PCMDCB PEACEMAKER OF THE YEAR AWARD RECIPIENTS
Note: Though some of the following items have been updated, biographical information may only be accurate as of the date of the PCMDCB award.
2008, Catholic Worker communities in Metro DC & Baltimore
Our first Peacemaker of the Year Award Dinner was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, VA, in November 2008. Bishop Tom Gumbleton was the celebrant, and former soldier, war resister, and peace activist Camilo Mejia was the keynote speaker. Honorees and special guests were the area’s Catholic Worker Communities: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in DC, Little Flower Catholic Worker Farm in Louisa, VA, and Viva House in Baltimore.
2009, Sr. Alice Zachman
Sr. Alice Zachmann, SSND, first traveled to Guatemala in 1975, when she was working in parish ministry in St. Paul, MN. During that visit and a subsequent trip in 1979, she was struck by the almost incredible levels of poverty and discrimination among Guatemala’s people. Compelled to help, she resigned her U.S. job and united with Guatemalan refugees and former missionaries to advocate for justice and peace. The nonprofit Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC), with Sr. Alice at its head, received 501(c)(3) status in 1982.
The organization’s deep commitment to solidarity and bold approach to advocacy have placed it at the forefront of the international struggle for human rights in Guatemala. It contributes to positive systemic change by denouncing torture, forced disappearances, massacres, and U.S. involvement in these atrocities. It monitors the implementation of the 1996 Peace Accords and addresses patterns of abuse, including violence against women and attacks against human rights defenders.
From 2002 to 2009, after retiring from the GHRC, Sr. Alice served as office manager for the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC), founded by Sr. Diana Ortiz. TASSC works to end the practice of torture wherever it occurs and to support survivors as they empower themselves, their families, and their communities wherever they are.
2010, Tom Siemer and Rita Clark
Thomas Siemer has been a tireless advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons since 1976, when he quit his job after working on weapons systems with Rockwell International for 23 years. Starting in 1979, he has gone to Rome numerous times to urge the Pope and members of the Curia to officially forbid the building, deployment, threat to use, or actual use of weapons of mass destruction. In 2005 he was arrested for throwing red paint, symbolizing blood, at the Enola Gay B-29 bomber, on exhibit at the Air and Space Museum. He is the author of a book published with various titles on the moral imperative of nuclear disarmament.
Rita Clark has been active in the Jubilee movement for third-world debt reduction since the 1990s. After working for the Nicaraguan Embassy from 1984 to 1990, in 1992 she founded the Nicaragua-US Friendship Office, which has helped to build schools in poor neighborhoods and the countryside in Nicaragua, as well as communicating the truth about Nicaragua to people in the U.S. In 1997, the Nicaragua-US Friendship Office joined with many other organizations to form the Jubilee USA Network, which works for the cancellation of crushing international debt to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Tom and Rita have been married since 1996. Tom is the father of seven adult children and Rita is the mother of six.
2011, Jeni Stepanek
Jeni Stepanek, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, devoted to carrying on the work of her son, the late bestselling poet and peace advocate, Mattie J.T. Stepanek (see www.mattieonline.com). She is a noted advocate for personal and world peace, as well as for children’s and families’ needs and rights in health and education. She is the author of Messenger: The Legacy of Mattie J.T. Stepanek and editor of Heartsongs. Jeni’s inspirational message about hope, peace, disability, grief, support, parenting, collaboration, motivation, and spirituality has been carried by all media outlets.
Like her son, Jeni has a rare genetic neuromuscular disease, and relies on a ventilator and wheelchair for breathing and mobility. Mattie, the youngest of Jeni's four children, died 3 weeks before his 14th birthday. All four died during childhood due to complications of the disease Jeni unknowingly passed on to them before she was diagnosed.
Today, Jeni works as an inspirational speaker and a research and editorial consultant. She also serves as a National Vice President for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and as a Governor for the We Are Family Foundation. As a mentor, Jeni is known as "Mama Peace" to 87 international teens (and counting) who are committed to peace and who learn about Mattie's message through the annual "Just Peace Summit" in New York City. She also works with schools and students who are learning about Mattie and peace across the United States. (Here’s a moving update: https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/07/30/jeni-stepaneks-last-heartsong/.)
2012, Sr. Katherine Corr, SNDdeN
Born in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Sr. Katherine Corr—“Sissy” to her many friends—started her life of service in Anacostia where, as a new member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, she taught grammar school in a Catholic parish that served some of D.C.’s poorest black families.
After earning two degrees in education, she was assigned to Atlanta in 1967. After school and on weekends, she volunteered in the voter registration campaign of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where she came to know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis, now a Member of Congress from Georgia. She was inspired: “I came to see the intimate connections between racism, poverty, and war.”
In the 1980s, she founded Jobs With Peace, a Baltimore nonprofit that spearheaded a campaign to establish the Baltimore Development Commission, organized to make public the amount of local dollars that support the military budget.
In 1994, Sister Katherine’s order assigned her to direct the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, based in Baltimore. To help financially disadvantaged communities that needed volunteers and funding, the organization partnered in 1995 with Americorps. NDMV-A is a public-private partnership for education, community empowerment, leadership development and multicultural harmony. Now in its 18th year, NDMV-A has grown to serve in 23 cities nationwide with over 3,000 alumni. Volunteers provide hands-on support to economically disadvantaged communities. They tutor children and adults (literacy, GED, and ESL), organize after-school enrichment activities, model and teach conflict resolution and parental effectiveness, and involve community professionals in the learning process.
Since 2005, Sr. Katherine has also directed the independent Notre Dame Mission Volunteers International, which serves eight communities across the globe.
2013, Michael Walli
Michael Walli was born on a farm in Michigan, one of 14 children. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. After leaving the military, Michael worked on fishing boats in Alaska and for a time lived and worked at a homeless shelter in Chicago.
In the late 1980s, following a jail sentence for blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic in Virginia, Michael found his way to Dorothy Day House in Washington, D.C. After working there for several months, Michael’s journey with God took him to the Catholic Worker farm in West Virginia, the Catholic Worker in Denver, a Franciscan soup kitchen in Las Vegas, the Catholic Worker in Duluth, and finally back to Dorothy Day House in D.C.
Michael has repeatedly crossed lines, blocked doorways, and in two Plowshares actions, poured blood and hammered on weapons components. His actions have taken him to the CIA, SOA, abortion clinics, Blackwater, the Pentagon, the White House, missile silos, and the nuclear weapons facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He has served several years in jails and prisons for his actions.
Michael is now in a Georgia jail, along with his codefendants Sr. Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed, awaiting sentencing on January 28, 2014, for the Transform Now Plowshares action in Oak Ridge.
2014, Judith Kelly
Judith Kelly is a nonviolent activist and long-time member of Pax Christi. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru and Paraguay, she has also been active in the School of the Americas Watch, Witness Against Torture, and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service.
In 2003, Judith served a 3-month federal prison sentence for trespassing onto the grounds of Ft. Benning, Georgia, calling for the closure of the SOA. She helped organize three human rights delegations to Chile with SOA Watch in 2008, 2009, and 2012. In March 2011, she represented Pax Christi Metro DC-Baltimore on a peace mission to Afghanistan with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In April 2011, she was arrested with Fr. Roy Bourgeois at an SOA protest at the White House. In January 2012, she went on trial for a civil resistance action in the U.S. House gallery, calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In 2013, she participated in a delegation to Chile to mark the 40th anniversary of the September 11, 1973, coup.
As an associate for Pace e Bene, she has facilitated numerous trainings in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence. She has traveled on human rights delegations to Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, and has also visited Israel/Palestine, India, and Japan. Judith is the author of Just Call Me Jerczy, a journey with Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, a martyred chaplain of the Polish freedom movement called Solidarność (Solidarity).
2015, Fr. Gerry Creedon (1944-2017)
Fr. Gerry Creedon served the Church in northern Virginia for almost 50 years, including as the pastor of Good Shepherd parish in Alexandria (1979-91), St. Charles parish in Arlington (1995-2010), and Holy Family parish in Dale City (2010 to 2017). From 1991 to 1995, he served as the founding pastor of the Diocese of Arlington’s mission in Bánica, Dominican Republic, where he worked to develop faith-based communities, served as the coordinator of social justice ministry for the local diocese, and assisted Haitian refugees fleeing war in their country.
In addition to his parish assignments, Fr. Gerry served the Church and the wider community over the years in numerous capacities, including Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Diocesan Director of Catholic Relief Services and the Campaign for Human Development, founder of Catholics for Housing, founder of Gabriel Homes for people with disabilities, Diocesan representative on the board of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, adviser to the Virginia Catholic Conference, board member of Social Action Linking Together (SALT), and Strategy Team member of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE).
In 2002, Fr. Gerry worked to establish the Diocese of Arlington Peace and Justice Commission, and he served as its Chair until his death in November 2017. Under his leadership, the Commission has put on numerous programs to increase understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and motivate action on behalf of peace and justice. Recent programs included conferences on the death penalty, Gaudium et Spes, Pacem in Terris, labor and immigration, drone warfare, and climate change and conflict.
Fr. Creedon was born in County Cork, Ireland, the fourth of 14 children in his family. He attended seminary at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin and was ordained a priest in 1968. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Latin from University College in Dublin (1964), a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union (1978), and a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University of America (1981). Besides English, he spoke Spanish, Gaelic, and French.
2016, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, and Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM
Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF, is Director of Advocacy and Member Relations for the Franciscan Action Network (FAN). Her responsibilities center on peacemaking, including gun violence prevention and relationships with Muslims, and human rights, including immigration, human trafficking, and refugees. From 2003 until 2011 she was Associate Director for Social Mission with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Before that she served her community, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, as Congregational Minister (President) and Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Justice & Peace Coordinator, and educator. She has participated in delegations to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Syria, and Lebanon.
Fr. Jacek Orzechowski is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province, currently ministering at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, MD, and a FAN board member. His advocacy and witness cover a similar range of issues. He has led eight Living Stones pilgrimages for the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and is a tireless advocate for justice, peace and reconciliation in Palestine, as well as immigrants and the environment. The Catholic Bishops of Mexico, in part inspired by his reminder of the example of Jesus Christ, passed a strong statement on forest policy after reading the Franciscan declaration on forest conservation that he authored. Fr. Jacek was awarded a 2004 Steward of the Forest Award.
2017, Rose Berger and Gerry Lee
Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic poet and peace activist who writes about empire, art, social justice, and activism. She has authored three books, edited one, and contributed to many others. With Sojourners over three decades, she has worked as a peace organizer, internship program director, liturgist, community pastor, poetry editor, and, currently, as an associate editor of Sojourners magazine. She has traveled widely for her work. Rose took part in the 2016 Rome gathering that produced “An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Recommit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence”, and is active with Pax Christi International and the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
Gerry Lee has served in overseas and urban US ministry for more than 30 years. From 1984 to 1994, he, his wife, and their three daughters were a mission family in Venezuela with Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MLM). From 1994 to 2006, he served on the MLM staff. After 10 years as part of the food justice movement in the U.S., practicing urban farming with young adults and community leaders in inner city Philadelphia, he was chosen to direct the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. Gerry also took part in the historic 2016 Rome gathering.