PEACE BE WITH YOU — The Peace Pole that is located in front of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph location in Hamburg. Photos by Jessie Owen.
HAMBURG — Saint Francis of Assisi, for which Franciscan religious orders are named, is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
The Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph community, located in Hamburg, is seeking to encourage right relationships with creation and all living things, through this year’s annual peace pole prayer service.
The first peace pole was erected in Japan in 1955 by Masahisa Goi, in response to the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then, the Peace Pole Project, the official endeavor of The World Peace Prayer Society, has seen more than 200,000 peace poles planted, worldwide.
“We started the process of getting peace poles planted wherever we minister,” said Sister Ann Lyons, a member of the congregation who is now living in Virginia. “It is part of our Franciscan heritage: being peacemakers. We heard about the campaign to plant peace poles and remind people of their call.”
SISTER LOVE – Sisters Sharon Goodremote and Ann Lyons stand with the peace pole.
The sister explained that the community considers peace to be more than the opposite of war or strife. “It is the idea of a right relationship with all of creation and all individuals,” Lyons said.
Peace poles, which are now located all over the world, including at the Vatican, are “planted” with the stated goal of reminding people to live in peace.
“There are so many things around that remind you of war,” Lyons said. “We feel, as our call is to be peacemakers, that we would start planting these.”
The sister added that poles can be planted by anyone, not just religious organizations.
The four-sided peace poles, which may be obtained through the Peace Pole Project or Peace Pole Makers USA, include the phrase “May peace prevail on Earth” in four different languages of the buyer’s choosing.
The FSSJ peace pole includes the phrase in English; Polish, to reflect the community’s Polish heritage; Hebrew, as a nod to Judaism, the origin of the Christian religion and Arabic, to be inclusive of all major religious faiths.
GOOD REMINDER — This peace pole is visible to all visitors to the FSSJ.
Sister Sharon Goodremote explained that the concept of “planting” a pole stemmed from the idea that, while the pole does not grow, the planters hope that peace will.
The FSSJ’s pole was originally planted at the first mother house in Hamburg and was relocated to the community’s current location in July 2010. The community has planted other poles at schools in Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and New York City and at Immaculata Academy; Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus and Most Precious Blood School in Angola.
“Our community is very strong about caring for creation,” Lyons said. “We want to treat everything with respect and dignity. Creation is God’s gift to us.”
The FSSJ community lives inside a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building, meaning that the facility has met criteria set by the United States Green Building Council. In addition to living up to the congregation’s stated goal of being peaceful with all of creation, the building’s design, operation and construction also reflected the LEED criteria.
This includes an emphasis on water and energy efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, stewardship of resources and the building site and improved indoor environmental quality.
The FSSJ received LEED for Homes Platinum certification, the highest level awarded. “That really ties in with our creation theme,” Goodremote said. “We want to be a place of welcoming and peace for the people of Hamburg.”
To remind themselves and the community about their obligation to creation and Saint Francis’ dedication to peaceful living with all things, the members of FSSJ host an annual, public peace pole prayer service.
While the event has traditionally been held in the summer, this year’s will take place on Sept. 17, in a stated effort of making it more accessible to all. “We want to spread the word of peace,” Lyons said.
“We are asking people to pray and work for peace,” Goodremote said, “and have peace in their hearts.”
Sept. 17 is also a feast day of Saint Francis.
Lyons said that the annual services always carry a different theme. This year, the Hamburg congregation will focus on right relationships with creation.
“This is a call to all believers,” Goodremote said. “In various faiths, the call is the same. All people are looking for the same thing.”
Goodremote explained that this formal prayer service is open to people of all religions. “It will have a lot of references to Saint Francis,” Lyons said. “He is known by people of all faiths.”
The service is planned to take place outside, by the peace pole. In case of inclement weather, it will be moved into the chapel. Refreshments and tours of the house will follow the service.
Goodremote said that, while close to 50 sisters live in the Hamburg house, due to medical restrictions and work and volunteer assignments, approximately 25 will attend the peace pole prayer service. The community may also attend, free of charge.
The sister added that reservations are helpful, but are not required.
The peace pole prayer service will be held at 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 17. The Immaculate Conception Convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph is located at 5229 South Park Ave. in Hamburg.
To make reservations for the prayer service, contact Goodremote at 649-1205 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the World Peace Prayer Society, visit www.worldpeace.org
. For more information about the Peace Pole Makers USA, visit www.peacepoles.com