Starting the Conversation

Starting the Conversation

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.

Father Ed Costello was interviewed about his memories of the coal mining region as part of a joint venture between the friars of Mother Cabrini Friary in Shamokin and Professor Katie Faull's Studies in Autobiography course at Bucknell University. The Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment manages the Coal Region Field Station through the Place Studies program and supports, facilitates and promotes such collaborative projects in Shamokin and the surrounding areas. (See video below.)

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.

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.