New Jersey Parish Launches New Website about Environment

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province


POMPTON LAKES, N.J. — Timed with Pope Francis’ visit to the Northeast, just several months after the release of his encyclical on ecology, a group of concerned people in northern New Jersey affiliated with a Franciscan parish launched a website about climate change and the environment. This site helps manifest the group’s mission to educate and to take actions to achieve the world it envisions — sustainability and justice for the earth and its inhabitants., created by members of Advocates for Justice of Pompton Lakes, provides information in three sections — climate change, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and fracking — each with articles, videos, and a cartoon.

The website’s home page features a video called Friars Against Fracking, a 90-second music video featuring Frank Sevola, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Pompton Lakes, as the lead “rapper.”

It is “a good message on fracking made in a modern format,” said Frank. “The video makes it easy to digest. We had a good time making it.”

The video has been shared by friars through social media. It also was announced by a New Jersey radio station, just before the pope’s arrival in the United States last week.

According to the site, addresses “institutions, systems and beliefs that are root causes of harm to our planet. We educate ourselves and others and act to achieve the world we envision.”

The target audience of the website is threefold, according to Jackie Schramm, director of social justice ministry at St. Mary’s Parish, who led the website’s development. “It is aimed at (1) our network, meaning other groups working on these issues, including our local organizations, (2) parishioners and communities, and anyone who knows nothing or next to nothing about these issues but may be interested since they are social issues that affect them, and 3) millennials, which is why we chose the format we did, hoping to entice young people to stay on the page.

“The website is for everyone and anyone, all over the globe,” said Schramm, adding “We have on each page basic information about the issues.” It is categorized geographically, with“local” referring to New Jersey, where the initiative began, as well as national and tri-state, and global.

The developers of the website hope to have the content available in Spanish and other languages. “We will be linking it to the parish website,” said Schramm.

“Jackie put together the whole website, with collaboration between the parish and the Province,” said Frank. “She does excellent work in leading justice and peace for the parish. She brings issues to the fore. Her passion is well-informed. She talks to the right people. She’s a great gift to the parish and to the Province.”

Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, chair of the HNP Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate, encourages friars and their partners-in-ministry to share with colleagues and friends by posting it on Facebook pages, especially those of parishes.  Jacek is credited by the Advocates for Justice of Pompton Lakes with suggesting the idea of making a video about the hazards of fracking.

Schramm has led the social justice ministry of the Pompton Lakes parish for more than 10 years. In 2011, she created a group at the parish called Franciscan Response to Fracking, which evolved into the Advocates for Justice.

Last September, she and others from St. Mary’s Parish joined thousands of advocates for the environment in participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City.

The involvement of St. Mary’s Parish on the issue of fracking has led to a request for a Franciscan voice in video that was being produced by Faith Against Fracking according to Jacek, who provided a link to the video.

Information about Advocates for Justice, who are holding a presentation titled “Highlights and Discussion of Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si'” on Oct. 28, can be obtained from Jackie Schramm at or by calling the St. Mary’s Parish office at 973-835-0374 ext. 191.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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