News Detail
“Our goal is to work toward a common understanding of what constitutes justice. Sometimes it’s important to put your beliefs and ideologies in your back pocket and listen to other people’s stories.”
Jesuit Recounts PICO Founding, Role of Faith in Communities

October 21, 2013 — Jesuit Father John Baumann started the PICO National Network as a local training organization in Oakland, Calif., in order to initiate neighborhood development and revitalize democracy. In the 40 years since its founding, PICO has expanded its operations to over 1,000-member institutions in 150 cities throughout 17 states.

Founded by Fr. Baumann in 1972, PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing) is a national network of faith-based organizations that works to address issues faced by urban, suburban and rural communities.

“We wanted to address fundamental systemic change,” Fr. Baumann explained at a recent lecture at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

The concern for people meeting others who share similar values and interests to identify common goals and participate in public life was the product of Fr. Baumann’s culminating perspective of seeing God in all things.

PICO developed an early “neighborhood model” of creating solutions for community challenges. Fr. Baumann implemented foundational principles for the organization centered on the core values of the Gospel and faith that does justice.

“Theology is about the real world — it interacts with people … Power is the product of relationship,” Fr. Baumann said.

PICO’s early neighborhood model, however, was flawed, according to Fr. Baumann. It only addressed issues when they arose, reacting to community challenges as they occurred instead of fostering an attitude of ethnic and religious tolerance to prevent the issues.

Under Fr. Baumann’s leadership, PICO restructured its model of operation to a “faith-based model,” engaging local faith-based congregations across creedal and ethnic boundaries.

“Working in a faith context brings a sense of humility to our work. Organizing is about people — people are about issues,” he said.

PICO currently focuses on health care reform, economic security, youth development and neighborhood revitalization, among other social needs, and has even extended its mission to other countries, including a solidarity project in Rwanda aimed to resolve differences between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples.

“Our goal is to work toward a common understanding of what constitutes justice,” Fr. Baumann said. “Sometimes it’s important to put your beliefs and ideologies in your back pocket and listen to other people’s stories.” [Boston College’s The Heights]

Recent News

September 30, 2015 — The mission of the Jesuit Refugee Service has been to "be near the least and the abandoned," as Pope Francis has urged, for the past 35 years.

September 29, 2015 — Pope Francis concluded his trip to the U.S. Sept. 27 in Philadelphia, where he attended the World Meeting of Families and made a stop at Saint Joseph’s University.

September 28, 2015 — Pope Francis has named Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Br. Consolmagno is a planetary scientist who has been an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993.

September 25, 2015 — During his visit to New York City, Pope Francis addressed the U.N. and attended a prayer service at the 9/11 Memorial.

September 24, 2015 — Pope Francis delivered a historic address before the U.S. Congress this morning, during which he addressed not just Congress, but all Americans.

September 23, 2015 — Pope Francis was enthusiastically welcomed to the White House this morning, where he delivered his first speech on American soil.

September 22, 2015 — Pope Francis arrived in the United States for his first visit on Sept. 22, where he was greeted by President Barack Obama and his family.

view all news

Search news

Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America - 9/21/15

America - 9/14/15

America - 8/31/15

Creighton University Retreat Center
Located 45 miles east of Omaha, Neb., in rural Iowa, the Creighton University Retreat Center is situated on 154 wooded acres on the Nishnabotna River.