JPIC News -- August 2014

One of the benefits of this new regional website is the synergy that can be created . I read Mattie Ward’s inspiring words about being how we are taught to hate and I can pick up on that with the thought that there is just so much rhetoric and hostility in our world today. This website ought to not only encourage us to think about things with a more Christ like attitude but also it can stir us out of lethargy and into action as we as Secular Franciscans are called “to be in the forefront of bringing about a more peaceful and evangelical world “. How is it that we are not talking about this more in our fraternities ?

Over the last few weeks, I have heard such vitriol about the immigrant children at our borders. Perhaps because I live in a very diverse community, I have a different view. I also participated in a web chat last week produced by Catholic Relief Services in conjunction with the USCCB. People are looking for someone to blame for this humanitarian crisis. The upshot of the webchat was we can blame ourselves and our fellow Americans who are clamoring for more drugs. This is one of several of the root causes of this crisis. Another tack to take when attacking that problem is working with disenfranchised youth in the Third World who turn to violence. The real work being done at the community level in Central America is giving those young people alternatives to violence and alternative careers away from the drug cartels.

Pope Francis gave his opinion on 10 ways to maintain happiness this week. How on pointe were his words relative to living our Secular Franciscan commitment this month ! He wrote (As reported in the Huffington Post):

  1. Let everyone be themselves. “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” Pope Francis said. “They say: Campa e lascia campà (Live and let live). That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
  2. Give yourself tirelessly to others. “If one gets tired, one runs the risk of being egoistic, and stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
  3. Walk softly. “In ‘Don Segundo Sombra’ there is a very beautiful thing, a man who looks back on his life. He says that in youth he was a rocky stream that carried everything ahead; As an adult, he was a running river, and that in old age, he felt movement, but it was “remansado” [dammed; slowed]. I would use this image of the poet and novelist Ricardo Güiraldes, the last adjective “remansado”. The ability to move with kindness and humility, calmness of life.”
  4. Be available to your kids and family. “Consumerism has led to the anxiety of losing,” the pope said, which has pushed people to spend less time at home and more time pursuing wealth. But Pope Francis said people should invest more time in “healthy leisure”: “It is hard. The parents go to work and come back when the children are asleep. [But] it must be done.”
  5. Spend Sundays (or a day of rest) with family. This connects back to the fourth point — make the intention to set time aside for loved ones, despite the pressures of work.
  6. Work toward empowering young people. The pope discussed the need to find creative ways to help young people secure employment so that they may feel the “dignity of bringing home the bacon.”
  7. Care for the environment. For this Pope Francis echoed his earlier remarks that we must protect God’s “special gift” of Creation.
  8. Move on. Pope Francis encouraged finding ways to more quickly move forward after negative experiences. Forgiveness is key for this, as is having the willingness to let the next moment be better than the last.
  9. Respect others’ opinions. This ties back to the first point. We won’t agree with everyone’s beliefs or lifestyles, but that does not inherently make them any less valid.
  10. Actively strive for peace. “War destroys. And we must cry out for peace. Peace sometimes gives the idea of stillness, but it is never stillness. It is always an active peace. I think that everyone must be committed in the matter of peace, to do everything that they can, what I can do from here. Peace is the language we must speak.”

In the last week, I attended a webinar for the Peoples’ March for Climate Change which is coming up in September . This is a march set to coincide with some action the United Nations is taking on climate change at their next session. Is it possible for the Secular Franciscans in the tri-state area to get folks on a bus to attend this march? Perhaps more realistically, could we deepen awareness of the people in the pew about the many ways that we are pillaging our natural resources and allowing our earth to deteriorate ?

Additionally, I participated in a webchat on the issue of the immigrant children at our borders? Is the National Guard the best way to respond to this humanitarian crisis ? Many talk shows are gunning for someone to blame for this situation. Is Congress at fault for not acting on Immigration Reform? Is President Obama at fault for creating the impression that our borders are open to all ? When the shouting stops, one can seriously reflect on the core issues of this crisis which the webchat brought to light. Namely, that the crisis is not the fault of any of the above persons. Rather, it is the result of our nation craving for the production of more illegal drugs. So perhaps the root of the crisis is our spiritually vapid society which leads so many young people to use drugs.

Another critical root problem was the growing culture of violence flourishing up around the drug traffickers. That so many Central American youth have turned to violence is what the Catholic Relief Organizations are addressing . Boxed out of real opportunities for jobs, these young people resort to drug trafficking and are engaged in recruiting very young children to do their bidding, to be lookouts or to be the ones who deliver the drugs in the community, often having been threatened by these older youths.

So I ask you as a Regional Fraternity : what will it take to bring about a more evangelical and peaceful world ? In the book Franciscan Morning and Evening Prayer, I read these petitions this very evening:

For those who are refugees and immigrants: may they find safety and welcome in wholesome and peaceful places; for children in foster homes and juvenile detention centers, may they find your presence in caring and supportive environments; for those who have been victims of abuse, slavery and drug trafficking , may they find places of safety and hope and learn to trust once more.

The time is now. There is much that we can do. Please consider the following:

  • Support the Peoples’ March for Climate Change in NYC on September 21, 2014. Busses will be departing from Philadelphia for those in our area. If you cannot attend, please obtain and distribute literature on this issue to your bishop and pastor to increase awareness of this movement which will coincide with deliberations on this topic at the United Nations this September. More information is available at the Franciscan Action Network Website.
  • Look for ways to get the word out on the United Nations’ Peace Day also on September 22, 2014. Please see the UN website for more information. Purchase a peace pole for your local church. Put inserts in your church bulletin. Have local churches ring bells for peace. Have a poster contest for a local Catholic school or CCD program on Peacemaking. Organize an ecumenical day of prayer in your community. Read the life story of the Peace Pilgrim from Egg Harbor, New Jersey, who sold all she had and started walking around the United States promoting the cause of peacemaking. Visit the Franciscans International Web site. Pray a Rosary for Peace in September at your fraternity meeting.
  • Plan now to attend the Human Trafficking Symposium at Neumann University on Saturday, October 18 from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, Pa.
  • Pray for peace and for all of the intentions listed above. Fast from lunch on Fridays in solidarity with the worlds’ poor.
    Learn about local bullying prevention programs in your local schools.
  • Welcome the immigrant community to become a part of your fraternity life. Reach out to visiting migrant farm workers. Look for vocations among poor people who live in the inner city or in the less affluent parishes in your diocese.
  • Don’t tolerate racial profiling or unkind remarks about non Christians or racial minorities. Help your fraternity become more racially and ethnically diverse. Have a multicultural meal at your monthly meeting to celebrate this diversity.

In closing, perhaps your brain is brimming over with other even more exciting ways to preach the Gospel and be Franciscan. I have said my piece . Let us hear from you now ! What can you do?

Yours Fraternally,
Kathleen Agosto, OFS, JPIC Animator

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