Just a few years ago, Shamokin and the surrounding Pennsylvania Coal Region seemed to be sinking.
It bore the burden of a shrinking economy and the increasing challenges under-employment brings: businesses closing and people leaving the area; rising levels of drug use and stress-related illness; and a general sense that things might not ever get better.
People saw little reason for hope; but then 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 with various skills started to work together on local initiatives.
People of the region began to see a way forward.
In the middle of it all are the Faith Alliance for Revitalization (FAR) and the Franciscan Friars Conventual who have served the region’s Catholic community for 120 years.
In April 2017, Fr. Martin Kobos OFM Conv. and the Shamokin community of friars who serve at Mother Cabrini and Our Lady of Hope Parishes contacted Friar Michael Lasky OFM Conv., who oversees the Franciscan Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation Ministry in North America.
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 assists the coal region by being a locus for networking and collaboration with faith based groups, community organizations, business owners, government agencies, and institutions of higher education in order to create a sustainable and promising future for the area.