by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
August 14, 2022 — Before the excitement and inspiration from the Pax Christi USA 50th anniversary celebration begin to fade, a moment of social analysis and theological reflection is in order. The 2022 national conference of Pax Christi USA offers rich moments on which to meditate and move forward. Perhaps those cited here will be starting points for ever deeper “drilling down” into what happened last weekend and what it means for our future.
Of particular note has to be the prominent role played by a new generation of Pax Christi USA members. A rejuvenated (no pun intended) Young Adult Caucus and the presence of young people were prominent throughout the three days of the conference. Virtually every part of the program was introduced by a young person, usually a woman and often of color. Also, it was decided that the Young Adult Caucus will have a permanent seat on the National Council.
Pope St. John Paul’s message to young people came to mind here: “The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life permeate society.”
The presence throughout the assembly of Archbishop John Wester and Bishop John Stowe spoke to the gift of such pastoral leadership. Each of them contributed significantly to the formal program, particularly the keynote address and the closing Eucharist. But as participants during other sessions, small group workshops, and coffee breaks reflected what Pope Francis says in his Beatitudes for Bishops:
“Blessed is the bishop who considers his ministry a service and not a power, who makes meekness his strength, gives everyone a right to a place in his heart, so as to give the promised land to the weak.”
Attention and analyses of racism and white privilege permeated the meetings with renewed emphasis on the anti-racism efforts which have been a constant concern for 20 years in Pax Christi USA. In her words of acceptance as Teacher of Peace, Marie Dennis called for a deeper understanding of racism (and all other isms). She cited violence as the underlying cause of all evil. She said that therefore following the nonviolent Jesus is our only and final recourse in all of this.
This echoed of Pope Francis: “Make active nonviolence our way of life.”
Acknowledging 20 newly designated Ambassadors of Peace (18 in person) was a moment of celebration, and also served to remind us that everyone in the room is called to be an ambassador of peace. Some 150 conference participants walked to the Pentagon that hot and humid Sunday afternoon to witness and pray for an end to war and other violence as “solutions” to conflicts.
St. Oscar Romero: “Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet.”
The two Eucharistic celebrations were inspiring. The quiet early morning Mass on Saturday, the Feast of Christ’s Transfiguration and the anniversary of Hiroshima placed before the community the stark choice between life and death. On Sunday Bishop Stowe presided at a truly celebratory Eucharist. The prayers, readings, homily and spectacular music combined to energize the gathering to hear clearly: “Go In peace to love and serve.”
Pope Francis: “In the Eucharist Jesus reminds us each time that following him means going out of ourselves and making our lives… a gift to him and to others.”
The 50th anniversary national conference of Pax Christi USA brings hope for the future of this movement in times of growing challenges to peace.
It would be remiss not to highlight the central role which Pax Christi USA Executive Director Johnny Zokovitch played in this outstanding event. His year-long and enormously detailed preparations, his behind-the-scenes but engaging presence at every moment of the weekend gave evidence of the new vitality which he has brought to the movement. SINCERE THANKS JOHNNY.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.