An Introduction to JPIC

Ted Bienkowski, OFS –

Carolyn D.Townes, OFS —



Contrary to public opinion, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) is not about being a tree hugger or singing Kumbaya.  In our region, of 28 fraternities, there are currently only 15 fraternities which have designated a JPIC animator. Some of the apostolates which these fraternities sponsor include supporting Francis House, serving meals at St. Francis Inn, collecting food for Catholic Charities, prison ministry and clothing the homeless. I also am aware of the fact that some fraternities are reaching out to their own members when natural disaster or personal tragedies arise. Two fraternities are engaged in beach cleaning and have had presentations on environmental issues.

I am aware that formation continues to be a priority along with building up our local fraternities and this is certainly well warranted, but today I want to focus on how JPIC will move forward in St. Katherine Drexel Region. I also want to acknowledge that Pam Stout, my predecessor, has laid a great foundation for this work.

Through your generosity, the Region sent me to the JPIC Confab in July, 2013. There I met people from all over who were involved in JPIC and also folks involved with YOU FRA. I think it was very providential to have the two apostolates meet there together because it underscored a very good point, namely, that our fraternities can no longer be content just with overtly spiritual content at our fraternity meetings when we live in a world that has such huge social injustice, violence and flagrant disregard for our planet.

While we must study the Gospels, the life of Francis and the Rule, we must also bring the headlines, the top stories on the local news and in our communities into discussions at our meetings. And we must start to do this now or we run the risk of becoming the “holy death” society where we focus on our going to heaven alone.  Because if we are going to be graced with younger members, they will want to do something.

And even as we ourselves are aging, we too must continue to do stuff.  Oftentimes, I am asked by new people, “Yes, I see that you all pray at your meetings… but what do you all do?

Now I am not insinuating that we all become social activists but we can no longer hide our heads in the sand either.

Francis was acutely aware of the political turmoil, scandals and injustices in his world and he lived very close to the land. We too must follow him in new endeavors.

Our National Minister, Tom Bello, told us at the Confab that “JPIC is the wholeness of our Rule lived out in action with prayer and contemplation. JPIC is the restoration of right relationship with God, with each other and with all of creation.”

As I previously stated in our regional newsletter, peacemaking and social concerns cannot just be grafted onto us like a patch we sew on a jacket or as a bumper sticker we put on a car. It must be part and parcel of who we are.

As a young person, I was involved in so many “causes” that I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t have true peace. Our fraternities can do real and lasting good if we offer, not only spiritual food for thought but also issues of our times for us and for  the new people we can expect to have now with Pope Francis and the new wind blowing through the church. Expect to welcome new members because they are coming.

Our newly elected national JPIC animator, Carolyn Townes, OFS, prepared a twelve week program, which was disseminated ministers and which was sent to JPIC animators, on how we can start animating peace in our local fraternities. There is a book I know of called Parenting from the Inside Out and peacemaking is kind of like that. We have to start with ourselves and we have to animate peace in our homes, at our work and in our communities and so on.

First, are we a welcoming community? Do we go out and invite people in from different neighborhoods, cultures and classes? Are we fraternities which include the Filipino community, the Asian community, the Afro American and Hispanic community? If we aren’t, why not?

Always starting with prayer and contemplation, always coming from our own lives, we must discern “what is ours to do“ as Francis chided us to do.

Let’s take the issue of violence. Maybe it is not so much that we must protest gun laws but maybe it is that we must develop the heightened sensitivity for the young person who has no friends, who is socially inept or who has an overworked mom or no grandparent. That socially awkward quiet boy may be the next school shooter if there is the right set of circumstances, so practicing social justice might mean just nurturing him.

On a larger scale, within the Tri State area that encompasses our Region, large social concerns are being discussed, like an Assisted Suicide Bill now before the New Jersey Assembly and fracking in PA.

The National Fraternity is hopeful that we will address these issues, hopefully by communicating with office holders, writing letters to the editor and hosting debates.

Because we are small, we also need to join with like minded people in our Franciscan Order, such as the Sisters of St. Francis at Neumann University or those at the diocesan level who head up the Office of Life Issues or Social Justice.

In closing, please designate a JPIC person if your fraternity does not already have one and send me their phone number and email if possible so that we will keep this dialogue going. I would like to start having telephone conferences in the near future.

“Let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing.”