22 May 2023
Shaping a Mission for Peace and Active Nonviolence

by Jennifer Kryszak, Director of Strategic Planning for the Franciscan Peace Center


Last August, members of the Clinton Franciscan family attended the Pax Christi USA conference. During that conference, we heard the Most Reverend John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe, speak about his conversion of heart regarding nuclear weapons. For Wester this conversion included a trip to Nagasaki and Hiroshima as well as reflecting on the production of nuclear weapons in Nevada. Experience, education, and conversations encouraged Wester to take a stand on nuclear disarmament, to call for a change of heart and mind in people across the globe.


Wester’s reflections in his pastoral letter Living in the Light of Christ’s Peace: A Conversation Toward Nuclear Disarmament remind us of the intersections between diverse issues, including the production of nuclear weapons, environmental pollution, systemic racism, and the continued threat of the annihilation of creation. As Vladimir Putin threatens the use of nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine, the global community is again called to reconsider the faulty argument that possessing nuclear weapons serves as a deterrence for war.


The Clinton Franciscans have protested war and nuclear weapons for decades. In 1989, Sister Jan Cebula attended the Faith and Resistance Retreat and Sister Joyce attended the Nevada Experience, which opened their eyes to a mission of active nonviolence. As Sister Maria Zeiman shares in our podcast, “The ‘Center,’” “It started us on our way.” This experience of a few sisters helped to shape the commitments of the entire community. In 2005, the Clinton Franciscans took a corporate stand on nuclear weapons: “We, the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa, Sojourners, and Associates, oppose the continued maintenance, research, development, and threatened use of the United States arsenal of nuclear weapons. We call on our government to fulfill our commitments to nuclear disarmament as agreed to in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996.” As part of the rationale for this corporate stand, the Clinton Franciscans note the impact of nuclear weapons on all forms of life and the continued cost to vulnerable communities as resources are siphoned away from social programs to the maintenance and production of nuclear weapons.


Because war and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons continues to harm communities across the globe, the Clinton Franciscan family integrated this commitment to nuclear disarmament into our 2022-2023 Laudato Si’ Action Plan. One powerful way we can impact decisions around nuclear weapons is to change where or how we invest. Thus, the Clinton Franciscans monitor investments to ensure that funds are not allocated to companies that support the development and use of nuclear weapons. This is an on-going effort that has expanded to attend to banks as well as investment firms.


In addition to this emphasis on investments, our Laudato Si’ Action Plan includes the goal to advocate against nuclear weapons. In August 2022, members of the Clinton Franciscan family contacted their U.S. Senators and Representatives to encourage them to support bills that would enact a no-first-use policy and limit presidential power to launch a nuclear attack. This advocacy work is on-going as we need to encourage a change of heart and mind in our elected representatives.


Yet, as Archbishop John Wester noted, the production and use of nuclear weapons is not an isolated issue; rather, their production, use, and the threat of use affects all forms of life. Currently, this reality is evident in the continued war in Ukraine as thousands of people are displaced from their homes.  One of our LSAP committees addressing immigration took on the opportunity to respond to this need by partnering with IA NICE, a non-profit agency supporting Ukrainian refugee families seeking humanitarian parole. As Sister Ruth E. Westmoreland notes, “When the opportunity presented itself to join with a newly established group helping Ukrainian families forced to leave their war-torn country, the committee welcomed this.  We are now working actively as a whole community to provide financial assistance, material assistance, and one of our Sojourner couples is actually sponsoring a family.” The Clinton Franciscan family has made financial contributions as well as donated household supplies to support those who have relocated to Iowa.


For those committed to peace and following the Gospel message, much more needs to be accomplished to prevent war and to support all those who are displaced by war and conflict. Despite the continued threat of nuclear weapons and their effect on creation, divestment, advocacy, and the enduring power of community offer us ways forward in a life committed to active nonviolence.


Want to learn more about issues related to nuclear disarmament and active nonviolence? Sign up for the Franciscan Peace Center’s Action Alert Digest to receive a weekly newsletter that includes recent news articles on items related to the Clinton Franciscan’s corporate stands.


Back to Laudato Si Week Reflections 2023