In his inspiring 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urged the faithful to “Hear the cry of the Earth and the Cry of the poor”. His appeal resonated with Columban missionaries who in 1994 said, “in looking at the world and the missionary challenges it presents, we do so from the evangelical standpoint of solidarity with the poor and the exploited Earth.”
In all the countries where Columbans work there is a mission for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC). In Britain, the JPIC mission outreach team comprises Peter Hughes SSC (Coordinator), Ellen Teague (Media), and James Trewby (Education). Focus is on the international Columban priorities of migration, environmental justice, economic justice and peace.
On 2 October last, Columban priests and lay missionaries joined Birmingham’s Archbishop Bernard Longley on a Refugee Walk of Witness. He carried a Lampedusa Cross made from pieces of a refugee boat that was wrecked off the coast of Italy. Walkers carried the words of Pope Francis: “We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, expected and loved.”
The previous week, Columban Fr Aodh O’Halpin and Ellen Teague supported a similar refugee solidarity march in London, calling on the Government to do more to aid refugees ahead of a UN Summit on refugees and migrants. Earlier in the year, Columban Superior General, Fr Kevin O’Neill, joined Columban missionaries for the annual Migrants’ Mass at Westminster Cathedral, celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols which attracted around 2,000 migrants.
Ellen Teague was part of a Columban delegation to the Paris Climate Talks in December 2015, which concluded with an international agreement to tackle global warming. In the first five days of climate negotiations, the fasting, praying, and handing over of multi-signatory petitions impressed negotiators. The Columban delegation felt blessed to have played a role in that, networking with the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
Climate change has been kept in the public eye, with Columbans in the Philippines and Fiji reporting the devastation caused to poor communities after mega-typhoons. Columban JPIC supports the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on 1 September and the Season of Creation - 1 September to 4 October. The Columbans’ announcement on 4 October 2015 that the Society was divesting from fossil fuels was advertised, and also Sean McDonagh’s new book, On Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si.
Columban JPIC has given many Laudato Si’ talks in England and Scotland and promoted a Columban study guide based on the encyclical. Ellen Teague is an assessor for the Livesimply Parish Award, where parishes commit to living simply, sustainably and in solidarity with poor communities in the global south.
Columban JPIC has supported Pax Christi’s peace education work – looking at the issues of refugees and war, the global arms trade, the billions spent annually on war and war preparations. On Ash Wednesday, Columban JPIC attended the annual vigil against nuclear war preparations at London’s Ministry of Defence. In Spring 2015, Ellen Teague chaired training sessions in London on ‘Sowing the Seeds of Peace: Getting across our message on Trident’, focusing on Britain’s plans to upgrade its nuclear weapons system at a cost of at least £100 billion. Columbans support the annual peace service at Westminster Cathedral on 8 August – Nagasaki Day. Also, Columbans showed solidarity in South Korea with Jeju Island residents who have challenged the building of a nuclear naval base at a pristine World Heritage site.
Invitation to Mission
James Trewby regularly runs school retreats and JPIC days in Catholic schools, exploring a faith that calls for action on justice and peace, for example through using an interactive justice and peace themed ‘pic ‘n’ mix prayer stations’. He is involved in a ‘Meet a Missionary’ programme where young people interview missionaries – such as Fr Liam O’Callaghan in Pakistan – over the internet. He has brought youth workers to visit Columban inter-faith ministry in Birmingham.
The ‘Invitation to Mission’ programme has now seen two groups from Britain undertake short exposure visits to see Columban mission to migrants at the US/ Mexico border. First they had preparation weekends, exploring homelessness, mission and migration.
Newsletter marks 30 years
Vocation for Justice is a 12-page magazine sent out three times a year from the JPIC team to around 8,000 readers, and 2016 saw its thirtieth year. It was founded in 1986 by Columbans Ed O’Connell and Mike Kelly. Over the years Vocation for Justice has promoted many campaigns, including Jubilee 2000, Stop Destructive Mining in the Philippines, and Make Poverty History. It is very much appreciated by the National Justice and Peace Network, whose annual conference is supported with workshops, media and by a Columban stall. The July 2017 conference has a Columban as keynote speaker - Fr Peter Hughes, who formerly served as part of the Conference of Latin American Bishops Secretariat, based in Colombia. •
Ellen Teague is a London-based freelance Catholic journalist who is a member of the JPIC team of the Columban Missionary Society in Britain. She edits their newsletter Vocation for Justice. Married with three sons, she is also a member of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales’ (NJPN) Environment Working Group.
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