BY DONNA GRAHAM, OSF
For St. Francis, all of creation was “brother and sister.” He paid special attention to the insects and animals, preaching to the birds, making sure the bees had honey and wine for food in the winter, and picking up worms on the road to keep them from being stepped on. He treated all of creation with great respect and reverence, as he saw God reflected in everything created. So, we would expect a company named Franciscan Media to share these same values.
Sometime in 2010, Franciscan Media (FM) was offered the opportunity to collaborate with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on their St. Francis Day in a Box effort. The box contains books, videos and other materials to help faith communities celebrate pet blessings and other events around the Oct. 4 Feast of St. Francis. This sparked the interest of CEO Dan Kroger, OFM, and the FM staff. They contacted HSUS and offered to provide St. Francis materials for the box the next year, a collaboration Franciscan Media joins forces with the Humane Society Caring for creation that continues today. When HSUS began selling the boxes in 2009, about 300 were purchased. The numbers have grown since then, with sales expected to reach 500 this fall.
2011 saw FM donations of the Catholic Update, “Why We Bless Animals” and the audio book of Murray Bodo’s Francis: The Journey and the Dream, FM was also able to get Paraclete Press, publisher of Jack Wintz’s book, Will I See My Dog in Heaven?, to donate copies for the St. Francis Day boxes. For 2012 FM produced the booklet “Live Simply: Ethical Eating” for inclusion in the boxes and also donated copies of the pamphlet “St. Francis: A Short Biography”.
Thinking outside the box
This collaboration led to Dan being asked to join the Humane Society’s Faith Advisory Council. Dan’scolleagues on the Council include Imam Muhammad Hagmagid Ali, President of the Islamic Society of North America, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, an Episcopal Bishop, professors and others from a variety of faith traditions.
The Council meets quarterly by phone and annually in Washington, D.C. They sponsor regional events and publish materials. One project Dan was involved in was supporting an unsuccessful effort to make cockfighting a felony in Ohio, where it is only a misdemeanor. In cockfights two roosters, often
wearing razor-sharp blades, fight each other to the death while people place bets. Though it is illegal in all 50 states, Ohio is the only Great Lakes state and one of just 10 states overall in which cockfighting is not a felony. Dan wrote letters to state legislators encouraging them to upgrade cockfighting to a felony. In addition to the mistreatment of animals, gambling, drug dealing and illegal gun sales are often connected to cockfighting events. Sadly, people often bring young children to cockfights, teaching them that violence is acceptable and perhaps even enjoyable.
Dan saw the horrors of cockfighting when he was in the Philippines, where it is legal. When he traveled there last August for the 50th Anniversary of Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, he carried with him a letter to Representative Emmanuel Pacquiao of Quezon City, thanking him for his “public disavowal of cockfighting” and asking for his collaboration in discouraging cockfighting in “both our countries.” The letter was signed by both Dan and John Goodwin, Director of Animal Cruelty Policy for HSUS.
Dan also encouraged the Governor of Ohio to support a ban on personal ownership of exotic animals and has written advocacy letters to legislators regarding the Farm Bill, etc.
Still going strong
The collaboration between Franciscan Media and the Humane Society continues today. For the 2013 St. Francis Day in a Box, Franciscan Media will donate copies of their book St. Francis: A Short Biography, an expansion of the earlier pamphlet. And Dan will once again, as he does every year, include a letter from Franciscan Media describing the importance of St. Francis for us today.
“Maybe I will even mention our new pope—and why we at FM value working with the HSUS,” says Dan.
Dan values this collaboration and the opportunity to further the Franciscan message that “all creation is a
revelation of God.” Dan says that our growth in faith “is linked with understanding that the created world is to be loved and cared for... All creation is for the good of all, says Dan. “Francis’ poverty was a way of affirming God’s goodness and our commitment to our brothers and sisters.”
(The 2013 version of St. Francis Day in a Box will be available in August; last year’s price was $15 per unit. To learn more about the effort and see what was included in the 2012 box go to humanesociety)