, St. Bonaventure University’s student-run soup kitchen, to feed the poor a healthy meal. Canticle Farm organizes this important outreach to the poor in the community. In addition, The Warming House hosts a program called “From Farm to the Table” that brings together friars, the Mountain’s summer companions, and the Warming House’s summer interns to share their experiences of ministry.

► The friars at Holy Name College are working with Catholic Energies to make their building more energy efficient.

This is but a sample of what is going on at HNP ministries and friaries. Information about JPIC issues can be found on the Justice and peace page of the website and news about current events can be found in the Holy Name Province JPIC Facebook group.

The JPIC Office staff welcomes more news from friars and laypeople and remains ready to provide any needed support. Russ Testa, director of the office, can be reached at

— Fran Eskin-Royer is senior staff assistant in the Province’s Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Silver Spring, Md.

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