By Sr. Shell Balek, OSF
“Lovely.” “Touching.” “Wonderful ritual!” “Meaningful”
These were some of the comments heard from attendees in the final event of the 150th Anniversary of our founding: the dedication of a Peace Pole in Dubuque’s Washington Park on May 30. This gift, presented to the people of Dubuque at the 150th celebration the previous fall, was now planted and taking root in its new home. The planting added meaning to the anniversary theme of “Tree of Blessings” as peace, like a tree, needs to be planted and rooted and is a blessing we give to each other.
The cloudy skies threatening rain did not dampen anyone’s spirits. Over 60 people joyfully gathered and were reminded that when a peace pole is planted, it links that community with people all over the world who have planted Peace Poles in the same spirit of peace. The message May Peace Prevail On Earth appears on the pole in eight languages significant to Dubuque and our Franciscan congregation. It was reverently proclaimed in each language by individuals from the area. “Joining a diverse group of Franciscans, associates, friends, and passers-by in the common bond of praying for peace in eight different languages, I was impressed greatly that we were a small part of the many other countries whose citizens are doing the same,” remarked Sr. Mary Lou Reisch. “We ARE one family.”
The rain held off as all were invited to bless the peace pole, while singing the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. The lyrics were so fitting: “Make me a channel of your peace.” Sr. Cathy Katoski in her remarks had reminded us that the sisters offer the Peace Pole as “a reminder of our hope for peace and our challenge to all to do all we can to achieve peace.”
Kai Ren, a student at the University of Dubuque, had proclaimed the peace message in his native Chinese. It made an impression on him, as he thanked us for being invited and said “It is a pleasure to participate in the ceremony.” We later found out he had emailed a friend in China to express how much he enjoyed the ceremony. Yes, peace, when planted well sends its roots out, reaching more and more people.
With the ceremony over, the Peace Pole now stands in silent vigil among the blooming peonies, proclaiming peace to all who pass by. Peace and good will have already rippled out from that simple ritual, inspiring us all to be peace makers wherever we are.