By Barb Arland-Fye
Two recipients of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award, presented in the Davenport Diocese, have died within days of one another.
Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, 86, the 1996 recipient of the award and champion for the rights of poor and indigenous people in southern Mexico, died Jan. 24 from complications of a longstanding illness, Catholic News Service (CNS) reported.
R. Sargent Shriver, the 1966 recipient and a champion of anti-poverty programs, died Jan. 18 at the age of 95. Shriver was a founding director of the Peace Corps and also was instrumental in the development of anti-poverty programs such as Head Start, VISTA, the Job Corps and Upward Bound, CNS said.
The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award that each received was created in 1964 by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council and is presented by the Davenport Diocese in collaboration with other organizations to honor individuals for their achievements in peace and justice.
Dan Ebener, who served as the diocese’s social action director when Bishop Ruiz received his award, described the bishop as charismatic and articulate “about the preferential option for the poor.” The bishop also sought peaceful solutions to the violence in Chiapas, Mexico, which borders Guatemala.
In the 1960s, Bishop Ruiz began speaking out against the injustice endured by the poor and indigenous people of Chiapas. His work on behalf of the poor and marginalized earned him harsh criticism among the wealthy landowners. Upon his death, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon said Bishop Ruiz “strove to build a more just Mexico — egalitarian, dignified and without discrimination in it — so that indigenous communities have a voice and their rights and freedoms are respected by all,” CNS said.
Shriver also worked on behalf of the poor and marginalized and espoused Catholic Social Teaching, said Msgr. Marvin Mottet, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese. The priest recalls hearing Shriver speak in Davenport as a presidential candidate. “I thought, ‘This guy is spouting Catholic Social Teaching.” Later, while leading what is now known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Msgr. Mottet had dinner at the home of Shriver and his wife, Eunice, sister of the late President John F. Kennedy. Shriver and his wife “were so faith-filled,” the priest said.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl presided at Shriver’s funeral Mass Jan. 22 at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Potomac, Md. “The life of Robert Sargent Shriver was not just one of accomplishment as husband, father, friend, public servant and founder. The life of Sargent Shriver was a testimony to belief in God and how faith must engage the world,” Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily.