Is “JPIC” a Four-Letter Word?! (pt. 2)

From September 24 -26, 2010, I was privileged to attend the third nationwide presentation of the “Ours To Do!” conference.  This particular one was held in Chicago, Illinois.  The event was hosted and presented by Monica Herald and Russ Testa, two superb individuals, and staff at the Franciscan Action Network (FAN).  It was attended by about twenty representatives from various parts of the United States, and representing all three orders of the Franciscan “family.”

Our conference took place at the “Cenacle Retreat Center” in the heart of Chicago proper, and just a few blocks from Wrigley Stadium and the Lake Michigan waterfront.  It was a beautiful day, and a quiet 5 to 6 hour drive from my home in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO.  I took the opportunity of my rarely obtained “alone time” (I have four energetic teenage boys and a beautiful wife, 2 dogs, and 2 cats at home) for an opportunity to listen to many of my “religious” DVD’s while driving through the Illinois Countryside: an enjoyable mini-retreat for me I must say.   Even though I grew up in the shadows of the tall buildings of the downtown and inner-city of St. Louis, I was amazed at the size of the buildings in Chicago, how close these buildings were to each other, and the amount of car and pedestrian traffic in the city of Chicago itself.  I also was impressed with the splendor of the streets and the hospitable interactions of all the various ethnic races of people; a true “melting pot.”

Over the two and half days, FAN presented five workshops on various aspects of influencing change in society.  Can you believe we even had a homework assignment?!  I am only going to highlight the areas we covered in this article since I plan to get more in-depth in future papers that I plan to publish on my blog and Facebook page.

Areas covered included:

  • Franciscan Values
  • Stages of Social Movements
  • The Dynamics of Non-Violent Social Action
  • Applications of Social Movement Theory
  • “Franciscanizing” the Model of Social Movement
  • The Philosophy of Power
  • Advocacy
  • Actions and Tactics
  • How to Influence Congress on the Federal Level
  • Grassroots Organizing
  • Inviting New Members to a Social Movement, and finally,
  • Prioritizing, Organizing, and Communicating the Process of Social Change and Movements

As Franciscans, we are dedicated and charged to care for all of God’s creation without any prejudice.  We see all creatures as brothers and sisters.  And, we need to emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature.

Life is sacred, and we are dedicated to encourage and advance a consistent ethic of life, as all life is a gift of our glorious heavenly Father.  I see Franciscans as striving to witness to a true and genuine love and respect for all, and especially for the poor and vulnerable among us.  We are “heralds” of peace and reconciliation as St. Francis and St. Clare demonstrated so well, 800 years ago.

All three of our “Franciscan Order’s” vision and rules stress a correct relationship of justice for everyone.  We are to be transformational, demanding a continuous change and conversion, and following in the footsteps and example of Saints Francis and Clare.  Finally, we as Franciscans are called not only to change ourselves but also to be agents of change in the larger community: the people around us, and the world as a whole!

Franciscan Social Movements have consistently been proven to be powerful, and centered on “the whole of society.”  Social movements must focus on winning over the “ordinary” citizens and NOT necessarily the “power-holders” of society.  We are the “little ones” of Christ.  We are to be integrated into the lives of the marginalized.  We are for and with the people, and should have no aspirations towards “power” in itself.

I am going to throw a new word at most of you reading this paper: “paradigm.”  Paradigm has nothing to do with two coins totaling twenty cents in your pocket.  Paradigm is a business oriented word meaning “a pattern or model – a typical or stereotypical example.”  “It always has been done this way” is the mantra for the classic paradigm in business and group dynamics.

Changing the paradigm of a group (called a paradigm shift) is usually a long-term process.  The social movement to change or “shift” the paradigm – the way people think, or the “traditional” way of doing something – should never be a “publicity event.”  Our focus should be on others in need, and not on ourselves.  Involvement in any social movement, for us as Franciscans, MUST always be nonviolent as well.

So how do we start a social movement involving Justice,  Peace and Integrity of God’s Creation (JPIC)? First, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!  Listen to God in your heart and soul, and not with your brain at this time.  Let the Holy Spirit work in and through you to set the tone of your advocacy.  Then learn as much as possible about the issue you wish to change and any previous attempts to “shift the paradigm:” to change the process in the past.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses; who your audience is; and who involved agrees, disagrees, and is neutral to your vision and mission. Create your plan and then act on the plan realizing that it has to be somewhat fluid; subject to changes as it rolls out.  Advocate your position, reasons, and need for the change.  Be prepared for others to argue another position.  Homework, homework, homework; it never stops!
In getting the message across: “Keep It Short and Simple” (the KISS principle).  You should be able to describe your vision in one breath: one or two sentences.  Have no more than three “points” or areas of focus to your plan.  For each of these points, have a personal story (it can be someone else’s); a monetary or statistical number to confirm the point; and a Scripture or philosophical quote to go along with that point.  By gathering and preparing this information, you should be able to address any audiences’ needs and wants, thus bringing them into the fold and advancing your cause.

Remember that people have preconceived ideas, and that certain words and phrases instantly turn people off, and makes them immediately defensive.  Words (and body language) are powerful, and can put up massive walls between you and the audience you are trying to draw into your fold of change.  Justice and Peace advocacy is definitely a political activity, as all of life is, unfortunately.  We, as Franciscans are political, but we MUST ALWAYS be non-partisan in our message and vision!  Do not “slam” the opposing parties or beliefs.  Always look for the commonalities, and then build on those.  I believe it is easier to “chip away” at a large block of granite, than trying to break it down with one massive blow of a sledge hammer.  The same is true with the “walls” built around those who are being defensive.  A paradigm shift is usually nothing more than the sum of “little victories” at the individual levels.

Justice and Peace always have been part of our Catholic heritage.  From Holy Scripture, I present three of many, many verses referring to our need to participate in Justice and Peace issues:

2Sam8:15, “David reigned over all Israel; and David executed justice and righteousness unto all his people.

Psalm 106:3, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!

From the Beatitudes: (Verse 5) “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill….”  (Verse 8) “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God….

 

I wish to end this dissertation with a prayer I have grown to love, and one I recite and meditate on each morning.  This prayer may not have been specifically written by St. Francis, but he definitely “lived” it:

“St. Francis’ Peace Prayer”

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope

where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.”

Bio:
Dan Halley is a retired paramedic and member of the “Our Lady of Angel Fraternity” of the “St. Clare Region.”  He writes a twice-weekly reflection blog, usually on each Wednesday and Sunday.  Please read his blog at http://sfodan.wordpress.com.  He is presently working on a book of reflections for the “new” Mass which was recently approved, and Catholics will start using with the 2011 Advent season.

 

The Franciscan Action Network staff graciously thanks Dan Halley for his contribution to our blog.

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