ROME — Friars in formation in Indonesia are working side-by-side with local farmers to help them learn eco-friendly farming. At the same time, the program is attracting more men to the a vocation as Friars Minor.
While Franciscan Provinces in the United States are mindful that their ranks are dwindling, the OFM vocation is growing in the Province of Indonesia. Young men are being exposed to the Order by friars in formation working with local farmers in an organic program.
The March 2009 issue of Contact, a newsletter of the OFM International Council for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office in Rome, reports that the Province of Indonesia now has two formation houses for postulants, in Pagal, Flores, and Jogya, Central Java.
Formation programs at these houses are done contextually, according to the newsletter, which means that the men in formation work with the local people, mostly farmers, in an Ecopastoral Program that integrates care of creation with organic agriculture.
The number of farmers in the Ecopastoral Program is increasing and new groups have been formed in several regions around Manggarai, Flores. The farmers’ children and other young men are attracted to the Minor Seminary, as they see the spirit of St. Francis at work on the farms.
In addition to the farming program, the JPIC Office is helping the Indonesian people defend their lands against mining corporations, and is inspiring other religious groups to become involved.
“This kind of involvement and concern has been a way of promoting Franciscan values among the people, which, in turn, has inspired the young people to commit themselves as followers of St. Francis in the Franciscan Order,” wrote Peter Aman, OFM, in Contact. “It seems that our work and concern for JPIC values is also an effective way to promote vocations.”
JPIC News Around the World
The following reports have been condensed from the February and March issues of Contact.
The parish of St. Peter Baptist on the outskirts of Madrid is witnessing an influx of immigrants from Northern Africa, Ecuador and Bolivia. “All of them helping to paint a different face in our neighborhood and parish community,” wrote Victor Manual Alcalde, OFM, in Contact.
The remedial classes that the parish started in 2002 are popular in teaching immigrants communication skills and ways to integrate into the community. Today, the classes focus mostly on problems of young families, including non-compliance with school attendance, academic failure, lack of job security, discrimination towards women, family instability, and low self-esteem, according to Br. Victor.
“We seek to provide activities (dance, English and Arabic classes, computer class, remedial classes for school, etc.) and leisure gatherings like parties or trips for young people of all races, nationalities and religions. These activities include families from both the parish and from the larger community, thus encouraging interaction between them so that it appears that there is truly only one group.”
The JPIC office of the Franciscan Province of San Pedro Bautista and the local diocese are opposing legislation to approve a nuclear power plant in Bataan. The province says that the risks of nuclear power outweigh any positive effect.
The Province of Austria is raising awareness for energy conservation and has several green projects underway.
One of the projects assures that friary reconstructions or renovations are eco-friendly. The province looks for alternatives that will help conserve energy without compromising comfort, according to Severin Mayerhofer, OFM, and has installed solar panels on the roofs of some friaries. Solar energy has reduced costs by as much as one-third, according to Fr. Severin.
The province is frustrated, however, by the government’s refusal to allow solar panels on the roofs of some of the oldest and largest friaries, and it is addressing this issue by working with the University of Graz, the government and a technology center on a solution.
For the first time in the Irish Province, the novitiate program will include an emphasis on peace and integrity of creation in scripture in Franciscan spirituality and tradition. The program will also focus on JPIC methodology.
The JPIC Committee in Japan is now up to six members. The group produced eco-bags to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Order. The committee will also hold an exchange meeting this year with the JPIC Committee of the Korean Province to discuss Japan-Korea peace issues.
About 80 bishops and representatives of more than 170 Catholic groups have requested that the United Nations Convention on Climate Change reflect the needs of the poor in developing countries.
The United Nations held a conference on its Climate Change Convention in Poznan, Poland, last December to launch a world-wide campaign demanding urgent action on climate change.
The Catholic campaign is being led by Caritas Internationalis, and by CIDSE, a Catholic alliance of development organizations. The campaign will ask Catholics to pressure their governments to negotiate a socially just climate agreement after 2012, to include guaranteed and sufficient support from industrialized countries to help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change. It should also include a commitment to reduce gas emissions, which create the green-house effect, by at least 30 to 40 percent.
2009 Fairtrade Lenten Campaign
The JPIC Commission and JPIC Economic Justice Working Group call on others to consider the purchase of Fairtrade products during Lent 2009 as a concrete expression of solidarity.
— Compiled by Wendy Healy