Notes on peace and justice

Ann O’Connor of Syracuse Catholic Worker dies

Ann O'Connor

Ann O’Connor

The Catholic Worker community in Syracuse, New York, lost one of its stalwarts with the death of Ann O’Connor, 81, Jan. 17.

In 1971 she became involved with Unity Kitchen Community in Syracuse, where she met her husband, Peter King. They married in 1980. Together they assumed major roles in operating the kitchen, which offered twice-weekly meals to the city’s poor and homeless residents to go along with Sunday Mass.

“She was 18 years older than me, but we met and formed an alliance,” said King, who with his wife called themselves “hospitallers,” those who provide hospitality. “We both thought the other was extremely humorous. We spent a lot of time making each other laugh. We became pretty good friends, best friends, before we got involved romantically.

“Marry your best friend, that’s my advice,” he said.

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Jan. 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

O’Connor was influenced by the writings of Catholic Worker co-founders Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin and brought her organizational skills to Unity Kitchen. A story in the Syracuse Post-Standard said she was attracted to the kitchen as an anti-Vietnam War activist because its founders, Bob Russell and Father Ted Sizing, were involved with sit-ins at Syracuse’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Born in Syracuse in 1933, O’Connor lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio as her father’s railroad job took him to other communities. The family returned to Syracuse in 1949, where O’Connor lived the rest of her life. About that time, at age 16, she contracted severe arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair for the next 65 years, but the disability did not stop her activism and drive to care for the city’s poor residents.

King said the meals will continue. The community provides hospitality on beautifully set tables with matching silverware and china. Each table is named for a saint. Guests are served by volunteers. King said Unity Kitchen hardly provides a soup kitchen atmosphere.

“It’s built along the idea of lavish hospitality,” he explained, referencing the monks of the Middle Ages who felt that it was important to treat the hidden Christ at their door with only best.


Pax Christi International turns 70

pax_website_bannerPax Christi International turns 70 this year and will celebrate its founding with a special series of programs in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

The Pilgrims on the Path to Peace event will take place May 13-17 with programs on the major milestones of Pax Christi’s history, challenges to realizing justice and peace in the Holy Land, and planning for the future, as the Catholic peace organization heads toward its 75th anniversary in 2020.

There also will be a peace festival holding up the work of local and international peacemakers. The 2015 Pax Christi Peace International Award will be presented at the event.

The organization said Bethlehem was chosen as a symbol of its commitment to peace and reconciliation.

Pax Christi members and others working for peace in the world are invited to join the celebration. More information is available at the organization’s website.


Education for Justice

The Education for Justice program of the Center of Concern has assembled a set of resources to commemorate African American History Month, which is observed in February.

The package includes for use by groups, classrooms or prayer groups wishing to understand the importance of the civil rights movement and the struggle still being faced by people of color in the U.S. today.

Among the items included are an interview with Donna Toliver Grimes, assistant director, African-American affairs in the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church at the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, who shares her experiences of racism and how her faith has empowered her to end all forms of discrimination; Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message focusing on modern day human trafficking and migration around the world; a video in which Jesuit Father Fred Kammer, director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans, discusses Catholic social teaching and world economic systems; prayers for racial justice; and a discussion guide to the film “Selma.”

To access the resources, individuals or institutions must subscribe. Costs vary depending on the type of subscription desired.

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