CINCINNATI–Unification is not an easy task. That’s what animators from six U.S. provinces discovered when they gathered here Sept. 11-12 to begin the process of forming a national office for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation.
Their goal: “Bringing together the diversity of JPIC in the different provinces into a new, cohesive shared model,” according to Mr. Russell Testa, Holy Name Province animator and chair of the US–6 group. Hosted by Friar Scott Obrecht OFM, JPIC animator for St. John the Baptist Province, representatives met at historic St. Anthony Friary and National Shrine. Reflecting the geographic range of their provinces, participants came from California, New Mexico, New York, Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.
Each province “does JPIC” in its own particular way, with issues and priorities differing based on location, culture, budgets, personnel and staff support. After much discussion and rewriting of scenarios, animators developed the model for an office that would focus on four main areas of education and service to friars in the new U.S. province:
- Organize friars in different regions/organize retreats
- Provide JPIC spirituality and skills training
- Establish policy and analysis connections (this will help local ministries connect with the best possible local, regional, state, national and global partners)
- Maintain our Franciscan values as we evaluate current JPIC ministries and decide which ones to take on in the future.
A timetable and proposed process leading up to a final proposal will be sent to the US–6 provincials for their input. Then, it’s back to the drawing board.
Besides creating a model for this new national JPIC Office, animators spent a significant amount of time drafting a document that will be sent to the Secretaries of Formation of the US–6. They consider it crucial to integrate JPIC into all of formation, especially initial formation. This is a critical time to weave Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation not just into the curriculum but into our lives as friars.
Friar Jud Weiksnar OFM of Holy Name Province, the “mover and shaker” in researching and writing the document, is passionate about this issue. “This is an effort to create the possibility that all of our friars will find some area of JPIC that they are deeply interested in, and they can work together with the people they minister with and the people we serve in our ministries,” Jud said.
Immigration is an area of concern to all the provinces in the U.S. as they attempt to find ways to serve the needs of immigrants and refugees. Animators are exploring the establishment of “Sanctuary Houses” and the idea of convening an “Immigration Convocation”. Discussions at the JPIC meeting reflected the interests and passions of each friar. Larry Janezik of Sacred Heart Province has been involved with immigration for a number of years. Reflecting on his ministry he said, “Advocacy is an important part of JPIC work and ministry. It is not centered on Washington, D.C., but [also means] working on issues at a local level.”
While they were in Cincinnati, the JPIC animators took an evening off to tour the city and experience the local cuisine. Cincinnati is famous for its Greek-inspired Skyline Chili and family-owned Graeter’s ice cream. A meal of “Five-Way Chili” (spaghetti, chili, cheese, beans, and onions) was followed by a dessert of Graeter’s ice cream with huge chunks of chocolate. It was the perfect ending to the first day of discussion, deliberation and decisions.
As JPIC animators discovered, there are many factors to consider in creating a national office. Each province has its own “personality,” has different ways of doing things and in many cases works with people of different cultures. Specific justice issues are important in each region. There will be a lot of “letting go” as this new office is created. What will guide this new entity? What will give it direction? What will be the final product that the JPIC animators and their provincial ministers create?
Friar Mark Schroeder OFM from St. Barbara Province is also the JPIC Animator for Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Having worked with people from many different cultures, he knows that bringing them together is much like bringing together friars from different provinces. What will hold this new structure, this new national JPIC Office, this new province, together?
“All friars follow the Gospel,” Mark said. “If we follow the Gospel then we will be culturally sensitive. JPIC work is always about the ‘Anawim’, the less important, ‘the poor and lowly ones.’ We have a preferential option [for] the poor in our society, and that should be our priority.” So let the Gospel lead us.
Friar Jim Gannon OFM of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province is the provincial liaison to the ESC-JPIC Animators. He participated in the Cincinnati meeting at various times via telephone conference. Jim had planned to drive to Cincinnati from Milwaukee but was unable to attend because of a change in his schedule.
It seems that the remains of nine friars were being transferred from Sybertsville, Pa., to Beaver Meadows, Pa., to be reinterred. As provincial minister for ABVM, Jim had to be there. Cell phone in hand, overseeing this moving of bodies at the cemetery, he joined in the conversation of the JPIC animators.
They were very grateful to Jim for taking tthe ime to fit them into his schedule as he was busy “caring for creation.”