By Sharon Winzeler, OFS
Kent Ferris, OFS, is the 2019 recipient of the National Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Award presented at the Secular Franciscan Order’s National Chapter, held Oct. 15-20 at Pax Christi Liturgical Retreat Center in Corpus Christi.
Ferris voiced the need to advocate on behalf of immigrants and refugees, who are among the people he serves as director of social action and Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.
Ferris expressed gratitude to the refugees, including a family who fled violence in southern Sudan only to face hate-filled, anti-Muslim notes left on their community’s residences in the U.S. He felt compelled to apologize for such intolerance, he said, but the refugees themselves were “very gracious.”
He also said he was inspired by such individuals as Diego and Pedro who fled threats in their country and “expressed confusion and sadness but never bitterness at having been separated at the border for 40 days, with young Pedro being taken to the state of New York while Diego remained in custody and then finding themselves in need of family reunification services after the trauma of separation.”
Ferris is a past national JPIC chair for the order and has been an action commissioner for the Franciscan Action Network (FAN). He belongs to the order’s Franciscans of the Prairie Region.
He said he felt humbled by the award because most of his daily work is for justice and peace.
“I work for a diocese, on a bishop’s staff. This is what I do all day every day.”
Ferris said he was grateful for all of the people who have helped him work in the area of social justice, especially Bishop Martin Amos who hired him 10 years ago and Bishop Thomas Zinkula for whom he currently works.
Ferris and his wife Lori have both been Secular Franciscans for 27 years. Their children—Clare, 20; Miles, 17; and Lucy, 15—were raised in the order.
“My children, having grown up in a Franciscan household, know exactly what a Transitus service is,” he said. “They also would look every year to see if their birthdays fell on the first Sunday of the month so they would know whether or not birthday celebrations would occur after a local fraternity meeting.”
Ferris also expressed gratitude to Secular Franciscans around the country.
“I am quite convinced that had I not experienced such a deep and profound sense of fraternity at so many times and places, I could not have served the Lord to the extent that I have,” he said.