Just a few years ago, Shamokin and the surrounding Pennsylvania Coal Region seemed to be sinking.

  • Coal mines closed and textile factories shuttered.
  • A shrinking economy led to other businesses closing their doors.
  • Under-employed people left the area.
  • Levels of drug use rose and stress-related illness inflicted the community.
  • The main income source became federal and state assistance programs.

There was a sense that things might never get better. Most people saw little reason for hope. Young people fled.

But good things began to happen. Cooperation began between local, state, and federal government entities. Meetings were organized for community input. Residents of different ages and various skill sets started to work together on local initiatives.

Once the process begins, JPIC commitment is infectious. The enthusiasm and creative Franciscan spirit of the community can be seen in this short introductory video.
In the middle of it all are the local Faith Alliance for Revitalization (FAR) and the Franciscan Center, staffed by Friars who continue the service to the community their brothers began in Shamokin 120 years ago.

Many people were inspired by the commitment of the Franciscans, seeing that instead of abandoning them, the Friars were willing to organize meetings, contribute ideas and expertise, and (literally) get their hands dirty. Student-friars came to town and while knocking down walls helping to renovate a building, cemented a spirit of trust with the people.

Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Ministry is not just something other Franciscans are doing somewhere else. The budding transformation of Shamokin, with Friars working shoulder to shoulder with their sisters and brothers in the community, shows the possibilities for creative, life-transforming ministry across the Conventual Franciscan Federation.
"In the coal region, for quite a long time, coal was king. The coal industry drove the employment and economics of the region. After coal peaked in 1950s, a gradual decline began that had a tremendous fallout effect on the region. It disrupted the ability to earn an income and support a family…

With the urging of Pope Francis and a broader vision of Church,
the Friars here made a decision:

where there is despair we would try to bring a spark of Hope."

Friar Martin Kobos OFM Conv.
Together, the friars envisioned an opportunity to build a collaborative partnership in the City of Shamokin. A significant part of their motivation was a response to the call for action by Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Sí:

to advance the care for our common home and the poor.

The Franciscan Center became a locus for networking and collaboration between faith based groups, community organizations, business owners, government agencies, and institutions of higher education. It was a first, bold step in creating a promising and sustainable and future for Shamokin.
Everyone understood the challenge, but what were the next steps?

What could clarify the vision of a new life for the people of Shamokin?

How did that vision begin to become reality?

Please watch for the next installments of A Spark of Hope in Shamokin.
Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation