Pax Christi Maine’s annual retreat was held on the weekend of November 3-5, 2017 at St. Monica’s Hall
in Augusta. Those present on Friday evening were inspired by a video presentation and discussion of
Pope Francis’ plea in recent talks for a “revolution of tenderness”; the need to value all peoples and our
earth and to follow Jesus’ teaching on love, compassion and nonviolence.
On Saturday we were lead in exploring the main theme of the retreat, “Touching Wounds and Hope in
Today’s World – the Sacred Awaits Us” by Jean Stokan, Coordinator for Immigration and Nonviolence for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in Washington, DC. Over 30 people gathered from all over the state to hear Jean’s presentation on her work with people living on the margins in Latin America, Appalachia and inner city Washington, DC. Through moving images, music, stories and her powerful poetry, Jean brought us closer to people who experience the violence of abject poverty, endless war, oppressive immigration policies, and other human rights violations. Through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, particularly the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ and ‘Solidarity’, we reflected on how Jesus is being crucified today and how we can work to change the oppressive structures of violence in our communities and across the globe.
Beginning with her own experience, Jean emphasized the importance of ‘breaking people’s hearts’ with stories of people’s harsh and painful realities in order to enable the hearers to truly feel the plight of others, experience their pain, and subsequently make significant change through actions and policies to
improve lives. Having lived in El Salvador for many years, and worked with Salvadorans in the U.S., Jean was inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero’s understanding of “The Political Dimension of the Faith”, particularly as presented in an address he made at the University of Louvain in February, 1980, shortly
before his assassination. While his immediate context was the Church in El Salvador in that time of crisis, these words are relevant to the role of the Church at any time, in whatever place: “We are either at the service of the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. And it is here that we are faced with the most fundamental reality of the historical mediation of faith: either we believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.”
Jean encouraged us to “keep breaking people’s hearts” with stories and to touch the hope that is found in the growing grassroots movements of people who are seeking through nonviolent means their recognition as human beings and their rights as citizens, especially members of groups who have been
repressed and denied their dignity historically – and to find ways to support them. She urged us to remain alert to the hope and opportunities for change offered by Pope Francis and the positive view of him throughout the world.
Many Pax Christi members gathered on Sunday to participate in Mass at St. Augustine Church celebrated by Rev. Frank Morin, pastor and Pax Christi member, and then gathered for a final discussion
over brunch. Pax Christi Co-Coordinators Denny Dreher and Mary Ellen Quinn, PCM Council member Mary Kate Small, and others provided retreat materials, organized meals and hospitality, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas graciously assisted with hospitality and local transportation for Jean Stokan in Maine.