Father John Dear, a Jesuit priest who has been jailed for his efforts to end war and nuclear weapons proliferation, will receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award Oct. 31 in Davenport.
Fr. Dear, who lives in New Mexico, said he is honored and humbled to be chosen for the award he will receive in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m.
Bishop Martin Amos of the Davenport Diocese will present the award on behalf of 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.
Fr. Dear, 50, is the 40th recipient of the award; previous recipients include Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cesar Chavez, Lech Walesa, Msgr. Marvin Mottet and Hildegard Goss-Mayr.
“It’s a great honor,” Fr. Dear said. “But it’s also an affirmation, an encouragement to keep working for peace. Like everyone else, I need all the encouragement I can get.”
Fr. Dear, a prolific writer and speaker, has spoken previously in the Quad-City area — at an event sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton, and at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., — where people asked if he was related to the John Deere who founded an agricultural implement empire in Moline, Ill.
This John Dear doesn’t build or design agricultural equipment, but he did attempt to “beat swords into plowshares” by hammering on an F15 nuclear fighter bomber at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. He was arrested Dec. 7, 1993, for his actions and along with peace activist Phillip Berrigan spent eight months in North Carolina county jails.
Fr. Dear says he’s been arrested more than 75 times for actions stemming from his peace activism. He doesn’t expect everyone to follow his lead, but this is what he feels compelled to do. “What we did was a very nonviolent, silent act … I uphold and obey just laws. But I don’t obey unjust laws. I’m doing my part in God’s disarmament of the planet,” he explained.
“Fr. Dear “is the peaceful presence that Jesus was,” said Sister Bea Snyder, CHM, a member of the Pacem in Terris Committee. “He carries a very strong message and he does it in a peaceful, nonviolent way. And his message is one that is about love of God and love of neighbor. When we call ourselves Christians that’s what we’re supposed to be about.”
The Pacem in Terris Coalition includes the Diocese of Davenport, St. Ambrose University, Augustana College, Churches United of the Quad City Area, the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, The Catholic Messenger, Pax Christi Quad Cities and Bridges of Faith.