In the service of honesty, let me just stay that 2022 came rushing up on us fast and furious and I had really hoped to get this short overview of 2021 out to you a couple of weeks ago. But if you’ve been following along, I think you’ll forgive us the delay (between covid outbreaks, kicking of our 50th anniversary events, and more, we had some good excuses!)
Last year continued to present many challenges, much like 2020, and yet I think you’ll be proud of what we were able to do together during the past year. Just a quick survey of the year shows that we were able to hold our first national conference since 2016 (albeit virtually) with nearly 500 people joining us for all or part of the conference; we held 3 study circles as part of our new program, #LoveIsPolitical: Literary Circles for Liberation, exploring through prayer, study and action racial justice, nonviolence, and nuclear disarmament with nearly 800 people participating in one or all three of the study circles; despite the restrictions placed on us by the ongoing pandemic, we were able to co-organize the Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants (pictured above), reaching hundreds in person with events from Texas to Boston, advocating at the Capitol, and involving thousands more through media stories and online events; and we organized a powerful response to Archbishop Gomez’s mischaracterization of today’s social movements that was signed by over 100 Catholic parishes, Pax Christi local groups, schools, and ministries, catching the attention of tens of thousands on social media and our website and featured in two pieces published in The Washington Post.
That’s just a quick sampling! Read on for a few more highlights from 2021…
CONFRONTING WHITE NATIONALISM, ADVOCATING FOR RACIAL JUSTICE: In July at the Pax Christi USA national conference we presented the 2021 Teacher of Peace award to Fr. Bryan Massingale who challenged us in his speech to see “white nationalism as the gravest threat to peace”. Earlier we listened to the opening keynote from and conversation with Olga Segura, author of Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church, a book over 300 in our movement read together as part of our second study circle this past year. The Pax Christi Young Adult Caucus hosted a pre-conference event which looked at policing and the movement for abolition. We issued a statement and call to action following the Chauvin trial in May. The Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team resourced us with PSAs on MLK Day and Juneteenth and articles addressing white privilege, celebrating that Black Lives Matter, and highlighting the work for racial justice throughout the year.
WORKING FOR A WORLD FREE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: From the very outset of 2021, we were continuing our 50 year history of lifting up the cause of nuclear disarmament and abolition, beginning in January with our support and mobilization for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entering into force. We co-hosted a Mass with our Bishop-President Bishop John Stowe marking this significant achievement, while mobilizing our community for prayer, study and action flowing from our statement. Our local groups and state chapters continued to push for resolutions as part of the Back from the Brink campaign. Pax Christi USA’s Nuclear Disarmament Working Group led our work on many levels, most notably as organizers and facilitators of our third study circle, The Gospel and Nuclear Disarmament, with around 200 individuals and local groups studying together Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Art Laffin’s book, The Risk of the Cross: Living Gospel Nonviolence in the Nuclear Age. We also joined Pax Christi International in promoting and participating in the campaign, The Double Threat of Nuclear Weapons and Climate Change, addressing the connections between these two paramount issues.
JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION RESPONSE AND ELECTION 2020 FOLLOW UP: Despite the 2020 election having happened in November and finalized in December, we had to continue aspects of our campaign around the 2020 national elections, especially in response to the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. Bishop Stowe’s Inauguration Day reflection was read by over 4,000 people. Our PSA unmasking the easy allegiance between our Church, white supremacy and the effort to undermine the 2020 election aimed at preparing people for Inauguration Week, with over 12,000 people reading it on our website and email network and the social media post for it resulting in over 24,000 people reached, 14,000 engagements, 633 comments, 760 likes, and over 200 shares (our greatest level of engagement ever on social media). Our media statement the day of the attack drew over 5,000 readers and was picked up by numerous news organizations including CNS, NCR, America, et al.
DEEPENING THE SPIRITUALITY OF NONVIOLENCE AND PEACEMAKING: Our 2021 Lenten campaign included reaching almost 4,000 people with copies of the Lenten 2021 booklet, weekly PSAs, reflections, and more. Over 3,000 from our community and beyond participated in our weekly Lenten prayer services, our first virtual Peace Mass, our Young Adult Lent Retreat, and in the Advancing Nonviolence Study Circles; and over 10,000 folks engaged in prayer, study and action through the weekly Lenten reflections and PSA e-bulletins. Our Advent 2021 campaign was built around theme of “decolonization”, and we reached nearly 3,000 people each week with our Advent PSAs, with Sunday and Holy Day reflections readership between 3,000-4,500 on the website and email listserv. Our Advent weekly evening prayers gave folks a chance to gather together virtually, reflect, pray and connect, with over 400 people joining throughout the season on Zoom and over 800 views on Facebook Live. Nearly 3,000 people reflected together with this year’s Advent booklet. Each month we sponsored a virtual #PAXMass, joining together to celebrate our communion and lift up the connection between the gospel message of Jesus and the issues affecting our world every day. Over 1,000 people registered throughout the year for these Masses as we focused on migration, nuclear disarmament, nonviolence, and more, with attendance on Zoom and Facebook Live ranging between 200 and 700 people at each Mass. And we partnered with the Meta Peace Team to offer two trainings in nonviolence for our membership.
Pax Christi USA state chapters, regions and local groups continued to witness to the “peace of Christ” at the grassroots:
- Pax Christi Illinois held a major statewide conference addressing the social upheaval and reckoning happening with the U.S. over the past few years.
- Pax Christi New Jersey joined activists to mark Ash Wednesday by highlighting the immorality of ICE’s brutal treatment of immigrants.
- Pax Christi Metro New York explored “Peacemaking through the Arts” at a special event.
- Pax Christi Rhode Island celebrated the TPNW and promoted nuclear disarmament with a messaging campaign to the public and their elected representatives.
- Pax Christi San Diego held a major conversation on immigration and the Catholic approach to a national challenge.
- Pax Christi Little Rock took a novel approach to get the city directors to sign on to the Back from the Brink resolution.
- Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore recognized Kim Lamberty as their Peacemaker of the Year, lifting up her work in Haiti and on a number of issues throughout the years; and they launched a major sign-on ad on nuclear disarmament.
- At the national conference, we commissioned 4 new Ambassadors of Peace from Illinois, New York, Washington, D.C. and Florida.
- The Pax Christi Young Adult Caucus continued to grow, with monthly events, retreats and a special pre-event for young adults hosted before the national conference.
- Over the course of the year, we held regular video conferences with nearly 50 local group leaders and 25 state and regional chapter leaders to share best practices and news, encourage communication, and create strategies for the entire movement.
- You can read more local group and state chapter news in every issue of The Peace Current at this link.
Other items of note:
- We continue to have our work penetrate the national conscious through coverage, features, quotes and mentions in national media platforms like The Washington Post, The New York Times, Common Dreams, Stars and Stripes, CounterPunch, The Hill, Democracy Now, The Nation and Reuters. In the Catholic press, we were featured in the National Catholic Reporter, Vatican News, America Magazine, The Black Catholic Messenger, Global Sisters Report, Religion News Service, Catholic News Service, Crux, The Tablet, numerous diocesan newspapers and websites, and more. See a partial list of articles here.
- We increased the traffic to our website by over 10% from 2020, with nearly 125,000 unique visitors to the site and over 225,000 page views. Our post following the January 6th insurrection and leading up to the inauguration, “This week, let us demonstrate what we stand for,” garnered over 9,000 views on the website; and our statement following Archbishop Gomez’s speech was viewed nearly 5,000 times on the site.
- Our social media presence grew again with over 12,000 followers on Facebook now, over 7,350 on Twitter, and over 1,300 on Instagram.
- Our staff continues to grow, with a new Development Director, John Noble joining us in July; Hadley Stocker, who helped us launch a new database for the organization, became a regular member of the staff in April as our database coordinator; and Michelle Sherman and Ronnie Fellerath-Lowell, both joined us in September as our 50th anniversary coordinator and Back from the Brink organizer respectively. We have an incredible staff of 9(!) people (pictured above) now who are working hard every day to lift up the message of peace with justice and grow Pax Christi USA’s presence and capacity at almost every level.
Believe it or not, this really is just SOME of what we did together during 2021. I hope you’ve been checking out the website regularly, following us on social media, reading the emails we send out over the network, and looking through the seasonal newsletter The Peace Current to keep up with everything that is going on and get a sense of the incredible breadth and depth of our common work. I am so proud and honored to be part of this community and I cannot say THANK YOU enough to each of you.
It is now our 50th year. We have walked this way and this far together, hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm. Through prayer, study and action, we strive to be for the world what our name says, “the peace of Christ”, Pax Christi. Thank you so much for all you did in 2021. And we are looking forward to celebrating this Jubilee year, 2022, with each of you, in whatever ways we can!
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA