Sister Kristin’s Address to the JPIC Coordinators 

JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) is a ministry that in some respects is still taking shape in the Congregation, but we are seeing signs of continual growth in each unit. It is a work of animation leading to transformation so it is a process that continues to evolve in the life of each individual sister and associate and in the life of the Congregation as a whole. 

The 2016 General Chapter chose as one of its themes for the next six years, JPIC Orientation for Life and Mission . It is this theme that I would like to explore further now. What does it mean to have a JPIC Orientation for life and mission? The key to this question is the word “orientation.” Orientation is something different from generously responding to human need right before us through the corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Orientation has to do with the path we are following because of our values. Orientation is influenced by our attitudes based on our values. 

The path we are following is the “Way” of Jesus, who told us he is, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.” 

I would say we are very good about rising to the occasion and performing charitable works or educating for justice or participating in opportunities to advocate for human rights. We respond to the need before us. Where we are challenged to continue to grow is in nurturing a compassionate attitude of the heart so that we are empathic and non-violent at all times. This is what JPIC orientation for life and mission means. To nurture our hearts and minds so we are sensitive and attuned to the suffering and injustices in our world and in our personal living and working situation. I am empathetic when I am tender, understanding, and loving. I am non-violent when I do not control, manipulate or force.

I must ask myself -Am l an empathic and non-violent person toward the sister sitting next to me? Am I an empathic and non-violent person toward my co-workers, toward my neighbors, toward my fellow parishioners? 

Like Jesus we need to rise above the law and heal on the Sabbath putting human need first. To have a JPIC orientation for life and mission we need to THINK differently and FEEL differently . This conversion to a compassionate attitude of the heart goes far beyond responding to immediate need in a particular situation. This compassionate attitude of the heart means our thoughts, words and actions at all times radiate the values of the reign of God. 

Having a JPIC orientation for life and mission is integrally connected to another 2016 General Chapter theme-Integrated Formation. If we are not an integrated person we will not have a JPIC orientation for life and mission. Our life must be integrated so that we live out of the Gospel values we profess. They must be WHO we are in the very core of our being. Then we will have a JPIC orientation. 

The mission is clear as articulated by Jesus in Luke 4: 187 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” 

When we have a compassionate attitude of the heart we RUN TO the world we do not RUN AWAY from the world. To have a compassionate attitude of heart means that we have allowed God to replace our stony, hardened hearts with hearts of flesh which are empathic, loving and therefore compassionate.

Running toward the world we: 

  • Get our hands dirty 
  • Change plans on the spot 
  • Welcome new opportunities 
  • Walk with others as planetary pilgrims 
  • Listen without judging 
  • Accept what is 
  • Let life happen 
  • Question ourselves 
  • Change our thoughts and opinions because of new insights 
  • See the holy everywhere 
  • Seek out and engage
  • Welcome the stranger
  • Expect to be disturbed 

We can see the signs of those who are RUNNING AWAY from the world in those who have settled into a life that no longer expects to be animated by the Holy Spirit.

Running away, they seek: 

  • The status quo 
  • To be considered “off duty” and retired 
  • Their “Comfort Zone” 
  • What they feel they are entitled to 
  • No surprises 
  • To use their time as they desire 
  • To be served 
  • Not to be questioned 
  • No challenges 
  • Not to see the poor and the needy 

I would propose that moving forward we need to focus on assisting our sisters and associates in fostering a “Compassionate Attitude of Heart” which will orient their “way” of being in the world. It will “color” their world view and the quality of their presence. To have a “Compassionate Attitude of Heart” will necessitate on-going formation in learning what it means to be non-violent in our thoughts, words and actions.

This non-violence stance means we: 

  • Don’t control or manipulate 
  • Don’t force 
  • Don’t judge 
  • Do bring justice and peace into every encounter 
  • Do respect and protect the gift of creation 

A “Compassionate Attitude of Heart” means understanding the vows as radiating values foreign to the culture. For example, understanding poverty as adopting a spirituality of sufficiency, sharing our resources, promoting quality of life over accumulation of possessions, living a life centered in Jesus, engaging with persons who are poor and marginalized.

Understanding chastity as inclusivity in relationships, promoting equality, promoting other’s giftedness, living compassionately.

Understanding obedience as our communal search for the will of God, letting go of control, being able to work collaboratively as a team, focusing on the common good, being open and available for mission, living a discerning life. 

Growing in a “Compassionate Attitude of Heart” will mean downsizing and assuming a more modest profile, letting go of being “Kingdom Builders” and becoming “Messengers of the Reign of God,” following the lead of the Holy Spirit and not just our own plans. All of this presents many topics for on-going formation. 

The best tool to aid in any conversion is experience. It is through experience that we get to know individuals who are poor, who are suffering, who are alienated and misunderstood. It is through experience that we learn to be empathic, to be active listeners, to be truly present to others in their vulnerability and to then reach out to them in compassionate love. Experience changes us so we grow into a “Compassionate Attitude of Heart.” 

We need to assist one another to integrate the values of JPIC into WHO s/he is in the core of his/her being. Then we will be members who not only perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy but who are compassionate and merciful in every aspect of our lives.