On October 15, 2022 at Newman/Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley, Pax Christi Northern California (PCNC) hosted its annual assembly and Tom Webb Peacemaker of the Year event. It was titled, “A Time to Celebrate: A Time to Double Down.” The event started with Dory Miller, a student at a local Catholic high school, leading the opening prayer. Then Johnny Zokovitch, director of Pax Christi, USA, with his program director, Roxana Bendezú gave the keynote address, discussing what Pax Christi has accomplished in the past 50 years, and what we need to focus on in the future. Next, Donna Lack from Hesed, the Oakland Benedictine urban contemplative community, led us in a meditation. Our last speaker was Rev. George C. L. Cummings, a local pastor and executive director of Faith in Action in the East Bay. He spoke on his work with “Ceasefire,” and how this group is trying to reduce the violence in the community. He brought a guest who shared the moving story of her son who was killed in gun violence.
The highlight of the event was the presentation of our Tom Webb Peacemaker of the Year award to Vivian Zelaya, a local Catholic peace activist. She has dedicated her life to the support of Palestinian rights, nuclear disarmament, the prevention violence in Latin America, and many other efforts for peace in this country and abroad. After receiving the award, she shared with the group some of her experiences working for these causes, even at personal risk to her own safety. Others who know her spoke of how much they admire her for all of her social justice work. Pierre Vu Thompson, a Jesuit seminarian and member of PCNC, gave the closing prayer.