By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 27, 2012
SANDY SPRINGS—From fighting racism and building bridges between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land to visiting prisons, Catholic activists with Pax Christi USA talked about a vision for the international peace movement.
Some 40 members of the organization spent Saturday, Sept. 15, at St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs, talking with each other and the organization’s executive director, Sister Patricia Chappell, to plan for the future.
A priority is to increase the number of young people involved with Pax Christi and have the organization look more like the Church, including having leaders who are people of color.
Sister Chappell, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, said the membership of the organization needs to better reflect the diversity of the Church.
“Traditionally, those communities have not been part of Pax Christi USA. We cannot authentically be church if those voices are not part of the Pax Christi USA,” she said.
Pax Christi has four initiatives: spirituality of nonviolence and peacemaking; disarmament, demilitarization and reconciliation with justice; economic and interracial justice in the United States; and human rights and global restoration.
“We are on the cutting edge. We are being prophetic,” said Sister Chappell. “It is the Catholic peace movement. You cannot do everything, but you can begin to do something.”
Pax Christi is an international organization that grew out of World War II. Catholics in France and Germany were alarmed that Catholics from both countries shared the same faith, but also bombed and killed each other. In the 1950s, it had spread across the continent. Leaders organized to bring the organization to the United States in 1972. Today, it is active in 50 countries.
Pax Christi has consultative status as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations.
Its mission is “to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence.” It has about 18,000 members.
Carol Benton, who attends St. Ann Church, Marietta, said she focuses on areas where she can make an impact. Her three tomato plants grew too many tomatoes for her, so she took the surplus to local food banks. She thinks parishes should consider a community garden as a way to fight local hunger. “I can’t solve world issues. I can solve small issues,” she said.
“I think in today’s world we’ve grown apart, instead of growing together,” she said.
Joe Goode, a leader with the organization at St. Jude Church, said the meeting was an opportunity to reenergize the local members. One change discussed is increasing Georgia’s role in the national Pax Christi.
“I think a wonderful goal would be to establish 20 active, dues paying, Pax Christi chapters across the state,” he said.
Carole Lacour, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, helped nine imprisoned women learn life skills through a decision-making program. She said her goal is to mentor the women so they don’t repeat their crimes. But she also learns things.
“I learn something new with every client. I learn something new about myself. The common theme is it can happen to anyone,” she said.
“Throughout the Bible, Jesus teaches us about poverty and how we should stand with and in relationship with our poor brothers and sisters. I often use the Beatitudes as a guide on how to live my life. Pax Christi USA is a natural fit for me,” said Lacour.