Wayne Woman Dedicates Life To Gratitude And Justice

Wayne Woman Dedicates Life To Gratitude And Justice

Wayne Woman Dedicates Life To Gratitude And Justice

By Steve Sears

Jackie Schramm, recently resigned director of the Social Justice Ministry at Saint Mary’s Parish of Pompton Lakes, says she believes that charity is honorable, but justice goes a little bit deeper.

Schramm acted as director from Jan. 3, 2013 to Sept. 26 of this year.

“Justice requires asking questions such as: ‘Why are they poor?’” she says. “Or, ‘Why don’t women get equal pay for equal work?’ Or, ‘Why are we polluting our own waters and air with a fracking process when it is being shipped for foreign consumption? Or, ‘Why not develop renewable energy sources which can also create many more sustainable jobs?’”

These thoughts about justice pose some good questions and it is a topic she has not only been speaking to but serving throughout her life.

In explanation for her resignation from St. Mary’s, Schramm states, “I resigned from my position because St. Mary’s did away with my budget in June and planned to reduce the position to part time or volunteer.  It was restricting greatly what our ministry was able to do.  For the past year I was no longer able to carry on the ministry as how it was set up to be, and what it had evolved into.”

Schramm explains that her position initially came about when her parish’s volunteer Justice and Peace Committee sought from Pastor Fr. Kevin Downey to have a full time Social Justice staff person, “He responded by asking me to create this ministry.”

For Schramm and her team, it was worthwhile activity.

“For nine years, (2003-2011) we offered a 30- week JustFaith program each year for social justice faith formation and graduated 187 persons, many from outside the parish.  This program was perfect because it exposed participants to many justice issues by way of books, videos and most importantly face to face encounters with people on the other side of the tracks so to speak, inmates, addicts, and the poorest of the poor.  JustFaith taught about catholic social teachings, issues such as Peace, Care for Creation, Solidarity and the Rights of Workers.  Tools of analysis were presented which leads to conscientization or raising awareness.   The fundamental premise is the fact that social justice is not charity,” states Schramm.

Schramm continues, “Being a small parish ministry, we utilize whatever is the best, most efficient way to organize for the issues we wish to change.”

Schramm has been married for 37 years to Jev Honculada, whom she met and wed while living in the Philippines.  They have two married daughters, Jehda Honculada and Jessica Honculada.

The Philippines are a big part of Schramm’s life.  She elaborates on her time there: “I went to the Philippines as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in 1978 on a three and a half year contract.   Many of my beliefs and my worldview were turned on their head because of what I witnessed as an American living in a brutal dictatorship.  I learned about the complexity of politics, national security, and why and how countries are kept underdeveloped at the benefit of developed countries.   After my Maryknoll contract, I continued to live there for eight and a half more years as a development worker.  I was able to get a master’s in community organizing at the University of the Philippines where I explored the concepts I had experienced and witnessed.  I am grateful for such a privileged experience in my 20’s and early 30’s. It was formational for me. There is no peace without justice.”

As Schramm explains, there is no charity without justice.

“Charity are acts that only needs one person, need not be premeditated, does not offend anyone, rather is encouraged and praised and rewarded,” she says. “Charity does not need research or preparation, it can be reflexive.  While it is important because of the injustices in the world, it does not change those structures of injustice or upset those in power.  In fact, charity ensures that the status quo remains the same.   It keeps things from reaching a boiling point for a while, sometimes masking the inequality or intensity of what is really happening. To the contrary, the purpose of justice is precisely to expose and change the status quo where unjust structures or inequities exist, through education, advocacy and action.”

Some of examples of education on this topic, Schramm notes, would be reading, research, study, speaker forums, debates, workshops, presentations and actions passed on that education, such as rallies, protests, marches, and reforms, referendums, resolutions, ordinances, laws and bills.

“To those who wish to keep things as they are, it can be seen as controversial, and threatening to those in power,” says Schramm.  “The common retort from those who wish to silence us is ‘you are being too political.’”

Her opinion of service and gratitude changed after she lived in the Philippines. Reminiscing on her time Schramm says, “Before going to the Philippines, I believed I would be helping the Filipino people,” she says.  “But shortly after arriving there, I saw that they did not need my help, and that attitude is patronizing and paternalistic.  Who am I to help them?  It would just keep them in an inferior position and relationship.  It was I who needed help to understand their situation and be liberated from my limiting beliefs.  They were very capable to wage the revolution against a dictatorship themselves once they analyzed the situation and saw the roots of their oppression.  I joined in solidarity and witnessed their situation and walked with them on their journey to liberation, which also liberated me from many false beliefs and worldviews.  They were my teachers in many ways.  We helped each other in this regard.   Solidarity is a prominent catholic social teaching theme.

“Curiosity, asking questions, seeking the truth through first-hand experience, is what drives me to the places and experiences I have undertaken,” she continues. “It requires reflection, self-reflection, dialogue, action, empowering myself and others to the knowledge that we can make a difference, and gathering the courage together to work for the changes we believe in.  Many people do not really believe they have any power or can make any change.  They become apathetic, complacent or afraid to go out of their comfort zone.”

Schramm continues, “If the Filipino people had been the same way they would never have ousted President Marcos,” she says.  “Unfortunately, people don’t usually move to social justice action until their back is up against the wall personally in a crisis.”

Schramm reflects on all the she accomplished since 2003.

“We worked on many issues over the past 16 years,” she says. “Over the past four years, we gravitated mainly to environmental issues because of mandates both from our Franciscan Holy Name Province (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate) and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home about climate change and inequality.   It took many years to develop relationships with other groups and organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club and 350.org.

“One group we formed is called Franciscan Response to Fracking although we are changing the name because we do much more than opposing fracking,” she says.  “We oppose the fracked gas pipelines and polluting gas power plants, fracked waste, and oil trains. We also work on climate change issues and have worked on the GMO issue in the past.”

Advocates for Justice evolved from a group that had been known up until 2012 as People of Peace.  This improvement on the group has a focus on education work within and outside the parish, visiting other parishes and venues. For seven years People of Peace had, “dealt with peace issues, such as inter-religious dialogue, civil dialogue, immigration, asylum seekers and refugees,” explains Schramm. “It broadened its scope beyond peace issues in 2012 and became known as Advocates for Justice.”

A third program had its genesis in 2010, known as JustFaith 202 and is geared towards graduates of the parish’s JustFaith programs.  This group is offered to parishioners “who wanted to explore a distinct social justice spirituality,” says Schramm.

Schramm is grateful for her time at Saint Mary’s.

“I feel gratitude because I listen to an inner voice and when it is clear, I embark many times on a road less traveled,” she says. “It has afforded me the opportunity to grow in ways I would not otherwise have grown. I am grateful for St. Mary’s which has been one vehicle.  So, have all my previous study and work places. Having beginner’s mind, I believe I am always at the beginning and I am excited for my continuing journey.”


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