by Patrick O’Neill, NCR

Pax Christi USA has managed to barely keep its head above water in tough economic times. With dwindling membership, low cash flow and a prolonged battle to redirect the organization’s mission, the group that bills itself as the national Catholic peace movement came to the heart of the South June 14-16 to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Sr. Patty Chappel, PCUSA Executive Director, speaks at the King Center.
Sr. Patty Chappel, PCUSA Executive Director, speaks at the King Center.

Executive Director Sr. Patricia Chappell, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, did not try to sugarcoat Pax Christi’s plight.

“It is obvious that, although no less committed, we are an aging group with fewer resources,” Chappell said in her Friday evening introductory remarks.

While some advocacy groups face only economic hardships, Pax Christi has struggled to return to its heyday of the early 1980s, when the Cold War was raging and many feared nuclear war. The peace group’s membership took another hit after Sept. 11, 2001, when the majority of Americans supported retaliation for the terrorist attack.

“I want to see us become a peace with justice movement,” Chappell told NCR. In addition to being a national voice for peace, Chappell said Pax Christi “also has to find more ways to collaborate and be in solidarity with the issues that are happening on the local level. It’s still connected to peace. It’s still connected to nonviolence, and it’s also connected with justice.”…

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