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Black Catholics up for 2023 Teacher of Peace Award

Dr. Craig Ford Jr. and the National Black Sisters' Conference are among this year's nominees for the award from Pax Christi USA.

(Pax Christi USA)

The nominees for 2023 Teacher of Peace Awards have been announced by Pax Christi USA, and Black Catholics are among those up for the historic honor this year.

Previously called the Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award, the award aims to recognize those exemplifying the Catholic peacemaking tradition, specifically modeled by figures such as Servant of God Thea Bowman and Msgr Ray East, according to Pax Christi’s website. This year's nominee list was released on Tuesday in Washington.

For at least the third straight year, African Americans on the list of nominees include Dr. Craig Ford, Jr., an LGBTQ+ activist and theology professor at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. Ford also teaches in the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, where he is a visiting faculty member for the IBCS summer sessions. In 2022, he became the first Black recipient of the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award from the Catholic Theological Society.

The National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) has also been nominated for the Teacher of Peace Award, the only nominee this year that is not an individual. The 55-year-old association was founded to provide community and a national voice for Black women religious in the United States and was previously headed by Sr Patricia “Patty” Chappell, SNDdeN, Pax Christi USA’s executive director from 2011 to 2019. The NBSC was the 2022 recipient of NETWORK Lobby’s inaugural Distinguished Justice Seeker Award, honoring their outspoken witness for social justice.

Other names among the 27 nominees include the famed labor activist Dolores Huerta; noted anti-nuclear advocate Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe; Catholic Climate Covenant founder Dan Misleh; publisher Robert Ellsberg; several religious sisters; Pax Christi USA president Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv. of Lexington; and Pope Francis.

“It is a highlight every year to intentionally name and recognize so many incredible people who demonstrate by their lives what it means to ‘teach peace,'” said Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA’s executive director. 

“The Teacher of Peace Award, and each of these people who are nominees this year, is meant to lift up the vocation of peacemaking which is at the heart of the gospel, at the heart of what it means to follow the nonviolent Jesus.”

According to the nominees page, the Pax Christi USA National Council—a third of whose dozen members are Black—will consult with the Teacher of Peace Committee before announcing a winner next month.

The Teacher of Peace Award has twice gone to an African American, with Msgr East taking home the honor in 2005, and Fr Bryan Massingale of Fordham University winning in 2021. This year’s recipient will receive the award at an event to be announced this fall.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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