Pax Christi Maine held our annual retreat on the weekend of November 17-18, 2018 at St. Augustine Church Hall in Augusta. The retreat, titled “Becoming Peace: Continuing Our Nonviolent Journey in Turbulent Times” included prayer, silence, individual reflection and small/large group sharing.
In preparation for the retreat, participants were asked to watch a TED talk video given by Valarie Kaur titled “Revolutionary Love.” Ms. Kaur is acivil rights activist, lawyer, faith leader, and founder of the Revolutionary LoveProject which promotes love as the foundation of our lives and our politics.
The Saturday session was facilitated by Jack Seery, an experienced retreat leader and member of both PCM and Unity of Greater Portland faith communities. Through scripture reflection, silence and a series of questions intended to elicit our response to the turmoil of our times, Jack guided the group to explore our journey of faith and practice of nonviolence.
Throughout the day, we prayed the Prayer of St. Francis led in song by Ann O’Brien on guitar. A lovely prayer corner designed by Georgia Kosciusko added to our contemplative practice. Before supper, people joined in a prayer service coordinated by Mary Ellen Quinn which included a candlelight ritual where social concerns of our times were named and held in prayer. We also remembered deceased members of PCM as well as others who have inspired peacemaking and the practice of nonviolence in our lives.
In the evening, Denny Dreher presented on the role of Compassion both toward ourselves and others. We discussed and shared how we demonstrate and live out Jesus’ teachings on love and compassion.
Many Pax Christi members gathered on Sunday to participate in Mass at St. Augustine Church celebrated by Rev. Mike Seavey, parochial vicar, and then gathered for a final discussion over brunch. We will continue to gather for ‘mini retreats’ in small regional groups throughout the coming year.
Sincere thanks to all members who assisted in set up of the space, who planned, implemented and participated in our fall retreat.
January 14, 2018 My name is Mary Ellen Quinn and I’m here representing Pax Christi Maine, the Catholic Peace & Justice Movement. Pax Christi is an international movement with membership across the globe. The four priorities of Pax Christi are: the spirituality of nonviolence & peacemaking; disarmament & demilitarization; economic & interracial justice; human rights & global restoration. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is for me, a powerful teacher of nonviolence in action, a courageous follower of Jesus, a social justice warrior wielding active nonviolence as his instrument…an instrument of love and reconciliation. Rev. King challenges us to be a force for change. His urgent call rings out with as much relevance today as it did over 50 years ago. It is a call for interracial justice, a call to be sisters and brothers all, a call for equality, a call to love one another as God loves us. Racism has been called a radical evil, America’s original sin, a soul sickness. It is indeed a spiritual illness. Like endless war, racism is deeply embedded in the fabric of who we are in this country. It is part of our culture – pervasive and resilient, often blatant and obvious; frequently insidious and unconscious – always with the power to wound, to divide and to dehumanize. The national office of Pax Christi USA in D.C. has a vibrant anti-racism program which addresses personal, institutional and systemic racism. In Maine, Pax Christi has a membership that lacks racial diversity, the great majority of our members are Caucasian. Being white and a Christian in this culture demands of us a moral accountability. We cannot merely believe racism is wrong or believe that we are not racist because we benefit daily from being white in this society. Pax Christi members have worked to address racism, first and foremost, by examining our own biases and prejudices. We work to raise awareness related to ‘white privilege’. The willingness to self- examine and discover how we contribute to the pervasive culture of racism is an important step in healing wounds. Another effort undertaken has been to educate ourselves about the role of the Catholic Church. In the slaughter of Native peoples through the Doctrine of Discovery. Examining our complicity in the horrendous policies and practices that led to Native genocide and the theft of their lands compelled Pax Christi to renounce the doctrine and its principles publicly. As part of Campaign Nonviolence, Pax Christi, along with the Peace & Justice Center and over 35 local organizations, annually co-sponsors End Violence Together, a public action intended to bring attention to the inter-relationship of all issues of violence and oppression. Being able to connect the dots is critical to finding nonviolent solutions and building a culture of peace and nonviolence. Because racism is a spiritual illness, I believe strongly that our faith communities have a significant role to play. We must continue to come together to speak out, to oppose poverty, war, domestic violence, gun violence, militarism, hatred …. most of which have racism at their core.
As Rev. King did, we must ensure that the message in our spiritual communities, churches, mosques and synagogues is that racism and all forms of violence are directly opposed to the most basic tenant of all faith traditions, that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and are called to love our neighbor as God loves us. As my niece would say, this is not merely a suggestion but a mandate! Each of us as individuals and all of us as a collective can take steps to recover from the ‘soul sickness’ of racism. A final word from Rev. King, “Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.” Thank You.
Report of the Pax Christi Maine Annual retreat in November of 2017
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.