The day after Labor Day marked the academic year’s beginning for the last seventeen years in my life. Now I transition from student to worker when the blessing of an education moves from classroom abstracts into the concretes of active ministry. Transitioning after graduation created moments for discernment, calling forth my journey to this point as much as where to venture next.
Formative in my undergraduate years was my participation in the campus Pax Christi chapter. In the early years, it provided a loving community to welcome me as a freshman seeking to act for peace from my Catholic faith amidst a university dominated by Christianized militarism. In my later years, as I assumed leadership roles, it provided supportive companions in our struggle to preach Christ’s nonviolence on a campus unable or unwilling to hear.
As I studied theology, I internalized the words of Jesuit priest, Ignacio Ellacuria, who said, “The struggle against injustice and the pursuit of truth cannot be separated nor can one work for one independent of the other.”
More and more my studies harmoniously intertwined with our chapter’s works for peace. We attended the School of the Americas Vigil annually, participated in regional and national Pax Christi events, and joined demonstrations in the Washington, D.C. area. We hosted speaker series, prayer vigils marking the Iraq War anniversary or executions of those on death row, and weekly community gatherings for anyone at our university.
In just my four years, the challenges mounted rapidly. We faced a chaplain who saw no place for Pax Christi, a University that watered down social justice initiatives, an activities office too willing to cut funding, and dwindling interest as the demographics of the student body shifted in favor of traditionalist Catholics. Today, the current leadership works persistently to rebuild our chapter’s presence on campus – having existed well over a decade at this point.
From my new vantage point, I write with an appeal to those in Pax Christi USA and to the regional groups – please contact and support or, in their absence, help establish if possible, Pax Christi chapters on college and university campuses. As our chapter at Catholic University struggles greatly, our connection to the regional group in D.C. and Baltimore has been a source of both community support and of tangible events we could attend, being limited in enacting our own. Simply extending an invitation, a student fee, or regular communication can help sustain these groups and the young adults of which they consist.
Radical peacemaking in the Church is not popular today and ecclesial divisions stand in starker contrast for youth Catholics it seems. I hope to present Pax Christi members with an opportunity.
Reaching out is simple and quick, but the lasting impact left on a young adult like myself, who found the chapter a sustaining faith community for justice and peace, can launch college students into the harmonious pursuit of truth in studies and quest for justice in reality ingrained for life.
Please help foster young adult Catholics, serious in their Christian faith and serious in their commitment to nonviolent Gospel lives, who attend Catholic higher education institutions that fail to support them, urge them forward, and nourish them on the journey of essential Christianity.
Here, a new generation of peacemakers waits, if only we can walk with them as they answer God’s call to love in a most arduous path.
Bob Shine is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and former coordinator of the Pax Christi group on campus.
One thought on “REFLECTION: Reaching out to Pax Christi USA college chapters, young adults”
I’m glad your experience of Pax Christi at CUA was so positive. If one is on a secular campus, would it make more sense to start an ecumenical peace group, perhaps like Fellowship of Reconciliation, in order to attract more students?