Choosing a Pacem in Terris candidate: an inside look

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By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Missionary of Jesus Sister Norma Pimentel will receive the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award on April 21 in Davenport and members of the committee that nominates recipients offered a behind-the-scenes look at the selection process.

“The committee is about as diverse as the awardees,” said committee member Lisa Killinger, president of the Muslim Community of the Quad-Cities in Bettendorf. “It certainly isn’t reserved as an award for Catholics but for those who stand out in the world of peace and justice.”

Killinger offered her insights during the Diocese of Davenport’s monthly Lunch and Learn series April 7 over Zoom. In the offseason, a term Killinger uses to describe the months after the annual award is presented, members pitch ideas for “who is out there doing good works that we should consider. It’s a wide range of people.”

As a longtime committee member, she appreciates the opportunity to learn about individuals making a difference. “Many candidates get put forward that I knew nothing about. We all learn around the table and I find that very fascinating.” Committee members include local leaders from the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faith traditions.

The committee attempts to find a candidate that all members approve and then forwards a recommendation to the Diocese of Davenport for vetting. The diocese “makes sure they don’t have something in their history that would be incongruent with Catholic values,” Killinger said.

The committee also looks at pragmatic issues, such as the feasibility of bringing the candidate to the diocese for an awards ceremony and reception. “We see if they’re traveling in the U.S. and try to coordinate,” Killinger said. For example, the committee coordinated the award ceremony for Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, during her

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Nuns on the Bus tour in 2014. In the early years of the Pacem in Terris award, the committee arranged for Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa (Saint Teresa of Kolkata) to accept their awards in Iowa.

Although the committee has a stipend for expenses, sometimes a candidate stipulates a fee that exceeds available funds. Occasionally, as in the case of the Dalai Lama in 2019, the diocese’s bishop and a committee member travel to present the award to the recipient.

While the committee is generally unanimous in choosing recipients, public opinion is more divided, said committee member Loxi Hopkins. “With Sister Norma, people are critical of her for helping immigrants. I think when you’re doing the work of justice there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like you very much.” Most of the criticism of candidates and recipients is political in nature, Hopkins said.

Killinger said the awards ceremony offers attendees an opportunity to build understanding and put a face on complex issues like immigration.

Awardees usually provide a call to action in their acceptance speeches. Lunch and Learn host Amy Kersten, a diocesan Social Action volunteer, said the awardees tend to be humble, offering an “it takes more than just me” approach. Committee member Sister Mary Bea Snyder, CHM, said the candidates, regardless of religious affiliation, encourage guests to “live the Gospel more fully and take part in peace and justice works.”

View the Lunch and Learn on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/bdfmbv3k.

Pacem in Terris award ceremony

Bishop Thomas Zinkula will present the Pacem in Terris award to Sister Norma Pimentel, a Missionary of Jesus, on April 21 at 7 p.m. in Christ the King Chapel on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport. This ceremony is free and open to the public. Attendees have the opportunity to donate to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley where Sister Pimentel serves as executive director.


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