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Together we can do so much more

With the world a flame in political and religious struggles, the Sisters of St. Francis are even more determined to "stay in the fire."

"When it gets tough we tend to get out of the fire, out of the dialogue," said Sister Marlys Jax, a Rochester Franciscan. "It's important to stay in the dialogue and collaborate together."

In March, during a first-of-its-kind community meeting, the Sisters asked Rochester residents to share their perceived needs and ideas of how the Sisters might be partners in addressing these needs. The input was the impetus for the "Staying in the Fire" theme of a week-long meeting held in June at which the Rochester Franciscans set their focus for the next six years.

Out of those meetings came three major initiatives — preventing oppression of women, fostering inter-religious dialogue and non-violent efforts for peace and justice.

Increased awareness about human trafficking and news of recent prostitution arrests in Rochester, elevated the need to prevent the oppression of women, they said. Along those lines, several Sisters are available to make presentations at local organizations regarding human trafficking. The Sisters are also working on partnering with the police and Mission 21, a local church group focused on human trafficking, Jax said.

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The need to foster inter-religious dialogue has also been a hot issue recently.

"What happened in Norway is unconscionable," Jax said. "People in our own community don't understand we all worship the same God; we just come by different names."

On Oct. 2, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace, when religious leaders of all faith traditions came together in Assisi, Italy, to pray for peace, the Rochester Franciscans are hosting a free community celebration with people of all faith traditions called "Journey of Peace: Widen the Space of Our Tents."

"Like they did in Assisi, Italy, we in little Assisi Heights are wishing to unite," said Sister Tierney Trueman, president of the Sisters of St. Francis. "Together we can do so much more."

The Sisters are also continuing their work toward peace and justice.

"We do believe in getting out of the war effort," Jax said. "That would free up more money that could be spent for education, health care and all the kinds of things they're bickering about in Washington."

Four Rochester Franciscan Sisters will also make the annual trip to Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., to proclaim their support of closing the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of Americas. This military base serves as a training facility for special forces from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, once trained, they often turn against their own people.

During her work in Colombia over 31 years, Trueman heard first-hand about the torture and intimidation used by the paramilitary soldiers who'd been trained in the United States, including decapitating a 15-year-old boy in front of his mother because he would not join them, she said.

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"I know the task is great," Jax said, "But I believe the mission is possible."

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