At the Pacem in Terris Annual Dinner on Thursday, October 20, in the Community Hall of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE, five Peacemaker Among Us Awards were given. Bob DeNigris, Chair of the Pacem in Terris Board, presented four Peacemakers Among Us Awards to Lance W. Bruce, John Carmody, Rachel Grier-Reynolds, and Father Michael Tyson, OFM. Sally Milbury-Steen presented a Peacemaker Among Us Award to Robert E. DeNigris, who has just ended his term as Chair of the Pacem in Terris Board and is retiring from the Board.
Lance W. Bruce is very deserving of this award, because he has devoted himself to making life in his hometown of Wilmington better for young people and all people through his leadership, advocacy, economic development, and community action. As President of the Wilmington 3rd District Neighborhood Planning Council, he was a spirited advocate for the Northeast Wilmington Community. The council fought to end drugs and crime in the neighborhood, assisted in increasing computer access for youth attending H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club, advocated for greater economic development as well as the revitalization of the 22nd Street Project, the Garner Way Project, the Walnut Street L Project and the Elks on the River Project. He also played a major role in starting the Weed and Seed Program in Northeast Wilmington.
Mr. Bruce has been a leader in the Northeast section of Wilmington for over 35 years, applying his many talents, skills, and his media savvy in every way that he can to insure that justice, hope, betterment, jobs, and fulfillment touch the lives of local people of all ages. For his tireless efforts, he has received many community service awards including the Northeast Alliance of Ministers (1991), Community Leadership-State of Delaware (1995), Outstanding Achievement-Mayor Jim Sills (1998), the NAACP President's Award (2003) and the Eagle Award for saving a manís life. He has served on the Boards of Leased Access Producers Association, Delaware HIV Consortium, and the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center. Formerly a Vice President of the Wilmington NAACP, he presently serves on its Executive Committee and Chair the Economic Committee and is the Co-Chair of the Wilmington NAACP Haiti Relief Fund. For being a champion of community service and for all of his efforts to shape, transform and strengthen the Wilmington community, Lance W. Bruce is truly a Peacemaker Among Us.
John Carmody is very worthy of this honor, because of his personal journey from warrior to pacifist and his profound dedication to living the nonviolence of Jesus. His odyssey began as a former Marine Corps Captain who fought in Vietnam and earned a Silver Star, before he left the service in 1970 to teach and pursue a career in neurobiology. From his background in neuroscience and his study of the theology and spirituality of Christian Nonviolence, he embraced the ethic of nonviolent love and discovered that the human brain has an innate capacity for care and compassion which can be nurtured at any point in our lives. He is the founder and Director of the Center for Christian Non-violence in Wilmington, DE which has been at the forefront in printing pamphlets and other resources about nonviolence and making them available for purchase or downloading on the Center's website. As a practitioner and teacher of Christian Non-violence he has led many workshops, frequently with Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine) of the Catholic Church. He also enjoys talking one-on-one with people after mass at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin and giving them reading materials about Gospel nonviolence.
Gandhi once said, "The only people in the world who do not know that Jesus was nonviolent are Christians." For devoting himself to changing that misperception, both through his personal example and by helping others understand and practice the nonviolent love of Jesus, John Carmody is truly a Peacemaker Among Us.
Rachel Grier-Reynolds has earned this honor because of her dedication to peacemaking from childhood to the present. Her activism began in 1954 in Milford, DE when as a 5th grader, she and her family helped integrate the Milford public schools through the simple act of attending school everyday, while most other white families kept their children home. As an adult, she worked with Milford Community Action to create the Banneker Heights Housing project for low-income residents and helped found the Slaughter Neck Daycare Center which also served low-income residents and was at the time one of the largest community daycare centers in the state. During her three terms as a Trustee of the University of Delaware from the late 70s to the mid-90s, she advocated for divestment from South Africa and more programs for women. Recognizing the need for the performing arts to be more accessible to the residents of Sussex and Kent Counties, she co-founded the Delaware Music School which is now the Milford Branch of the Music School of Delaware.
Her international peacemaking includes traveling with Pastors for Peace to Cuba in 1995 to help construct schools. Under the auspices of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, in 1998 she spent six weeks in Bosnia and Croatia doing humanitarian work with each of the ethnic communities there. She returned to Croatia in 2000, to help train mixed ethnic groups in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). She was a lead AVP facilitator at Chester, PA prison from 2000 to 2008, and is currently part of the AVP team at the Sussex Country, DE Correctional Institution. She is an active board member of the Victims Voices Heard Program, the Latino Initiative Restorative Justice Program, and the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board. She has always been a voice for sanity, empowerment, and hope. Because her life has been a passionate call for justice, action, and positive thinking, Rachel Grier-Reynolds is certainly a Peacemaker Among Us.
Father Michael Tyson fully merits this honor, because of the way that he is living the teachings of St. Francis by promoting peace and nonviolence in Wilmington. When he was assigned to St. Paul's Parish in Wilmington in the summer of 2008, he was shocked by the level of violence in such a small city. Spurred on by shootings in the neighborhood surrounding St. Paul's, he organized the Martin Luther King Day March for Nonviolence and Racial Harmony, which is now an annual event which has as its message, "violence is not the answer."
In April of 2009 he organized an ecumenical anti-violence rally and soon began leading a monthly March Against Drugs and violence through different sections of the city. These Thursday evening marches began and ended with prayer and provided a visible presence of peace in troubled neighborhoods. From this effort came his "1,000 Man Call to Consciousness and Action Program." This initiative called specifically on men to become peacekeepers. The group, which crossed racial and religious lines, sought to stop conflict and violence by reaching out to people on the streets in friendship and inviting them to become peacekeepers themselves.
Father Mike's efforts to promote peace led him to help found the Wilmington Peacekeepers, a group of men who walk the streets of Wilmington's highest crime neighborhoods each week, witnessing to peace and nonviolence. Recognizable in their orange jackets and sweatshirts, Wilmington Peacekeepers is a multi-denominational, ethnically diverse group dedicated to working against violence. More than just talking about peace, he walks the streets of Wilmington to promote unity, reconciliation and peace. Father Michael Tyson is truly a Peacemaker Among Us.
Robert E. DeNigris, Bob to us, has earned this honor, because he has been working for peace for over three decades. He became involved with Pacem in Terris in the early 1980s, first through the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and later on as the Coordinator of our Council for US and USSR Relations. Under his leadership in 1987 the program sponsored a 10-week seminar on the Soviet Union that culminated in a three-week tour of the USSR led by the late Jay Cheeseman. Twenty-four people participated in the tour with memorable visits to St. Petersburg, Tbilisi, Volgograd, and Moscow. Since that time he has participated in countless Pacem in Terris peace vigils, marches, and events in Wilmington and ridden on practically every bus that we have chartered to marches in Washington, DC and New York. When our Wreaths for Peace started in 1992, he began delivering the ones purchased downstate for us, a practice that he continued annually through 2010. From 1996 - 1999 and from 2006 - October 2011, he served on the Board of Pacem in Terris, the last two years as the Chair of the Board. Bob's volunteer leadership has been a great gift of strength and dedication to our organization.
For many years he served as an adult leader on People-to-People Student Ambassador Tours to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Australia, helping young people increase their understanding of other peoples, countries, and cultures. As a math teacher and faculty advisor at Tower Hill School for 33 years, he shared his experiences of peacemaking through international travel, inspiring students to see the world for themselves and practice nonviolence. Wherever he is, he quietly and authentically lives his Quaker faith and his unshakable belief that "war is not the answer." Whether he is clustering pine cones for Pacem's Wreaths for Peace, setting tables for our Annual Dinner, or conducting a Board meeting, no task has been too small or too large for him to undertake for the cause of peace. Bob is truly a Peacemaker Among Us.
Pacem in Terris extends its best wishes to each of these special people who have labored so long to break the cycle of violence and to make the world a better place. Although none of them has ever sought the spotlight, because they have been too busy and dedicated to have any time for that, it gives us great pleasure to accord them the recognition and honor that they so richly deserve. Congratulations!!