October is beginning and ending with a focus on all things Franciscan. The month started with celebrations of St. Francis, the patron saint of peace and the environment, and will conclude with commemorations of the Spirit of Assisi, the 25th anniversary of the 1986 gathering in Assisi of leaders of the world’s major religions.
On Oct. 27, the Province will offer an interfaith prayer service, hosted by Holy Name of Jesus Church on New York City’s Upper West Side. Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, will participate in the 7 p.m. program, “Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace,” which will be followed by a reception. The service will be held in St. Mary of the Angels Chapel at 207 West 96th Street. Information can be obtained through the parish office 212-749-0276, according to Michael Tyson, OFM, who is organizing the event. All are welcome.
Many Holy Name Province ministries are holding Spirit of Assisi commemorations for their local communities.
Last week, on the feast of St. Francis, the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, N.C., held a multi-faith event that included prayers and music. Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge participated, along with representatives of other religious communities in the region.
The service was an “almost exact replica of the service held in Assisi 25 years ago,” said David McBriar, OFM, in a report on the event. “There were readings and songs from various faith traditions. Imam Abdullah Antepli, leader of the Muslim community at Duke University, read Quaranic verses and offered the reflection. Representatives of other faiths then shared commitments to peace among individuals, religions and nations.”
Commemorations Around Province
In upcoming weeks, the following events are planned at HNP ministries:
- St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, N.J., is working through the local community organization Camden Churches Organized for Peace. The group plans to offer prayers at locations where crime has increased as police presence has decreased.
- In Boston, the St. Anthony Shrine community is hosting a prayer service from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 27. It will include three speakers of different faiths; one is Joseph Nangle, OFM, president of the board of trustees of the United States Mission Association.
- At Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., an ecumenical prayer event is planned for Oct. 27 and a Mass for Oct. 30.
- St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., and its neighbor, Holy Name College, will hold a Spirit of Assisi event on Oct. 27 that weaves together peacemaking, care of creation and interfaith dialogue.
- In Durham, N.C., Immaculate Conception Parish has planned an ecumenical prayer service for Oct. 23.
Significance of the Anniversary
The HNP friars of Georgia and South Carolina recently encouraged community members to take the St. Francis Pledge on Climate Change.
Thomas Vigliotta, OFM, of the University of Georgia, and the other friars in the region developed a statement to call attention to the anniversary, noting: “The entire Church has been asked by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate in a very special way the 25th anniversary of the first gathering of the Spirit of Assisi. We are all, hopefully, well aware of the ever-growing consciousness in all religious traditions that respect and peaceful relations must be fostered between people and all creatures as well. We will be strengthened to commit ourselves to concrete action that will allow us to work together to confront the threat to peace and to the environment that we face today.”
It continued: “Like Franciscans worldwide, we strive to continue our Order’s 800-year-old mission, bringing the Gospel into the everyday experience of men and women through our life in fraternity and compassionate service to all. We friars encourage you this October to celebrate our founder’s feast day in a special way. First, by prayerfully considering to take the St. Francis Pledge and second, by remembering and celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Spirit of Assisi.”
“The hope from the Province,” said Russell Testa, director of the HNP Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, “is that the Spirit of Assisi will not be just to ‘remember’ one day, but rather, to use this as an opportunity for the friars and ministries of HNP to commit to a year of ‘civil dialogue’ that enlivens our Franciscan value of reconciliation. The need for increased interfaith dialogue and the fact that 2012 will be an election year make our peacemaking efforts all the more vital.”
The JPIC Directorate and Office have distributed resources to assist in making this intention a reality. Information about Spirit of Assisi commemorations also is available on the website of the Order’s JPIC Office as well as on the Spirit of Assisi blog of the JPIC promoters of the Franciscan family. The September 2011 issue of Contact, newsletter of the Order’s JPIC Office, ended with this thought: “May the spirit of Francis and Clare inspire us to live and proclaim the peace and justice that are the foundation of the message of Jesus.”
Information about the Spirit of Assisi — its significance and its celebrations — can be found under resources on the Justice and Peace of HNP.org.
“The Spirit of Assisi is one of those exciting opportunities that makes me proud to be working with the Franciscans,” said Testa. “It is a reminder of what we are called to, but it does not remain just an ideal; in the best of the Franciscan way, it moves us to action.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.