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What 2020 Taught Me About Peace and Justice

 Sister JoAnn Mark, ASC

By Sister JoAnn Mark, ASC

We are well into 2021, but I am still thinking about last year’s lingering lessons about peace and justice. What did last year teach me?

Last year’s election showed me both how vulnerable and how resilient our democracy is and that its stability depends on the integrity of individual office-holders.

I admired those who performed their duties at both the state and federal levels. Their integrity kept our democracy from crumbling. At the same time, I saw how individuals seeking their own glory put our country at great risk. Systems and structures are only as strong as the persons who hold positions in them.

I also came to realize how my life depends on individuals who take risks each day to provide many services I take for granted: farmworkers who pick fresh vegetables and fruit, meatpackers who do a difficult and dangerous job, and grocery store workers. I also saw how many of these “essential workers” were immigrants and people of color, people who themselves barely survive on the salaries they receive.
Being quarantined made real the words of Pope Francis in his social encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, on how fraternity and social friendship can build a more just and peaceful world.

Pope Francis writes, “No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others.” That is for sure. We are social beings. Although I interacted with people via Zoom, it was not the same as shaking hands and hugging those with whom I shared.
Several challenges of 2020 had silver linings.

For instance, some people found that working from home and having children attend online classes provided in-person opportunities with loved ones that were not available when family members came and went in their pre-Covid hectic lives.
Staying at home and reducing the amount of driving and resulting pollution proved beneficial for our environment.

Yet, so many lost their livelihoods, their work identities, and their ability to house and feed themselves. So many children did not fare well with online learning and socializing.
In summary, the year 2020 made me more realistic about our country but also showed me how generous people are, and how dependent each of us truly is on one another.
And that was a nice way to roll into 2021, with its unique challenges and blessings still unfolding.

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