Pacem in Terris: Peace from overseas

Since the late 1970s the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award has been received on the St. Ambrose campus, but this year it was a little different.

The recipient of the Pacem in Terris award for 2013 was Jean Vanier. Vanier is the founder of L’Arche, a place where those with and without mental disabilities live together in 150 communities around the world.

Vanier received his award this July in France, and it was the first time the award was presented overseas. A ceremony was still held in Davenport, but this one was not for Vanier.

On Sunday Aug. 25, L’Arche communities from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Kansas and Clinton, Iowa, were on the St. Ambrose campus to receive their awards.

“In some ways it was probably very fitting because he said he didn’t want the award to go to him, he wanted it to go to all the L’Arche communities,” said Rev. Charles Adam, member of the Pacem in Terris committee.

This was something Vanier himself displayed as the audience watched his previously recorded acceptance speech from when he was presented the award in July. As he spoke, Vanier stood linked arm-in-arm with a member from one of the L’Arche Communities in France.

This sight seemed to be replicated as members from each of the four L’Arche communities present came up to receive the awards for their families.

“To be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other,” said Vanier.

And that was demonstrated throughout the rest of the afternoon.

All of the L’Arche groups joined together to honor one another and Vanier. They sang a few L’Arche songs which brought a local aspect for some Ambrosians.

“Some of them are just good friends of ours; Darin got up and sang,” Adam said. “He sang in the chapel here once.”

This award ceremony originally meant to honor Vanier connected many; a school, L’Arche communities throughout the Midwest and Vanier. An afternoon that encompassed not only Vanier himself, but everything the award stands for.

The Pacem in Terris Award was established in 1964 and is given to individuals who are dedicated to working towards peace and freedom throughout the world. Past recipients include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Mother Teresa.


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