At long last, a year later, PCMNY held the annual Peacemakers Awards Celebration on May 22nd. The Peacemakers were named in 2020, however, the 2020 event was called on account of COVID and the Peacemakers patiently waited until 2021 to be celebrated.
Honored were Dr. Betty Reardon, peace educator and author; Nancy Lorence, veteran peace and justice activist; and the Young Peacebuilder, Stella DiCicco, now a senior and president of Pax Christi at The Mary Louis Academy.
Like most events this year, the celebration was a ZOOM affair. Still it was good to see each other if only on little tiles. There was time for a breakout session with four or five people in each group, better allowing for conversation and discussion. A Jeopardy type quiz game between each speech added some lighthearted fun.
Pax Christi Metro New York gratefully presents The Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award for 2020-2021 to Dr. Betty Reardon
Betty, as a Peace Educator par excellence you have shared that, over the years, you have thought of peace education as learning to craft a peaceful and just society by envisioning it, as a carpenter might envision a completed work, then using all the skills involved to bring it into being. In that, you and St. Joseph share a common bond.
But you also see peace education as flowing from a kind of spiritual development, a consciousness that we are all one with each other and with Earth born of the Cosmos. This consciousness, you believe, will help us renounce violence and embrace mutual, loving relationships. And in that, you find connection with Our Lady of the Cosmos.
Together the carpenter and the cosmos contribute to a more complete form of peace education, one that enables the carpenter to craft a more peaceful world built on the realization of our oneness across sex, politics, and every other force that tries to divide.
Thank you for helping to nurture generations of peace builders through your teaching, writing, and speaking. We are privileged to honor you.
Pax Christi Metro New York gratefully presents The Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award for 2020-2021 to Nancy Lorence
Nancy, your work over the years has been like an Easter seedling breaking through the dark earth to blossom with new life. You started as an educator, teaching high school drop-outs, enabling them to earn their GEDs. You then moved on to teach English and the social sciences to high school students in Guatemala. Next, your work took you to a grassroots rural community development program in the Mayan Highlands where you helped in reconstruction, women’s empowerment, and literacy. Back in the U.S., you continued to support the people of Central America, working on human rights campaigns. You also helped garment workers in their union, in particular advocating for immigrant workers’ legal and human rights. At St. Francis Xavier Parish here in New York City, you have been a leader in the Peace and Justice Committee, inspiring greater awareness and nonviolent action for a better world. Most recently you have dedicated much of your energy to the Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement and the St. Francis Xavier Environment Ministry, both of which you helped found, again bringing to light what was below the surface, building peace by promoting justice.
Thank you for cultivating so many seedlings and bringing them to Easter joy. We are proud to honor you.
Nancy Lorence Peacemaker Speech
Thank you for being here today – for showing up for “community” and for “justice”.
Thank you to the teams that have been part of my work – St. Francis Xavier parish and the Environment. Ministry, the Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement steering committee, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, and Call To Action Metro New York.
I’m glad to see my education and union colleagues, some friends from Central America, and family members, and especially Fara, and Jacob, and my Aunt Barb. Thank you for being here
Thank you, Pax Christi for consistently helping all of us be witnesses for peace and justice.
I would also like to congratulate Betty and Stella for their advocacy. And thank you Sister Mary Galeone, a long-time activist and mentor with a never-wavering commitment to justice. It’s an honor to be presented this award by you.
I’d like to pause to dedicate this award to my deceased Mom and Dad, both of whom had ecological sensibilities. And to the water protectors and land defenders who have been killed in recent years in Latin America.
So here we are at the end of Laudato Si’ Week – which celebrates an encyclical that Bill McKibbon just this week called the most important document of the century. Laudato Si’ has been a wonderful guide for my work.
You all know the story about how you can put a frog in boiling water, and it will jump out, but if you put it in tepid water and gradually heat it to boiling, it will die in the water because it doesn’t perceive the increasing danger. It’s a good metaphor for climate change. We may not perceive the eminent danger to humanity until feedback loops come into play causing unprecedented changes in our climate, and then it will be too late to turn things back around. The greenhouse gases we have in our atmosphere now will stay there for a long time, so even if we stop our fossil fuel emissions today, we will not have completely solved the problem.
My Congressman, Gerry Nadler recently said that humanity is facing two existential dangers: nuclear war and climate change. Not by coincidence, both of these issues have countdown clocks. One tracks the risk of nuclear war, the other tracks our global carbon budget, that is, how much CO2 can we release into the atmosphere before warming will pass the critical threshold of 1.5 degree Celsius. At the rate we are going, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put that at 10 years…and that was 2 years ago! And that is why we say it is a climate crisis. The science is telling us what we can observe if we are paying attention: that climate change is happening now.
With climate change, we are already causing destruction to ourselves and to the animal and plant life, to the very ecological systems that help sustain all of life. It’s evident in specific situations already, and we do know that the poorest communities are impacted first and worst.
We know the ice caps are melting causing sea level rise. It has already forced traditional indigenous communities along the Alaska and Louisiana coastlines to relocate inland. New York City is already raising the ground level 6 feet in some waterfront areas; and Miami is raising some of its streets while ocean water laps at the door of small businesses. On the other side of Our Common Home, entire island nations in Oceania are going underwater.
Large parts of the world are experiencing prolonged drought. The Dry Corridor in Central American is producing a wave a migration of small farmers who can no longer sustain their families with farming. California just declared a drought. And we know that drought contributed to apocalyptic fires on the West Coast and in Australia.
Our garbage incinerators and petrochemical plants placed intentionally in low-income and communities of color are polluting the air and causing cancer alleys and asthma in kids at a very young age. At the same time, we are choking the environment with all of our plastic. Mountains of it that we thought was being recycled have ended up in Asian countries where it is often burned or thrown into the water ways. Microplastics have found their way into our food chain.
In all of this, we’re hearing what Laudato Si’ calls “The Cry of the Earth and The Cry of the Poor”. Speaking of the need for an ecological conversion, a change of heart, Pope Francis says, “The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast.” This week, Bishop Leahy of Ireland, speaking on the need for divestment from fossil fuels, called us to Dare to Care.
So we’re not talking about frogs slowing dying in gradually warming water; we’re talking about human communities…. our brothers and sisters, whether they live next to us or in far off corners of the world, living in a warming planet that is facing predictions of food and water scarcity, with resulting tensions, wars, and migration, increased hurricanes, flooding and drought, and the extinction of untold numbers of species.
We have choices here. Adopting life sustaining policies and practices versus spiraling towards suffering and destruction from hurricanes, climate chaos, fresh water and food shortages and a chemically polluted environment.
We can feel helpless and hopeless facing the challenge. But at this critical time in our history, let’s consider it an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to emerge from this pandemic with a resolve to make the world a better place. Let’s support the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a renewable-energy economy. The transition is already happening, but it must happen faster. We must build into our policies support for displaced fossil fuel workers and communities of environmental injustices so that we no longer have “cancer alleys” and 2-year-old kids with asthma.
I am so glad to see these issues spotlighted on the national agenda. I am excited when I hear that the Washington State legislature voted to mandate 100% electric vehicles by 2030 and is waiting for the Governor’s signature. I am hopeful when I see young people raising their voices for their future. I am hopeful when I see an increasing awareness of the relationship between us and the natural world and the desire to care for it as good stewards. And I am hopeful when I see a project called the Climate Crisis Policy come up with The Earth Bill that would mandate the measurable reduction of fossil fuel emissions. We must support this transition with our sights on a healthy planet with policies that incorporate justice, and equity, and that place a high value on human dignity while making this historic transition. This transition needs all of us.
We can make a difference, and together we will make a bigger difference. As Greta Thunberg says, hope is in action. Let’s keep in our hearts our responsibility to the future generations and our responsibility to care for the gift of creation. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get ready for some “Good Trouble” as the late Congressman John Lewis would say. Good trouble for the future of Our Common Home and those who come after us.
Stella DiCicco was nominated by her teacher, Shannon Tobin who wrote, ”Stella has demonstrated outstanding leadership, vision, and an inclusive outlook to include more of the students in peace-building activities.”
Stella DiCicco’s Speech
Thank you Mrs. Tobin for that beautiful introduction. And thank you to the Pax Christi Metro New York chapter for honoring Betty, Nancy, and I today. Originally, I was going to read what I wrote when I was nominated for this award, but covid has changed our direction. Instead, I’ll talk about the intersection between social justice and social outreach and then I’ll fill you in on how we’ve managed to help those in need during a global pandemic.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” As my friends can attest, I love quotes. I believe that this sentiment that Gandhi once uttered has a strong truth behind it: small acts can change the world, a motto I try to live by. As kids, my parents always encouraged my brother and I to get involved in our communities, so I learned about civil engagement at an early age. Over the years, I’ve worked and managed bake sales benefiting my former elementary school, volunteered at a community children’s theater organization teaching improv, and handed out food at my church’s food bank. When I joined Pax Christi freshman year I was thrilled to get involved with community outreach beyond my neighborhood.
Over the course of high school, I learned that the best outcomes are when social outreach and social justice are combined; this blend can produce powerful results. As President of Pax Christi for the past two years, I’ve seen the positive impacts of direct action: making PB&J sandwiches for the homeless, running clothing and food drives, and raising awareness by participating in the 30 hour famine has helped a lot of people. However, this change is only short-term; social justice is the long-term goal. Yes, these drives and events make a difference, but the most impactful change happens when you change a mindset and influence social and political culture. That’s what I want to do in the future– I want to change the world, one gentle step at a time.
Now, I’ve noticed that over the years, a lot of people feel a bit intimidated with service. They view it as this big noble act and don’t know how or where to help. That’s a part of why I love Pax Christi. Our chapter at TMLA has made the club an inviting place where we can discuss possible ways to help and introduce new members to our annual drives. And this brings me back to that quote by Gandhi– every little bit makes a difference.
This year especially, we learned how to be creative with our service. Normally for our food and clothing drives, we had students bring in their donations during a school week. With the switches from a hybrid schedule to a full remote schedule throughout the year, that wasn’t a possibility. We took the food drive online, setting up a gofundme page where we raised over $2,500 for Faith Mission. We pushed our clothing drive back from the Winter to the Spring and we had a truck from Hour Children come to the school parking lot on a Saturday so that members of the school community could drop off their donations. We also took on new projects this year, such as making cards for the home bound in a partnership with Meals on Wheels. And we took the 30 hour famine online, virtually meeting up for the reflection meeting.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is, service perseveres. Through Pax I’ve found a community of like minded people, eager to leave the world in a better place than where they found it. I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to lead the club for the past two years and look forward to exploring new ways to get involved in college.