Archive for Peacemakers

The 2012 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace is… Ruben Garcia

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement, has recognized the life and witness of Ruben Garcia, naming him the 2012 recipient of the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award.  Pax Christi USA first gave the award to Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, in 1978 and has since recognized some of the most significant U.S. Catholic activists for peace and justice of the past 3 decades, including actor Martin Sheen; poet and priest Daniel Berrigan, S.J.; and Dead Man Walking author Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.  Garcia is one of the founders and the current director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.

During his career at Annunciation House, Garcia has personally welcomed more than 100,000 migrants to his home and community, putting into practice and personally embodying the radical hospitality that Jesus exemplified to the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded. In his nomination of Garcia, Scott Wright, author and biographer of Archbishop Oscar Romero, wrote that Garcia “teaches peace by embodying peace, welcoming the stranger, and inviting others to share in this community where the least have a place at the table. From the experience of welcome and hospitality, comes an awareness and a commitment to address the root causes of injustice that push migrants to flee from the political violence in their countries, or conditions of economic disparity that condemn their families to die in conditions of extreme poverty and misery.”

“PCUSA is pleased to be honoring Ruben Garcia with the 2012 Teacher of Peace Award. For more than 35 years, he has been an inspiring teacher of peace, exemplifying by his life witness the teachings of the Gospel and the spirit of the Beatitudes,” stated Sr. Patty Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA. “Ruben’s faith continues to be an inspiring witness to the best of Catholic traditions, social teachings and practices.”

In addition to his work at Annunciation House, Garcia has welcomed and met with hundreds of delegations to the border, teaching by inviting them into the world of the poor and the migrant, and allowing them to see and hear firsthand the stories of immigrants.  He invites them to commit themselves to address the root causes that deny to the immigrant the justice that is due to them in their homeland and in the United States.

“Ruben’s commitment to the radical hospitality of Jesus, welcoming all to the table, with preferential option for migrants, teaches peace moment by moment,” stated Cathy Crosby, Pax Christi USA National Council member and chair of the Teacher of Peace committee. “The PCUSA National Council celebrates the opportunity to recognize Ruben’s many years of humble service.  We hope that the work of Ruben and Annunciation House continues to inspire others to work for justice and peace, as we each recognize the countless small ways we are called to build God’s kingdom here and now.”

The Teacher of Peace award will be presented at a special ceremony honoring Garcia in Washington, D.C. in September 2012.


Leave a Comment

An Invitation to hear Father Roy Bourgeois in Kansas City

Note:  the following is taken from a letter sent by local event organizers to Call to Action (CTA) members and others. The letter was sent to CTA members and others known to be open to goodness and courage in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  For goodness and courage are surely the combination that Father Roy Bourgeois, MM brings to every place he visits with his message that Catholic women who are called to priestly ordination should not be denied that Sacrament.  As Father Roy says, “To deny ordination to women is sexism, and sexism, like racism, is a sin.” 

As you know, Father Bourgeois has put at risk his priesthood, his inclusion in the Catholic community, his standing as a member of the Maryknoll Order, his reputation– just about everything of value that he holds dear — to bear witness to this message, which his conscience has compelled him to promulgate.  For his efforts, he has been threatened by the Vatican with excommunication, expulsion from Maryknoll, removal from the priesthood, and likely other forms of censure and/or exclusion.  He is resisting with all the powers of Canon Law, with the Rev. Thomas Doyle as his counsel.  His defense is primacy of conscience.  We might ask is his fight our fight?

Father Roy will spend the weekend of April 26-27 in the Heart of America.  Organizers of his visit are hoping to get him a spot on Steve Kraske’s Up to Date on April 27.   An op-ed piece has been submitted to the KC Star as well as a blurb for the Faith Calendar.  This calendar notice should appear the Saturday before the event on April 27.

Father Roy will speak at Colonial Church of Prairie Village under CTA sponsorship on Friday evening, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. and at First Congregational Church in Topeka at 9:00 a.m. April 28 at the invitation of Catholics for Renewal there. We will also be showing the powerful new documentary, Pink Smoke Over the Vatican, both places.  This is a documentary about women’s ordination as priests.

For additional information, call 913-432-3675.

Leave a Comment

Aim4Peace: Who are they and what is their mission?

Editor’s Note:  Information for this article was taken from Aim4Peace website, brochure, and from conversation at the screening of the film, “The Interrupter.”

 Aim4Peace Mission

Aim4Peace aims to increase the community’s ability to handle disputes nonviolently.  Aim4Peace is the movement to stop the shooting and killing.

How Aim4Peace Works

Aim4Peace is an evidence-based health approach to reduce shootings and homicides. Aim4Peace uses highly trained violence interrupters and outreach staff, public education campaigns, Neighborhood Action Teams and community mobilization to reverse the violence epidemic in Kansas City, Missouri. Aim4Peace focuses on the neighborhood factors that most often contribute to violent crime, helping those who are considered at highest risk of committing offenses due to their living or employment situation.

About Aim4Peace
The Aim4Peace program began in 2008 and was originally based on the Ceasefire: Stop the Shooting project in Chicago. Aim4Peace currently focuses on the Police Department’s East Patrol Division, one of Kansas City’s highest crime neighborhoods.  They model behavior modification techniques for those individuals who are ready to change. With continued success the plan will be implemented throughout the City in the future. Aim4Peace is committed to making neighborhoods safer. The Aim4Peace: Violence Prevention Project is a division of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Depart­ment. They are focused on Kansas City’s highest crime neighborhoods.

Aim4Peace sponsors all the programs below.
The Aim4Peace Life Skills Learning Program works to prevent school delinquency and drop-outs, supporting community actions to keep students in school. Aim4Peace offers both community and school-based courses:

  • Life Skills courses (grades 5-12 and ages 19-40)
  • Delinquency prevention
  • Personal development
  • Education about the dangers of involvement in gangs and/or street organizations

The Job Readiness and Anger Management programs are four-week courses held every month. Job Readiness helps participants prepare for obstacles that can happen when they enter the workforce, providing tips for keeping and maintaining steady employment. The Anger Management course focuses on problem solving, communication skills, personal qualities, money management and budgeting, and work ethics. These courses are open to the community.
Through the Job Fair Initiative, Aim4Peace has helped more than 400 residents seeking employment by connecting them with local employers and specialized skill or trade educational institutions. At the events, Aim4Peace also provided information on housing assistance and resume building, conducted mock interviews and linked attendees with local social service agencies.

Through the Hospital Prevention Program, workers respond to gunshot and violence-related trauma situations, intervene in conflicts and aim to prevent further violence. Working with emergency department staff, Aim4Peace reaches out to community members who are most at risk of being involved in future shootings.

Other Aim4Peace participant services include:
Customized one-on-one case management using risk reduction plans to offer long-term solutions to help clients step out of the high-risk lifestyles

  • Workforce counseling
  • Youth, adult and parent mentoring
  • Advocacy and support
  • Human and social support services
  • Transportation to classes, job interviews and employment
  • Access to employment resources and educational institutions

The Aim4Peace mission is to increase the capacity of the community to handle its own disputes and empower citizens through community mobilization to peacefully resolve their conflicts.  The group is based on Ceasefire, an anti-violent crime organization in Chicago.  Aim4Peace is a community-based violence prevention program that uses data-driven interventions to reduce retaliatory and gang-related violence.

Aim4Peace has sponsored the powerful and inspiring film “The Interrupters.”  This film tells the moving and surprising story of three Chicago CeaseFire ‘violence interrupt­ers’ who with bravado, humility and even humor try to protect their communities from the violence they once employed.   A staffer at Kartemquin Films, the promoter of this documentary, said:  “This film spotlights the passionate efforts of three violence interrupters over the course of a year.”

As a national partner of the CeaseFire program, Aim4Peace is based on the same model replicated in the movie. For more information about Aim4Peace and the film “The Interrupt­ers,” please contact Aim4Peace at the addresses below.

For more information, visit, call 816-513-7902, or write You can also view a powerful video here.

Comments (2)

Pequeña Comunidad: The road to New Hope in El Salvador

Editor’s Note:  December 2 marked the 31st Anniversary of the 4 U.S. Churchwomen in El Salvador.  We remember these brave women who were brutally murdered in El Salvador in 1980.  In their honor, you are invited to reflect on what Pat Marrin has written.  May it speak to your heart.  It is reprinted from The SHARE Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today Churchwomen Commemoration Guide – 2010


by Pat Marrin, National Catholic Worker Reporter and 2010 Romero Delegation to Nueva Esperanza, El Salvador Participant

The road to Nueva Esperanza is dusty and rutted, a bumpy ride for the old pickup truck Gigi Gruenke drove to San Carlos to get me. She knows the roads well from her six years in El Salvador, from 2001 to 2007, as a Maryknoll lay volunteer working with the sisters of the Pequeña Comunidad (“Little Community”) in the Baja Lempa region of the country.  She is back to visit and has offered to help me tell the story of the sisters as part of NCR’s coverage of El Salvador 30 years after the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

Nueva Esperanza (“New Hope”) has 140 families and is one of the last towns along the Lempa, the country’s main river, which winds snakelike from the Honduran border and empties into the estuaries along Pacific coast 10 miles south of here.  We negotiate around some cattle. A young girl and her brother hitched a ride in the back of the truck when we stopped at a market to pick up 42 eggs. A week of celebrating Monseñor Romero has kept the Pequeña Comunidad sisters busy feeding visitors.

I hold the four stacked cardboard trays tied with string. My arms flex to cushion the eggs at each bump. The children in back sway and hang onto the pipe frame above the truck bed. El Salvador is a place where metaphors spring to mind to help interpret fragile realities. I recall Scott Wright’s story about what it was like to be in the country during its brutal civil war. An activist from Washington, D.C., he had come down in the early 1980s to work in the refugee camps on the Honduran border, then slipped into the country to accompany the thousands of terrified people hiding out in the hills from the helicopter gunships and army patrols. During a stop to rest in the jungle, a woman handed him her baby to hold while she went off to do something. This was El Salvador. If you came here you were entrusted with something precious.

We drop off our riders and park the truck next to the sisters’ walled compound. The town exhibits a rustic simplicity that is also another name for poverty. Across El Salvador, from the urban sprawl in the capital to the tiny cantons in the mountains accessible only on foot, people are living on the edge. Even 18 years after the 1992 peace accords, political divisions and vast inequities still reflect a lack of resources throughout the country, but especially in areas held by the rebels during the war.  Malnutrition, no funds for schools or health clinics, and unemployment are forcing young people to head north or join the gangs that pervade even the rural areas.

Accompanying the people

This is where the sisters of the Pequeña Comunidad live and minister to a network of 47 surrounding communities. Their style is immersion with the people and their objective is empowerment. They catechize, do sacramental preparation, counsel ordinary ministry but with a bottom-up approach made popular 40 years earlier after the Second Vatican Council and the emergence of Christian base communities that emphasized the role of the laity in the church.  We enter the compound where Srs. Nohemy Ortíz, Hortencia Preza and Valentina Pérez join us in a large, covered courtyard with plastic chairs arranged in a circle, an all-purposespace for meetings, meals and prayer. At one end is a garden sculpture of a seated Romero.

Ortíz has been with the community for most of its 40 years. She says that it was “formed in the womb of the Christian base communities” where lay men and women were trained to conduct Bible study in the many outlying villages visited only rarely by priests. The grassroots vitality of the base community experience attracted young people to the church. Many young women who wanted to commit their lives to service but did not feel called to traditional convent life sought a new form of religious life among the poor. In 1970, the “Little Community” was formed. The sisters did not wear religious habits and did not seek formal status under church law.

Ortíz says that as many as 50 people, both men and women, were involved with the community, but that its vowed membership never exceeded 15. Today, there are a total of eight sisters: the three serving in the Baja Lempa area; two sisters, Ana Beatriz Landaverde and Maria Isabel Figueroa,  serving in San Salvador; and three others, Anna María Barriento, Yulma Bonilla and Carmen Elena Hernández, in Morazán. Two North Americans, St. Joseph Sr. Elena Jaramilla from Orange, California and Providence Sr. Frances Stacy from Spokane, Washington also work with the sisters.

“We never thought of ourselves as an institute or congregation,” Ortíz says. “We were committed to Jesus of Nazareth as his followers and disciples. Rather than take traditional vows to a superior or to a bishop, we take our vows before the people.”

Not having canonical status is outweighed, she says, by the freedom to go where the people need them, and to be prophetic in pursuing justice, even when this is difficult or controversial.

Preza tells of her path to the community; since childhood she had felt a desire to serve but her mother had discouraged her from considering the brown-habited nuns they saw in church. “I joined a choir and youth group where I met Nohemy and some of the other sisters. They didn’t wear habits and I wondered how they could be sisters,” she says. But the more she came to know them and their work with the people, the more she felt called to accompany them. She made her vows in 1989, while the war was still going on. She was 24 years old. “The church became real to me,” she says.

Pérez describes her childhood devotion to her family, but says that she knew she wanted to reach out to others and thought she needed to join the convent to do this. She met Preza, who was holding weekly meetings at her church. “I realized I could dedicate myself to God without going far away to do it. Nohemy kept asking me, ‘When do you want to join us? Come, the door is open.’ ”

Pérez read her vows publicly in 2006. She says that one of the things she values is the sisters’ freedom to reach out to all religious sects and faiths, as Romero had done.

Option for the poor

In its early years, the new community took inspiration from the 1968 Latin American bishops’ meeting in Medellín, Colombia, where the phrase “God’s option for the poor” was first uttered officially. A new spirit took hold in Latin America, challenging the traditional alignment of the church with wealth and power. In both urban and rural areas, Bible study led to analysis of the causes of poverty, unjust labor practices and land distribution, and the treatment of people by the police and military. Those in power, threatened by growing pressures for reform, accused some priests of being communists, including two Belgian priests who have worked closely with the Pequeña sisters, Frs. Pedro Declercq and Rogelio Ponseele. The struggle pitted conservative bishops tied to the wealthy and the military against the popular church led by Romero, who struggled unsuccessfully to hold both church and nation together toavert civil war, which broke out in 1981.

The image of the martyred Silvia Maribel Arriola is carried in this year’s commemoration march honoring El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Pequeña sisters, vowed to accompany the people, were caught up in the conflict. One member, Sr. Silvia Maribel Arriola, who made her vows with the group in 1975, is revered as one of El Salvador’s most beloved martyrs. She came to the community because of her desire to serve Jesus in the poor and through her friendship with Ortíz. Arriola was Romero’s personal secretary from 1977 until his assassination in 1980. A nurse, she was with a group of 97 refugees killed by the army on Jan 17, 1981. She was 29 years old. The bodies were doused in gasoline and burned to destroy evidence of the civilian massacre, one of 200 documented from the war.

The sisters say they continue to look to Romero for inspiration. Preza and Pérez cite his defense of human rights as the greatest challenge. For Ortíz, Romero remains a model of prophet, teacher and pastor. “He gives us spiritual eyes to see so we can continue to build the reign of God,” she says.  “He is now a risen in the people.

“Everyone wants him to be canonized, but not just as an object of devotion, someone to light candles to. He lived his life in total faithfulness during a very crucial moment in El Salvador’s history. We will honor him by living as he did, saying what he said. And that is not so easy.”

Comments (1)

Statement of Solidarity with School of the Americas Watch

November 23, 2011

Sister Michelle spoke at the School of the Americas vigil on November 21, 2011 accompanied by Mercy Associate Nelly del Cid from Honduras, Sister Tita from Panama and Sister Anita from Argentina. 

Good morning,

I am here to represent the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Mercy Associates, Mercy Volunteers, Mercy College Students, and Ministry Partners who are standing in solidarity with you and with all those negatively affected by the graduates of the SOA. We come with mercy, compassion, and hope, but also with a sense of urgency and impatience:

  • As the Mercy Family, we are scandalized that we, the USA, who are 4% of the world’s population, have 50% of the world’s military;
  • We are scandalized that the US has troops in 130 or so countries currently;
  • We are scandalized that in a country where 80% of us claim to be Christian, many seem to have forgotten the words of Jesus- that we should actually love our neighbor as ourselves.

We all know whose interests our numerous military bases are protecting.

And yet there is hope:

  • There is hope in our Honduran Mercy Sisters and Associates who are part of the “women resisting violence” movement inHonduras;
  • Our Panama sisters gave us hope, when in 1984, their efforts and those of others succeeded in getting the SOA out of Panama;
  • And there is hope in you, who come here year after year to say NO to the oppressive, unjust structures of a military culture.

You know what solidarity is:  standing with our brothers and sisters in love and compassion- to the end.

So we must continue this SOA Watch here and at home- as our sisters from Latin America have reminded us, we must connect the dots and be awake and alert to what’s happening around us.

Let us continue until that day when right relationships, non-violence, the common good, and finally, peace, will prevail in the Americas and all over our planet.  Thank you!

Experiencing the SOA Watch the First Time

By Sister Michelle Gorman, R.S.M,  Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community Leadership Team Justice Liaison,

November 29, 2011

After many years of being aware of the annual School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) protests at Fort Benning, GA, I finally was able to attend.  I was inspired by the presence of so many Catholic groups as well as the intergenerational mix of college students, middle aged activists, and older people aided by canes and wheelchairs. Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Martin Sheen were the celebrities who spoke from a long history of efforts to close the SOA. Mercy Sisters Anita Siufi (Argentina), Tita Lopez (Panama), and Mercy Associate Nelly del Cid (Honduras) were the Mercies who have lived daily with the effects of the SOA in their respective countries.

The continuing existence of the SOA and its history of militarization in the Americas violates every one of our Critical Concerns, i.e., the practice of non-violence, anti-racism, reverence for Earth, and concern for women and immigrants. The causes of violence, racism, and disrespect for immigrants, women, and Earth itself lie in the greed and inhumanity of ‘the few’ who continue to maintain control over resources in many parts of our world, with complete disregard for the needs of ‘the many’.

In one of her several talks during the protest event, Nelly del Cid reminded us that the three most lucrative issues on our planet today are trafficking in persons, drugs, and arms. This scandalizing fact awakens in us a sense of urgency to act and a renewed support for all those resisting the devaluation of human life for the sake of greed and profit. . . .

How do we, as U.S. citizens and taxpayers, get in touch with our own complicity which results in the denial of basic human rights in so many parts of our world? When we and many other groups beyond the U.S. commit ourselves to work for systemic change, we encounter a system that privatizes land and water, seeds and crops, the very basics of life itself?

Where can we find the courage to continue to seek the welfare of our brothers and sisters if not in the placing of our hope in the God of Mercy, Wisdom, and Mystery, whose compassion extends to the fall of a sparrow?  We must be in solidarity with all of those who, past and present, resisted and continue to resist the unjust structures created by a military culture that is becoming more and more pervasive in our world.  Our planet is too beautiful to be destroyed; our brothers and sisters worldwide are too beautiful to be dominated by those who only seem to value the bottom line.

Leave a Comment

Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai — “The best tribute we can pay to this great woman of Africa is to continue to organize so that we can gain higher levels of spiritual awareness and build the shared values for peace and social justice across the planet.”  Horace Campbell.

Wangari Maathai:  “In the process of helping the earth to heal, we help ourselves.”

By Jone Johnson Lewis, in

Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977, which has planted more than 10 million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. A 1989 United Nations report noted that only 9 trees were being replanted in Africa for every 100 that were cut down, causing serious problems with deforestation: soil runoff, water pollution, difficulty finding firewood, lack of animal nutrition, etc.

The program has been carried out primarily by women in the villages of Kenya, who through protecting their environment and through the paid employment for planting the trees are able to better care for their children and their children’s future.

Born in 1940 in Nyeri, Wangari Maathai was able to pursue higher education, a rarity for girls in rural areas of Kenya. She earned her biology degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in Kansas and a master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

When she returned to Kenya, Wangari Maathai worked in veterinary medicine research at the University of Nairobi, and eventually, despite the skepticism and even opposition of the male students and faculty, was able to earn a Ph.D. there. She worked her way up through the academic ranks, becoming head of the veterinary medicine faculty, a first for a woman at any department at that university.

Wangari Maathai’s husband ran for Parliament in the 1970s, and Wangari Maathai became involved in organizing work for poor people and eventually this became a national grass-roots organization, providing work and improving the environment at the same time. The project has made significant headway against Kenya’s deforestation.

Wangari Maathai continued her work with the Green Belt Movement, and working for environmental and women’s causes. She also served as national chairperson for the National Council of Women of Kenya.

In 1997 Wangari Maathai ran for the presidency of Kenya, though the party withdrew her candidacy a few days before the election without letting her know; she was defeated for a seat in Parliament in the same election.

In 1998, Wangari Maathai gained worldwide attention when the Kenyan President backed development of a luxury housing project and building began by clearing hundreds of acres of Kenya forest.

In 1991, Wangari Maathai was arrested and imprisoned; an Amnesty International letter-writing campaign helped free her. In 1999 she suffered head injuries when attacked while planting trees in the Karura Public Forest in Nairobi, part of a protest against continuing deforestation. She was arrested numerous times by the government of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.

In January, 2002, Wangari Maathai accepted a position as Visiting Fellow at Yale University’s Global Institute for Sustainable Forestry.

And in December, 2002, Wangari Maathai was elected to Parliament, as Mwai Kibabi defeated Maathai’s long-time political nemesis, Daniel arap Moi, for 24 years the President of Kenya. Kibabi named Maathai as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife in January, 2003.

Wangari Maathai died in Nairobi in 2011 of cancer.

More About Wangari Maathai

  • ·Wangari Maathai and Jason Bock. The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience. 2003.
  • ·Wallace, Aubrey. Eco-Heroes: Twelve Tales of Environmental Victory. Mercury House. 1993.
  • ·Dianne Rocheleau, Barbara Thomas-Slayter and Esther Wangari, editors. Feminist Political Ecology: Global Issues and Local Experiences.

Editor’s note:  In 1977, Wangari Maathai started a movement — called the Green Belt Movement — to plant trees to solve societal woes. Known in her native Kenya as “The Tree Lady,” she was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also first woman in central or eastern Africa to hold a Ph.D., and the first woman head of a university department in Kenya. She died after a long battle with cancer.  The article notes that she received her biology degree from Mt. St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS.  We share our Benedictine Sisters sorrow and loss.


Leave a Comment

Ten Years After 9-11, the Last Word is LOVE!

By Colleen Kelly, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace 2011

Article and photos from “The Peace Current” Pax Christi USA’s August 2011 Newsletter, p. 5.

I was at a conference at Fordham University this past May entitled ‘Moral Outrage and Moral Repair – Reflections on 9-11 and its Afterlife’.  The title interested me, as it seemed to accurately describe large portions of my existence this past decade.

My brother, Bill Kelly Jr. died in Tower 1 on September 11th. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He didn’t work at the Trade Center. Ironically, Bill’s prior visit to Windows on the World was in December 2000 to receive an employee recognition award. Who knew that the one day conference Bill was attending on September 11th, the conference he persuaded his boss into letting him attend, would be an event from which he would never return.

Moral outrage – certainly. At the extremists that murdered my brother. At the twist of fate that led him to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. At a humanity that allows for violence as a means to make a point, state your case, right perceived wrongs. At anyone who dared exult in the agonizing smoke and fire.

Then came feelings of confusion – at my country, now planning to bomb others a world away.  Didn’t we … yes we …. just live through terror and horrific violence?  So then how could we … yes we … be the cause of similar harm to others?  Confusion also with my church.  What is a just war exactly? Why does the justification to injure others seem so hypocritical … and human?  And how does one truly live out the gospels – or are they simply a collection of beautiful stories?  Finding a group of 9-11 family members who had these and similar concerns was a true blessing. In February of 2002, we formally became an organization – September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.  We have been working together to break cycles of violence ever since, and our members are ‘the best friends I never wanted to know’.

I have learned that moral repair will take a lifetime, and then some (I believe). September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is a large part of this process for me. Bill is gone; and safe; and no longer in pain. I also like to believe he is surrounded by love. My faith tells me so.

But I learned another lesson in moral repair at Fordham, from one of the speakers – a rabbi named Irwin Kula. He pointed out a truth that I desperately believe in – the most important and sacred value in our very fragile human lives is love. In the months following 9-11, Rabbi Kula became fascinated with the last words of those killed on September 11th. After reading a few stories in the paper, he began seeking out the last words and sentences of anyone he could find who was killed that day. And you know what he discovered? Not a single person said “Kill them.” “Get those **** back.”  Avenge my death.” No.  Last words were not about hatred; they were sometimes about fear, but ultimately, and overwhelmingly, the last words of those killed on 9-11 were about love. “Tell mom and dad I love them.” “Tell the kids I’ll miss them and I love them.” “Julie, it’s bad, but know that I love you.”

So what do these last words tell us? I like to think they teach a lesson. There’s a time for righteous moral outrage, just as there’s a time for accountability, and justice.

Peaceful Tomorrows helps with these vital goals.  But in the end, it’s about love, and my brother Bill. How much he loved and was loved. How much I miss him. And how much I want the world to be a place where last words are never the end result of political violence, but instead reflect a full and just life, well lived.

 Colleen Kelly is one of the founding members of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. She is the recipient of Pax Christi USA’s Teacher of Peace Award and will be honored at our annual Momentum event in Washington, D.C. on September 8, 2011.

Editor’s Note:  the Insights to Religion Website has excellent resources for the 9/11 anniversary.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »