Dear friends,

I had hoped to share this review with folks in January, but after the whirlwind that was 2022 and celebrating our 50th anniversary, it took a little time to pull together this snapshot of highlights from the past year. I hope you’ll both enjoy and take pride in what we accomplished during Pax Christi USA’s Jubilee.

Internally, a primary area of focus for 2022 was the celebration of our 50th anniversary, “honoring the legacy” of all who have been involved in building this movement over the last half-century, and “seeding the future” for our work for peace with justice for the next 50 years.

HONORING OUR LEGACY: The highlight of the year was our first in-person conference since 2016, with over 400 people gathering in Washington, DC for “Seeing Through the Prism of Justice: Pax Christi USA’s 50th Anniversary National Conference.” From the pre-conference showing of The Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous with special guest Frida Berrigan; to plenary sessions with speakers like Archbishop John C. Wester, historian Shannen Dee Williams and 2022 Teacher of Peace award recipient Marie Dennis; to workshops on Indigenous solidarity, LGBTQ peacemaking, racial justice, nuclear disarmament and more; to shaking it down at our special 50th anniversary banquet on Saturday night; to Sunday’s closing Mass, Ambassadors of Peace recognitions, and prayer witness at the Pentagon; the weekend was truly an extraordinary event. Relive all the best moments (videos, photos, text from speeches and more) by clicking here.

But the conference wasn’t the only way we celebrated our 50th anniversary! Remember these: the January 1st 50th anniversary kick-off event, celebrating Bishop Gumbleton’s birthday and bestowing on him the title of Bishop President, Emeritus, this specially created 50th anniversary prayer card, the naming of 20 new Ambassadors of Peace, long-time Pax Christi icon Marie Dennis being named the 2022 Teacher of Peace, this oral history project of former Teacher of Peace video interviews, a transformative community art project revealed at the national conference Weaving Threads of Peace, a video series featuring the history and highlights of local groups and state/regional chapters, and so much more!

SEEDING OUR FUTURE: Since I started as Executive Director in September 2019, our goal was to expand our engagement at every level of the organization, from growing and resourcing local groups across the nation to increasing our capacities as a national staff, from reestablishing relationships with members from throughout the arc of our history to beginning new relationships with people attracted to Pax Christi USA as a community where they can live out their commitment to a faith that does justice and seeks peace. Nowhere is this more true than our commitment to passing this 50-year legacy on to new generations of peacemakers now in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The Pax Christi Young Adult Caucus held more than 15 events this year, including an in-person retreat for young adult leaders in June in Washington, participation at the annual anti-gun violence March for Our Lives, a liturgy for peace outside the Russian embassy following the invasion of Ukraine, a pre-conference meeting and trip to the Museum of African American History and Culture, monthly dialogues over Zoom on a variety of topics, and an Advent mini-retreat online. The PCYAC leadership team co-authored the 2022 Advent reflection booklet with Bishop Stowe and offered their reflections at our weekly Pax Christi community Advent prayer services. Most exciting, we launched a new program this year, Peace Pairs, an intergenerational co-learning program between different generations of peacemakers. Each pair completed a project together (like this one from Honorine Uwimana and Donna Grimes, and this one by Beatrice Parwatikar and Sr. Annie Killian) for the benefit of the larger Pax Christi USA community. Our leadership development efforts among new generations is also evident by the number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are resourcing our movement on the national staff and National Council.

While the 50th anniversary loomed large in everything we did this past year, it didn’t keep us from engaging in prayer, study and action on racial justice, nonviolence, nuclear disarmament, Indigenous solidarity, gun violence, economic justice, the climate crisis and more.

Just taking it month by month and picking out one highlight, I think you’ll be energized and moved by what we were able to do together:

JANUARY – We began the year by partnering with Archbishop John Wester and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on amplifying, promoting and distributing Archbishop Wester’s pastoral letter on nuclear disarmament. The promotion included a PAX Mass celebrated by Ambassador of Peace Fr. John Dear addressing the promise of the pastoral letter, attended by over 500 folks online, our publishing of the pastoral letter in English and Spanish followed by a 3-session study circle on the pastoral letter, and Archbishop Wester’s keynote at the national conference.

FEBRUARY – We joined in the effort to avert war in Ukraine, speaking at the Faith Vigil for Peace on the eve of the war, and responding in the aftermath of the Russian invasion, issuing a statement in the immediate wake of the war while Pax Christi Young Adult Caucus members held the first peace vigil outside the Russian embassy the night the war began.

MARCH – We rebooted our Bread Not Stones campaign to redirect military spending to address the root causes of conflict, injustice, inequity, and environmental catastrophe. Actions and resources throughout the year included a new prayer card, lobby work on the People Over the Pentagon Act, participation in the Catholic Nonviolence Days of Action (more in September below), a PAX Mass on the theme of the campaign, the “Stopping Economic Exploitation: Building a World of Peace and an Economy for All” webinar, and a fun action for Advent to help us build (bake?) a better world.

APRIL – We celebrated Easter and the culmination of the Lenten season with reflections, weekly PSAs throughout Lent, weekly Lenten prayer services, a Lenten retreat with Bro. Mickey McGrath on disarming our hearts, and a special Easter message from Bishop Stowe.

MAY – As has become all too prevalent in our culture of gun violence, we responded with two statements in May to the mass shootings in Buffalo (connecting it specifically to the rise of white nationalism) and Uvalde, with our statement on Uvalde being picked up and featured in The New York Times. (Later in the year, we’d have to cry out again in the wake of the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado.)

JUNE – We were a co-sponsor of the Poor Peoples’ Campaign Moral March in Washington, DC, with a delegation of Pax Christi USA leadership and local members participating, connecting the themes of the march with our Bread Not Stones campaign, as well as featuring a new video series on our website called The Color of Peace, highlighting the contributions of African American Pax Christi leaders in celebration of the Juneteenth holiday.

JULY – As we prepared for the 50th anniversary conference in August, we launched a new oral history project with video interviews of our Teachers of Peace from throughout our 50 year history, including interviews with actor Martin Sheen, author and anti-death penalty activist Sr. Helen Prejean, and author Sr. Joan Chittister, osb.

AUGUST – Our 50th anniversary conference was the main highlight of August (click here to revisit all the presentations, videos, and more), but we also incorporated a prayer service in remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries at the conference, in solidarity with local groups observing the anniversaries across the U.S., and a prayer witness at the Pentagon at the conclusion of the conference attended by more than 100 people.

SEPTEMBER – We elevated and amplified our Bread Not Stones campaign as our major effort during the Catholic Nonviolence Days of Action, Sept. 21-Oct. 2, with more than 25 groups from around the nation participating in legislative visits, parish outreach, educational efforts, and actions. Additionally for the days of action we held our biannual nonviolence training with Meta Peace Team.

OCTOBER – This month we saw an abundance of assemblies and gatherings across our grassroots network, including: Pax Christi Southern California‘s regional assembly with Archbishop John Wester and Sr. Simone Campbell and a dialogue on nonviolence and its intersections with poverty, military spending and nuclear weapons, race, and the climate crisis; Pax Christi St. Louis’ event with Bishop Stowe on, “How can the Church be prophetic in a time of great polarization?”; our National Council meeting with Pax Christi Little Rock; Pax Christi Michigan’s 28th annual retreat with Pax Christi USA’s 50th anniversary coordinator Michelle Sherman and Nick Rademacher, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton; Pax Christi Northern California‘s conference and 2022 Tom Webb Memorial Peacemaker of the Year reception, with Vivian Zelaya, a local Catholic organizer; and a joint regional assembly of Pax Christi Massachusetts, Pax Christi Maine, and Pax Christi Rhode Island celebrating significant anniversaries for each.

NOVEMBER – Our annual Advent program of prayer, study and action began with our best-selling Advent reflection booklets highlighting Bishop Stowe alongside young adult voices in our movement, continuing through the end of the year with weekly reflections and PSAs, an Advent retreat on gospel nonviolence, weekly Advent prayer services, an Advent mini-retreat online for young adults, a special Advent message in support of our work from Teacher of Peace Martin Sheen, and a closing PAX Mass celebrating the season and the end of our Jubilee year.

DECEMBER – A number of Pax Christi members, including representatives from our staff, national council, Teachers of Peace and Ambassadors of Peace, participated in the Pax Christi International conference at the Vatican on “Pope Francis, Nonviolence and Pacem in Terris.” Pax Christi USA members contributed to the conference by submitting a document on how an authoritative teaching on nonviolence could impact our work and Michelle Sherman from our staff wrote a full report at the conclusion of the conference.

Other items of note:

It was hard to keep this pace during the 50th anniversary year, but we hope you know how grateful we are for everyone in our national community who shows up for peace and justice, whether you started 50 years ago or yesterday. I cannot express enough what it means to me (and I hope to you) to be part of this community pledged to being the peace of Christ, “Pax Christi,” in our world today. And I hope you’ll continue to journey with us, companions together, in prayer, study and action.

In peace,

Johnny Zokovitch
Executive Director, Pax Christi USA

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