Feast of Saint Martin of Tours
Peace be with you. I write to share with you some efforts of the Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF) since our last Saint Martin’s Day appeal.
Over the course of the past twelve months, the CPF staff has offered practical and pastoral support to several young people struggling with their personal participation in war and their consciences: spanning from the young person who chose to leave the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at a Catholic university, the high school student that had a change of heart about having signed up for the Delayed Entry Program, the soldier jailed for resisting war, and the young person on active duty applying for discharge from the military as a Conscientious Objector. We have met or corresponded with a multitude of questioning teenagers, parents, and secondary school teachers concerned about selective service registration and seeking to better form their consciences and, in many cases, assistance with drafting statements of conscientious objection to war.
Since our last appeal, our staff has provided spiritual direction to - or directly accompanied in other significant ways - more than twenty people returned from combat deployments (be that recently or decades ago). We have had meaningful contact with numerous family members of veterans and brief but important passing interactions with many more. Over the course of this year and last our staff began working with the Chicago-based “Coming Home” retreat program. And in early November, the CPF once again hosted the annual gathering and retreat of the group Centurion’s Guild, a group made up of former military many of whom became conscientious objectors. Our staff is still in the midst of exploring the possibility of retreats for those struggling with anguish of the soul after war and for their families at several monasteries and retreat centers around the country. Toward this end, in February, I accepted a grant to take part in an extended consultation the Soul Repair Center for the Healing of Moral Injury in Fort Worth, Texas. Groups such as Center for Conscience and War in Washington, D.C., the Life Treatment Centers of Northern Indiana, the Red Cross of Saint Joseph County, Indiana, and Mayslake Ministries of Chicago and others are referring or are prepared to refer people to whom we can be of service. At this time, our staff is working with the gifted singer/songwriter, educator and veteran of the Iraq conflict, Jason Moon, to coordinate a concert and other artistic events in South Bend around healing, narration and memory after war in the coming year.
Over this past year, CPF staff gave presentations or workshops at Saint Matthew Cathedral Parish in South Bend, Indiana, Saint Joseph & Saint Raphael Parish in Springfield, Ohio and Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, Indiana. CPF staff collaborated with Saint John Neumann Parish staff in Charlotte, North Carolina to orchestrate a day-long event on war, peace and conscience. We have also worked with professors and student groups on five Catholic college campuses in the past year. As I write this letter we are preparing for another event at a parish in the Midwest and planning educational and formational collaborations with offices in the Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, including an office that forms pastoral ministers for dioceses around the country. In the winter of 2013, CPF staff persons were an invited presence of at two Archdiocese of Chicago events on Rebuilding Trust and Restoring Hope for those returned from combat given for all of the parishes of that archdiocese. During Lent, Deacon Tom Cornell, Michael Griffin and I gave a well-received workshop on conscientious objection and the healing of moral injury at a global conference on Pacem in terris to over seventy-five attendees. In addition to having presenters on staff, the CPF is currently assembling a Speaker’s Bureau. We will share more on this resource as it takes shape.
Over the past several months we have established a very vibrant CPF reading circle in South Bend. Well-attended, weekly summer gatherings have been followed by monthly autumn gatherings with many thoughtful young people reading and discussing works on conscience, war, and peace by a number of Catholic Peace Fellowship authors and other writers. Our staff is also beginning to help grow similar reading circles in other parts of the country.
In early September, our staff was encouraged and humbled to aid a host of parish staffs, campus ministers, teachers, and student groups with the planning prayer services for peace in response to the Pope’s calling for the day of prayer for peace around the world, especially in Syria. In addition to helping others to plan prayers, the CPF staff has also coordinated a number of prayer events in the South Bend area over the past year with many more already being prepared for 2014.
In mid-September, the CPF hosted two evening talks with Martha Hennessy of Maryhouse Catholic Worker in New York City. Over two hundred people attended these evenings to hear Martha speak on a variety of topics including prayer, Christian discipleship, peacemaking and her grandmother - early CPF adviser - Dorothy Day. In late October another two hundred turned out for the annual festivities in celebration of the feast of the martyr, Saint Marcellus co-coordinated and co-hosted by the CPF staff. Following a pilgrimage walk, supper and dramatization of the trial and passion of Saint Marcellus, the Most Rev. John Michael Botean wonderfully introduced the Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy who delivered the night’s keynote address at the ecumenical prayer service by the relics of Saint Marcellus in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Organizationally, CPF is grateful for the continued presence of Jessica Keating and Leah Coming on our staff and for the occasional efforts of Daniel Baker. We have also been pleased that University of Notre Dame Master of Divinity student Maria Surat and Holy Cross College student Billy Olson chose to join our staff as interns for this academic year. In addition to helping to organize some of our recent events and prayers, they have been transcribing some of the late Joshua Casteel’s writings for his memorial foundation and literary estate and have been helpful editors on our CPF journal and web projects. We remain grateful for our trusted advisers and for the numerous other volunteers who have sought to help further the mission of CPF to work for peace before, during, and after war.
Please pray for the CPF staff - and for those who come to us - as together we endeavor to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps 34:15). If you are interested in ways you can become more involved in the work of the Catholic Peace Fellowship, would like to host a talk or workshop, or for more information on how to join or start a CPF reading circle in your area, please contact the CPF office.
Finally, we need your support to sustain these efforts, eventually compensate in some small way our hard-working, volunteer staff, and to pay our bills. The CPF staff recently received a generous donation to cover our office rent and utilities and to keep our doors open for those we serve for another year. We need money to keep our phone lines, fax lines and internet connections open for those who call upon us for help. We require funds to enable us travel to events to educate and share word of the need for CPF’s ministries. We are in need of resources to cover printing costs, and assist us with the updating of office equipment that will enable us to move forward on our print, website and new media projects that have suffered setbacks this past year, in part because of the lack of funding available for these things. Despite obstacles and limitations, CPF still reached well over 10,000 people via various media projects including our regularly-updated social media site, our still-developing web-page, emails, and mailings. We also have four issues of our journal “The Sign of Peace” in the works for 2013-2014. These projects are only a beginning. By God’s grace and with your generous assistance we are capable of much, much more.
Please give a tax-deductible donation via mail or online though our website to aid us in our striving to witness to the One who “is our peace.” (Eph 2:14). Please consider asking your parish to consider taking up a collection during Advent or Lent to support the work I have described above. On behalf of the other staff members and our advisers, know of our prayers and heartfelt gratitude for your gracious support.
Shawn T. Storer
Director, Catholic Peace Fellowship
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