By Kristin Scheer

On a warm evening—July 2 in Kansas City, Kan.—15 of us gathered to share ideas about the Peace Walk in spring 2022. The plan is to walk in peace 273 miles, from Wichita to the National Security Campus in south Kansas City, Mo., where about 80 percent of non-nuclear parts for nuclear weaponry are made or procured. Note: All are welcome to the next Peace Walk planning. It’s Friday, Aug. 20, 6:30-8 p.m., at 309 N. 15th street, KC, KS 66102.

In the Peace Walk, we will walk 10 miles a day and stop along the path to invite the community in, and to listen. The hope is that, as we listen and give space to honestly and safely express ourselves, and genuinely hear one another, we will find our path to peace—within ourselves, our communities, and ultimately our world.

Donna Constantineau ponders as Charles Carney says he wants to “touch the land” and have a “listening tour.”—Photo by Mayra Thomas Romero

We took turns on June 2 sharing about how we were influenced by world events and the events of our personal lives. We spoke of how the walk would be important and what it would mean for each of us.

Charles Carney, who dreamed up the Peace Walk, spoke of his work as a social worker, a poor people’s activist, and a Catholic Worker, “companioning people out of poverty.” He linked the Peace Walk with the desire to counter the mass incarceration of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.

Donna Constantineau said, “Charles and I have been married 25 years—we just celebrated our anniversary. We’re still trying to live up to our marriage vows, from Micah: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.”

Janice Witt, candidate for mayor in the upcoming election in KCK, said that as the brilliant race of people she believes we are, “we have an obligation to do good. We are all made to fit in creation, and we must find a way to create peace.”

Ron Witt, her white husband of 27 years, recalled his upbringing in a small racist town in Kansas and how their mixed-race marriage changed their town. He recalled Janice’s conversations with his uncle and Ku Klux Klan grand dragon. She opened Ron’s uncle’s eyes to the perspectives of black America. “We are all pieces of one big puzzle,” he said. “We have to put the pieces together.”

Sister Theresa Maly said that after being raised in a town like Ron described, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame and broadened her thinking. At Holy Family Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, Mo., Theresa came to the question, why are people poor? It opened her eyes in a new way to the plight of people touched by poverty.

Brother Louis Rodemann talked about growing up in a rural, white, blue-collar area. Joining the Christian Brothers was his first experience with Black people—some brothers were Black. In Kansas City, at de La Salle High School, he taught three ethnic groups: Black, Hispanic, and Italian. Then, during the Vietnam war, some former students came home in body bags. Louis spent 30 years at Holy Family Catholic Worker House, in support of the hungry and homeless. “After I got tired and retired, I would visit our former guests in their nursing homes,” he said.

Benjamin Thomas shuts his eyes for a minute but was jumping with delight at firecrackers and fireworks in the distance during the Peace Walk planning session.—Photo by Mayra Thomas Romero

Tom Mountenay spoke about the Peace Walk as a spiritual opportunity to exhaust himself in the service of what is important: “to totally give yourself to the message—we can have a world without nuclear weapons.”

Bennette Dibben talked of cultivating peace from within before you can begin to cultivate peace in the world. “You get back what you invest in,” she said. “Our country invests in violence.”

 

Ann Suellentrop said that meeting with young activists in Wichita about this walk and connecting the dots between peace, the environment, and poverty were inspiring her. “We are in for a real treat,” she said.

Ann Suellentrop told a young man from Wichita about the 2022 Peace Walk, and he said, “I want to be part of it!”—Photo by Mayra Thomas Romero

For Henry Stoever, honest conversation, the opportunity to build community, and “a chance to let go and bind ourselves to the poorest” are inspiring him. “I feel privileged to walk,” he said.

Cris Mann spoke of the weakened immune function in Americans and the opportunity to address the health of the mind and the body, as well as the way traveling by foot and bike can bring you a unique experience.

Cris Mann, with Kristin Scheer laughing at her, recalls her own long-ago bike trip from Pittsburgh to the Finger Lakes in New York where she got saddle-sore and exhausted—but she still holds the joy of coming over a hill and seeing flowers in the early morning.—Photo by Mayra Thomas Romero

We spoke of these ideas and more. We raised our memories of past peace and justice activists—Peace Pilgrim, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Helen Caldicott, Jesus, and others. In this, the listening began.

We deepened our relationships, our understanding of each other, and our sense of community.

Join us Aug. 20 if the idea of a Peace Walk inspires you.

—Kristin Scheer, an environmental activist, is a member of the PeaceWorks-KC Board of Directors. Jane Stoever of PeaceWorks provided some assistance with the story.