Following is a report written by Pax Christi USA staff member Michelle Sherman, Hazel Franco (Marianist Encounters), and Savio Franco (director, Leadership Development, Research, and Partnerships, University of Dayton) from Rooted and Grounded: A conference on land and Christian discipleship, held September 28-30, 2023, and hosted by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and co-sponsored by Bridgefolk, a grassroots group of Mennonites and Catholics. 

The theme of the three-day Rooted and Grounded conference was “Pathways through Climate Doom: Resistance and Resilience.” Michelle, Hazel, and Savio were invited by Bridgefolk to share a presentation on Catholics working for peace and environmental justice.

Kaitlin Curtice, an Indigenous Christian speaker, writer, and storyteller, was the keynote speaker for two sessions of the conference. She helped frame resistance as relationship, which includes communal and ancestral components. Resistance, Kaitlin explained, begins with curiosity, asking questions. She noted that when we use the scientific definition of resistance, meaning a force that operates an opposite force, it can be the way we use our everyday lives as an opposite force to address the status quo and to build up a better way; this way disrupts capitalism and colonialism, which contributes to the disconnection from land and our bodies.

It was within this framework that Hazel, Michelle, and Savio presented their workshop, “The two hands of nonviolence: Resistance and resilience as modeled through the Marianists and Pax Christi USA.”

Using the “two hands of nonviolence” as a model of this year’s themes of resistance and resilience, their workshop offered resources from the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, linking active nonviolence and global examples addressing the intersections of environmental justice, militarism, and racism. They shared examples from the Marianist Family Encounters Project, a multi-year journey initiated by the Marianist Family of the United States to respond to Pope Francis’s calls to action in his encyclicals, Fratelli Tutti (2020) and Laudato Si’ (2015). They shared that these teachings have given birth to two international movements in the Church – the Global Compact on Education and the Laudato Si’ Action Platform – through which we are called to partner with all persons of goodwill and work towards common objectives. The interactive learning component included sharing resources on Marianist education, the Pray-Study-Act model and Vow of Nonviolence of Pax Christi USA, and additional resources from the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

Around 28 people from Mennonite and Catholic traditions attended the workshop, which began with introductions to nonviolence by Michelle, followed by an introduction to the Marianist Family Encounters Project by Hazel.

Michelle led the group in the contemplative meditation of Barbara Deming, who coined the “two hands of nonviolence” metaphor. To illustrate this term, one hand says, “I refuse to cooperate with injustice,” while the other states, “I respect you as a person and will work with you for the common good.” Michelle shared climate justice examples from Pax Christi International in Peru and Guatemala, where Pax Christi members work towards the ecological, economic, and common good of the land and people.

Hazel shared about the Marianist charism through the Marianist Encounters Project, which combines the Global Compact on Education and the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, and offered examples from Marianist Encounters initiatives across Marianist universities, schools, retreat houses, organizations, and religious communities.

The second part of the one-hour session consisted of two workshop activities based on the Pray-Study-Act model of Pax Christi and the Marianist Encounters mustard seed activity. Savio led group discussions among the audience, who were invited to share their thoughts and key takeaways from the session. The session closed with Savio playing his guitar and leading everyone in song with Brother Sun, Sister Moon from the 1970s movie of the same name.

Thanks to Bridgefolk for the invitation to present at the Rooted and Grounded conference. Special thanks to Hazel Franco of Marianist Encounters for editing the recording of the presentation.

Use this link to see the slideshow from the presentation.

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