By Julie Ferraro
A celebration of the International Day of Peace in the Sisters of St. Francis’ Clinton chapel on Sept. 20 brought together a range of community members to proclaim how important peace is in today’s troubled world.
Organized by the Sisters’ Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking, the event featured a variety of presentations. Judy Schaaf, a Clinton Franciscan associate, read Clinton Mayor Mark Vulich’s Proclamation urging all in Clinton to commemorate the day, “in order to help establish a global day of peace in our homes, our communities and between nations for the benefit of all peoples and of the Earth.”
Visitors to the chapel were invited to write on a slip of paper their response to the theme, “I will make peace with…” These responses were displayed on a board.
Members of the Drumming Circle from the Bickelhaupt Arboreum set the beat by inviting those present to drum with them. Then, Sister Michael Marie Burns, OSF, spoke about peace and led the group in song.
Kathy Youmans, who attended the morning sessions, observed: “So much is going on in our world. We need to take time to think about what is happening.”
The International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day, began in 1982 after the United Nations General Assembly decided to encourage people to promote peace. Commemorations are held each year on Sept. 21 across the globe. In Clinton, the Sisters of St. Francis have been observing the day for more than 10 years.
Rev. Peter Sickels, pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, Clinton, brought his guitar to the Canticle, and led those present in songs of peace hearkening back to the 1970s. The music was flavored with Scripture readings and Rev. Sickels’ commentary.
Father Richard Okumu, pastor of Church of the Visitation, Camanche, celebrated Mass. In his homily, he reflected, “We are here for a purpose. God is calling the nations, from the north, south, east and west. He’s challenging us to be a part of the journey to peace.”
More than one presenter noted that being silent is the same as sanctioning wars and mistreatment of other people.
Connie Beck, a hospital chaplain and Sisters of St. Francis sojourner, drew on the progression from dominion to stewardship to kinship, not just in creation, but as people deal with their human counterparts.
The chapel had a meditative atmosphere much of the day, with Marcia Flory, R.N., and April Wise, a New Kadampa Buddhist from Camanche, leading the participants in quieting themselves.
“It’s a conscious choice to choose peace over violence,” Wise said, as she spoke of the Eight Verses for Training the Mind, by Langri Tangpa.
Dubuque Franciscan Sister Nancy Miller, co-coordinator of the Center for Active Nonviolence and Peacemaking, shared reflections on St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare, and gave a reading of the 193 countries that belong to the United Nations.
Dick Roberts, a Prince of Peace parishioner from Clinton, added humor to the mix. Listing “Ten Steps on How to Live in Peace,” he joked about a recommendation not to control others. “I’m giving you advice not to give advice,” he said.
Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland, OSF, raised a point about reaching those who believe violence is acceptable. “How do we involve them in events such as this?” she asked.
The Arch of Clinton ended the presentations with song and prayer, led by their new community leader, Pamela Hoogheem. Then, the gathering moved out into the cool evening, where the slips of paper filled out on the theme of “I will make peace with…” were burned and their intentions released.