By Barb Arland-Fye
Hildegard Goss-Mayr, an Austrian whose peace-making efforts have inspired Nobel Peace Prize winners and ordinary citizens worldwide, has been selected to receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.
Presented by Bishop Martin Amos of the Davenport Diocese and the Pacem in Terris Coalition of the Quad Cities, the award honors Pope John XXIII and commemorates his 1963 encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, which means peace on earth.
Goss-Mayer, 79, will accept the award Sept. 20, during a 3 p.m. ceremony in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.
The award’s 39th recipient, she is personally acquainted with a number of past recipients, including Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Dorothy Day, Eileen Egan, James Douglass and Mairead Corrigan Maguire.
In the foreword of “Marked for Life,” a new biography about Goss-Mayr by Richard Deats, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maguire wrote: “I had the pleasure of meeting Hildegard and Jean (Goss, her husband) in 1988 when they visited Northern Ireland which was in the midst of violent ethnic/political conflict. It was a dangerous time to come but they did so with great enthusiasm and generosity of spirit … They brought us hope and planted many seeds of nonviolence and peace.”
Goss-Mayr and her husband, who died in 1991, worked as a team in peace-keeping efforts around the world: Europe, Latin America, South America, Spain, the Philippines and Africa among other places.
Her roots in active nonviolence run deep. Born in Vienna in 1930, Goss-Mayr was inspired by her own father, a peace activist who suffered at the hands of the Gestapo for his efforts. In Marked for Life, Deats retells an incident when 12-year-old Hildegard, standing among a group of other children, did not salute the Fuhrer and his soldiers as they passed through the main thoroughfare.
“She refused to salute Hitler, that’s remarkable,” says Msgr. Marvin Mottet, last year’s Pacem in Terris Award recipient and a coalition member. “Her work is very timely … she’s worked in all the troubled spots,” and that’s why he voted to support her nomination for the award.
“One of the amazing things about Hildegard Goss-Mayr is that she has been within the circle of friends and colleagues of so many of our past recipients. The peace lobby of eight people that she organized during the Vatican II Council included Dorothy Day, Eileen Egan and James Douglass,” said Dan Ebener, the Davenport Diocese’s stewardship director. He nominated Goss-Mayr for the award and is a coalition member.
He first met her 30 years ago, while working for the Fellowship of Reconciliation in New York. She was traveling secretary for the international office of the same organization.
“Hildegard has lived out the principles of the encyclical, Pacem in Terris. In fact, she says that she was inspired by the encyclical to devote her life to peacemaking and nonviolence,” Ebener said. “I don’t know anyone who has done more to create peace on earth over the past 50 years than Hildegard Goss-Mayr.”
While hers is not a household name, coalition member Ron Quay, executive director of Churches United of the Quad City Area, said he is impressed by what he has learned about Goss-Mayr. “Her resume, her life story is one that has been in some of the major peace engagements in the world.”
Coalition member Sister Cathleen Real, CHM, said, “To me, the fact that she has persevered in the work really over her lifetime has been very impressive and in some very difficult places. And it continues; she hasn’t stopped.”
Ollie Finn of Pax Christi Quad Cities and a coalition member, said, “We need to get her name out more so people understand she has been in the peace movement for a very long time. I think she is well deserving of the Pacem in Terris Award.”
In notifying Goss-Mayr of the honor, Bishop Martin Amos wrote: “Your passion for peace is clearly demonstrated through your role as one of the preeminent teachers of nonviolence in our time. You are a pioneer, teacher and visionary who helped forge a new path for humanity, easing Cold War tensions and supporting struggles against colonialism.”