"Violence and war are never the way to peace," Pope Francis emphasized Sept. 7 during a day of fasting and prayer for Syria, the Middle East and other places affected by strife.
Since then, Catholics in Tompkins County have done their part to ensure that the pontiff’s words remain relevant.
All of Tompkins’ faith communities came together Sept. 20-22 to take part in several peace-related events, beginning with a Friday-night Peace Mass at Ithaca’s St. Catherine of Siena Church. The fifth-annual liturgy was held in conjunction with the International Day of Peace and attended by approximately 150 people, including choir members from several area parishes.
Serving as the liturgy’s celebrant was Father Tim Taugher, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Binghamton and a member of the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi. Concelebrants were Father Joe Marcoux, pastor of St. Catherine; Father Malachy Nwosu, pastor of All Saints, Lansing/St. Anthony, Groton/Holy Cross, Dryden; Father Jeff Tunnicliff, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca; Father Carsten Martensen, SJ, director of Catholic campus ministry at Ithaca College and Cornell University; and Father John Tokaz, OFM Cap, pastor of St. James Parish in Trumansburg. Assisting were Deacons George Kozak and Mike Mangione.
"Prayers for peace had a special urgency this year, with events in Syria and long-standing wars," observed Dan Finlay, a St. Catherine parishioner and member of the Peace Mass committee. He noted that Father Taugher’s homily traced the theme of peace from Pope John XXIII’s 1963 peace encyclical, Pacem in Terris, to the United States bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter, "The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response," to Pope Francis’ current message to renounce violence and seek to rebuild harmony.
Other activities from the Peace Weekend were a living rosary, held Sept. 21 at Immaculate Conception School; and a group reflection on the connection between peace and care for the environment, which took place Sept. 22 at All Saints. Finlay noted that the weekend’s events were coordinated by Laurie Konwinski, justice-and-peace coordinator for Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga.
In addition to the Peace Weekend, St. Catherine of Siena held its annual International Peace Festival Sept. 14-15. Events included Mass on both days, live music and performances, arts-and-craft vendors, silent auction, an "Elegant White Elephant Sale," international food and children’s activities.