by Joan Tirak, Pax Christi Michigan Coordinator
Gracias por todo! Thank you, Lord, for everything! We are still reeling from the excitement generated at our 31st Annual Pax Christi Michigan State Conference. Our featured speakers, PCUSA Ambassador of Peace Tom Cordaro, and Sr. Patricia Chappell, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, complimented each other perfectly – Tom with his challenging instructional style and Sr. Patty with her prophetic call to action. The event was held at St. Anastasia Church in Troy, MI on April 21st.
Nearly 250 people attended from toddlers to octogenarians – black, brown, yellow and white – with workshops presented by professors, lawyers, peace activists, non-violence trainers, high school and college students – religious and secular – all riveted on the conference theme: “Power: Who Lies? Who Dies? Who Pays? Who Profits?” Workshops focused on economic justice, racism, immigration, clothing with a conscience, welfare rights, civil resistance, costs of war, jobs with justice, and emergency managers attack on democracy.
Tom spoke boldly to the POWER theme, responding to the searing questions – who lies, who dies, who pays, who profits – with courage, clarity and conviction, challenging the systems that create the imbalances in power and wealth throughout the world. He spoke of the racism that lies at the heart of each of those questions – presenting a well-documented analysis that brought rousing applause. Tom continued his exchange with participants, answering questions as he autographed his book, Be Not Afraid: An Alternative to the War on Terror at the Pax Christi resource table.
In the late afternoon at the outset of the conference’s final presentation, Sr. Patty instantly connected with the tired but enthusiastic crowd – speaking passionately to the theme, “Can Conversation Lead to Transformation.” She talked about the dehumanization that people routinely experience in their day to day lives from the power elites. Her pace heightened as she openly shared what it means to be overlooked, demeaned and demoralized as a person of color. Then – with a burst of courage – she boldly proclaimed that whether the violence comes from the nation, the state or the church – as with the recent Vatican decree against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious – it must be challenged! At that, people rose to their feet, chanting, “Amen, Sister, Amen!” As the groundswell quieted down, Sr. Patty made a point of clarifying that we need to wait for the LCWR response; but then have our marching boots on and be ready to follow along in support. What a redeeming moment for all who share the pain of the Vatican attack on our dear sisters.
A signature highlight of each year’s PCM conferences is the presentation of our annual peace awards. The 9th Annual Young Adult Peacemaker Award went to African American Samantha Przybylski, a student at Grand Rapids Community College, who led her first protest/petition when she was just 10 years old. The 21st Annual Purple Ribbon for Peace Award was presented to lifelong PCM member activists Doreen and Neville D’Souza of East Indian origin, who literally raised their four sons in the Pax Christi Michigan community. During the presentation, the D’Souza sons and their families proudly joined their parents on stage.
So what keeps Pax Christi Michigan, now in its 37th year of Gospel Peacemaking, going and growing? It’s evaluation comments like: “This conference was so terrific, personable, deep, rooted in genuine Gospel values and truth.” “Great speakers…valuable information – feel inspired to make more commitment to social justice!” So, what more can we ask? The mission is clear – keep on, keeping on!