The Nashville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Symposium on Peace will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville. It will feature talks by Martha Hennessy and Kathy Kelly. Call DCCW President Doreen Flash at 615-476-6244 to register. The event is open to women and men.
|Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Catholic social activist Dorothy Day, reads an issue of The Catholic Worker at Maryhouse in New York in 2012. The Catholic Worker is the official publication of the Catholic Worker Movement, which was co-founded by Day. Hennessy will speak in Nashville on Apr. 22 at the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Symposium on Peace. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz|
The Nashville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women is hosting two nationally known peace activists to speak later this month at the DCCW’s Symposium on Peace. Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day, and Kathy Kelly, with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, will share their stories of working for peace in tumultuous times.
The Symposium will be held 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville; attendees are invited to attend the 5 p.m. Mass at nearby St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church.
Hennessy plans to share Day’s story of tirelessly working for social justice and founding the Catholic Worker Movement, as well as her own peace-building activities. Day, a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, has been an inspiration for Hennessy and countless other modern-day peace activists. “Her story is a beautiful one,” Hennessy said of her “Granny,” and that story has received renewed interest in recent years, especially since Pope Francis spoke about Day during his address to the U.S. Congress in 2015.
Day, born in 1897, was a journalist and co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin. Raised by parents who were nominal Christians, Day joined the Catholic Church when she was a young single mother and became a champion of social justice. She served as editor of The Catholic Worker newspaper from 1933 until her death at age 83.
The Archdiocese of New York began her canonization process in 2000 and she has received the title “servant of God.”
“She reminds us that we are all called to be saints,” Hennessy said, but “not enough of us want to be saints.”
This might sound odd, since one of the quotes most often attributed to Day is: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” Hennessy, however, interprets her grandmother’s famous quote as meaning that she did not want to be set on a pedestal, apart from the poor and downtrodden people she loved.
Being “saintly,” Hennessy said, “is about doing the gospel work that comes out of being a Christian.”
Anyone can live a “saintly” life, said Hennessy, speaking from the Maryhouse Catholic Worker House in New York, the same place where Day lived and died.
Choosing to live simply, “making a conscious decision not to consume too much, living with less so that others can have enough,” is one way to act in solidarity with the poor and help build peace, she said. Volunteering to serve the homeless by distributing food and clothing is another way, Hennessy said. “It’s working for Christ, and is so desperately needed in these times.”
Like Day, Hennessy and Kelly have both chosen to take radical actions to protest war, torture and nuclear weapons, by being willing to be arrested an imprisoned, as well as traveling multiple times to war-torn countries. With her strong belief in the power of “faith-based, non-violent resistance,” Hennessy said she feels called to speak and act in a public way against war and violence.
Hennessy, a retired occupational therapist, said she draws strength from speaking out and offering a voice for the voiceless. “I find it very life-giving to speak out on behalf of the poor and vulnerable who are on the barrel end of the gun,” she said.
“There’s always hope and always common sense solutions at our fingertips. There’s more than enough to go around,” Hennessy said. “It’s up to us to see that and listen to the will of God and respond.”
Kelly, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and recipient of the Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award, has traveled extensively to learn the stories of those suffering the traumatic effects of war. “As a long-time peace activist, I am sustained by the opportunity to live and work alongside some of the finest people in the world,” she said.
Writing via e-mail from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Kelly said she has seen first-hand how the Afghan people still suffer from hunger, lack of clean water, disease, unemployment and illiteracy, despite the U.S. government investing hundreds of millions of dollars in civilian aid to rebuild the country.
Spending time engaged in hands-on activities with Afghan civilians, planting trees, flying kites with children, and simply listening to them, Kelly and she and her fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers “believe we should try, as civilians, to offer personal reparations for war.”
“Our greatest security lies in building friendships with other people,” with Kelly. By engaging in this type of person-to-person diplomacy through non-governmental agencies dedicated to peace-building activities, and sharing the stories of ordinary civilians of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, Kelly said, “I hope to deepen our collective capacity for empathy and compassion.”
Kelly’s passion for peace and community building stems from her faith, dating back to her Catholic elementary school days. “Women religious taught by example that one could live cheerfully while sharing resources, living simply, and preferring service to dominance,” she said.
Kelly also cites as inspiration for her work the Catholic Worker Movement, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin’s “seamless garment of life” concept, the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and our Response,” Pope Francis, Gandhi, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr.
With her firm belief that we are called “to share resources and practice kindness toward people who’ve been cast out or castigated as enemies,” Kelly plans to continue traveling to some of the most war-torn parts of the globe, building personal relationships and sharing those stories with U.S. audiences.
“For Catholics, it’s particularly important to celebrate the Eucharistic belief that we are all part of one another and our faith in the Resurrection.”