Written on: February 23, 2016
On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Camden, NJ, invited peacemakers to attend a day of prayer and study. The theme was PEACE AND PLANET: IMPERATIVES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.
A featured keynote speaker was Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary Bishop of the Detroit Archdiocese. Peacemakers from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey gathered in response to the Sacred Heart Parish invitation and included Sisters Mary Finnick and Rose Mary Cauley.
Bishop Gumbleton, or “Tom” as Sister Mary and many peacemakers call him, focused his keynote on the nuclear threat and drew from sources, as recent as an Op Ed from the New York Times dated Feb. 11, 2016, addressing nuclear winter and the historical American efforts that led to massive killings of over 900,000 Japanese in WWII culminating in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As “Tom” enumerated the number of nuclear sites in our world today, most of which are operated by the US and Russia, we were led to ask ourselves, “HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?” As co-writer of the American Bishop’s document The Challenge of Peace, circulated over 30 years ago, Bishop Gumbleton witnesses with great fidelity to the to the mission given to all of us:
“From our faith we seek to provide hope and strength to all those who seek a world free of the Nuclear threat. Hope sustains our capacity to live with danger without being overwhelmed by it; hope is the will to struggle against obstacles when they appear insurmountable. Ultimately our hope rests in God.” The Challenge of Peace
Using quotes from John McKenzie’s book on Jesus, he reminded us that if we do not know Jesus as totally non-violent, we do not know Jesus. The words of John Paul II “No more war. War never again.” and the call to abolish nuclear weapons by Pope Frances in the Joy of the Gospel, were shared as ways of remembering.
Bishop Gumbelton clarified his own answer to How did we get to this point? with a story from Henri Nouwen, found in the introduction to The Living Reminder:
The story is told of Elie Wiesel, whose entire family had been obliterated by the Jewish Holocaust carried out in a Hungarian village. Elie returned to the village later in life in search and found that no one in the village could remember what had happened. Elie reflected on the indifference and concluded, “To forget our sins is even greater than to commit them.”
Bishop Gumbleton urged the peacemakers to continue to remember the terrible price we have exacted in terms of innocent people killed and destroyed by our country and other superpowers as we use weapons of mass destruction and stockpile our nuclear arsenals.
Spending this time with Bishop Gumbleton was a valuable meeting with a faithful disciple and an opportunity for the Spirit to help the many attending faithful peacemakers to listen, discern and hopefully act as needed.