Peace events hold deep meaning - Catholic Courier

Peace events hold deep meaning

Thirty years after its founding, the International Day of Peace remains deeply meaningful for Tompkins County’s Catholics.

A special Mass, a living rosary and discussions about bullying, war and nonviolence highlighted a busy weekend across the county Sept. 21-23.

"We really think this is a powerful witness to our communities," said Laurie Konwinski, justice-and-peace coordinator for Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga, which helped coordinate the events.

Starting the weekend off was a Friday-evening Mass at Holy Cross Church in Dryden. The fourth-annual peace liturgy is a combined effort of the Tompkins Catholic parishes and campus ministries, rotating to a different site each year. It’s held to commemorate the International Day of Peace, which has been observed every Sept. 21 since the United Nations inaugurated it in 1982.

The Mass was concelebrated by Tompkins-area priests and featured a large multiparish choir as well as liturgical ministers from various parishes. Approximately 150 people attended, "which we thought was really a great turnout," Konwinski said. She noted a particularly touching moment: a prelude featuring several people with developmental disabilities, who rang bells to the hymn "I’ve Got Peace Like a River."

A post-Mass reception proved a key part of the weekend’s activities. Participants were given handouts that made strong points about war and violence, noting that 60 percent of the United States’ federal budget is spent on the military — while such vital needs as health care, education, housing and urban development, and environmental protection all come out of the remaining 40 percent. Organizers emphasized that violence is not a solution to conflict, nor in the spirit of Jesus’ approach to settling disputes without force. They also highlighted an education issue on the diocesan Public Policy Committee’s 2012-13 agenda: the use of weaponized drones to target suspected terrorists, and how such warfare might fall out of the realm of Catholic social teaching.

Reception attendees were encouraged to help bring about change by writing their legislators, making personal pledges of nonviolence and becoming involved with groups promoting nonviolence. Those organizations include parish justice-and-peace committees and service teams; Pax Christi, a Catholic peace movement for human rights, human security, disarmament and demilitarization; Veterans Sanctuary, a local initiative that supports recently returned Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as they transition from combat to civilian life; and NETWORK, a national Catholic justice-and-peace lobby.

Shifting to Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception Church for the morning of Sept. 22, the weekend’s emphasis on peace continued with a living rosary. Participants served as "beads" for the service, which paid homage to Our Lady of Fatima’s instruction to bring about peace through daily rosary recitation. Each rosary decade represented an intention taken from the prayers of the faithful at the previous evening’s Mass. Konwinski said that among the approximately 70 participants were a number of small children whose recitations were "very touching."

The series of peace events concluded on Sept. 23 with two evening presentations at All Saints Church in Lansing. While members of Tompkins youth groups convened in the church hall for discussion on how to respond to bullying from a faith perspective, local lay scholar Dan Finlay gave an adult faith-formation presentation in the church on "Why Catholics Should Know the Christian Pacifist Tradition." Konwinski estimated that 30 people attended the youth event, and 50 adults — including people from various religious denominations — heard Finlay’s talk.

Preceding this special weekend was the second-annual International Peace Festival, held Sept. 15-16 at Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena Church and organized by that parish. Highlights included live music and performances, arts-and-craft vendors, silent auction, international food and children’s activities. Proceeds from the festival support local and worldwide justice-and-peace initiatives.

Konwinski said the local peace events have enjoyed great success due to the support of many parish staff members and social-ministry representatives. She added that all the activities rolled together serve as "an opportunity to hear that nonviolence is essential to our faith. That needs to be heard more; it isn’t heard enough."

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