The idea and direction for a social justice office at the Sisters of Providence can be traced back to Catholic social teachings.
The Sisters of Providence responded by initiating a Social Justice Awareness Committee in the late 1980s to react to the needs of the Church and the needs of the times. The Justice and Peace Office was created in 1990 out of that committee, with Sr. Shirley Morris as the first Director.
In her history, Sr. Pauline Lally explains the reasons for founding the Office:
The growing complexity of social issues and the rapid changes
in economic and political structures have necessitated our
looking beyond …charitable service, where we have always
tried to be mindful of the needs of the poor, to….challenge
unjust structures and policies.
When Premier Mike Harris came to power in Ontario in 1995, the Justice and Peace Office networked with other local groups, agencies, concerned individuals, and churches to address Harris’ many cuts to services that hurt the poor and other marginalized groups.
One response was the Justice and Peace Office Silent Vigil beginning in 1995 and continuing for 20 years until 2015. The Office made the decision to remain silent when it stood in front of City Hall – the most prominent symbol of government in Kingston – to emphasize the peaceful nature of their protest and to be in “non-violent solidarity/ with those affected/by government and corporations,/that put profits before human kind/and indeed before all Creation” (Vigil pamphlet).
Sister Pauline followed Sr. Shirley as Director and became co-Director of the Office with Jamie Swift when he was hired in 2003. Tara Kainer was hired in 2006 to focus on justice issues relating to poverty and inequality, while Bridget Doherty joined the Office in 2009 to specifically work on energy poverty, the environment, and ecology. And that’s when the Justice and Peace Office became the Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office, or JPIC. With matters relating to climate change becoming increasingly urgent, Jeremy Milloy was hired in 2020 to address integrity of creation issues full-time.
- Community Harvest Market
Community Harvest Kingston works with many community partners to create gardens, operate the Community Harvest Market and offer seasonal cooking programs.
- Prison farms
We supported prison farms because they made sense to us: putting inmates in contact with living beings, giving them responsibility for the wellbeing of animals, their needs and their products. It was a way of being connected.
- Friday silent vigil
For almost 20 years, Sisters of Providence, along with other Kingstonians, have held a silent vigil every Friday noon in front of City Hall. It is an act of witness, an act of solidarity with people who live in poverty.