| Franciscan Ministries in Jamaica
By Christine Tenn OSF
Originally published in
Franciscan Ministries is organized by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany at Immaculate (Conception) in Jamaica, with Sister Grace Yap as the creative and vibrant director. It is dedicated to serving in the inner city of Kingston, as well as in rural Jamaica. Since its inception in 1994, the Sisters have worked with volunteers from Jamaica and overseas on youth development, healthcare, peace and justice building, and other outreach initiatives.
The mission of Franciscan Ministries is to serve the poor, broken, and marginalized, while caring for the environment and providing justice and peace through community development. The vision is to empower individuals and communities to become self-reliant.
Current projects include construction of shelters, sponsorship of more than 200 children in schools, and dental and medical care, including surgery by doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital in the parish of St. Andrew. Its youth division seeks to nurture leadership among its members and to operate an organic farm of 61 acres. The Porziuncola Farm in Braes River, St. Elizabeth, has been leased for "peppercorn rent", common parlance for a very low or nominal rent, from a generous benefactor and the produce from this venture is used to feed those in need.
Franciscan Ministries has been working in Braes River for the past three years. Recently the community there decided to form an association, the Braes River Community Development Association. Franciscan Ministries makes arrangements for the poor in need of housing to receive shelter through volunteer contributions. Volunteers from the United States and Canada purchase materials needed and construct primarily 12' x 12' wooden houses.
"Come Meet a Jamaican Village" is a program focused on creating jobs and improving the district of Braes River, attracting both overseas and local visitors to participate in the festive events of the community.
Sr. Grace took a group of us to the Porziuncola Farm. I can't claim that we explored all the 61 acres, but we walked a little of it and observed the progress of the cultivation of vegetables and other produce. Best of all, we experienced the gracious hospitality of the people at the Farm. The Farm does not have electricity, but through the ingenuity and initiative of the wonderful group of young people, a small generator was brought in for the occasion, and Christmas lights were strung up and music provided for a festive celebration. Just about everybody from the neighborhood was present, especially children. A few tables and chairs were set up in the yard and the meal of fish, bammy (cassava flat bread) and sorrel (a traditional Jamaican Christmas drink made from the sorrel flower) was most delicious!
The farm has a big challenge ahead, and a long road to travel, but with God's help, the perseverance of the young people, their mentors, and the generous assistance of others, the Porziuncola Farm will be a success.