RPCV at Busted Halo remembers Shriver

Busted Halo is a blog that I check weekly because I find it interesting, and also it relates to my job as a communication director at a small Catholic college. The blog is a media and ministry outreach to Catholics in their twenties and thirties created by the Paulist Fathers. The discussions are based on the belief that all God’s children are “saints in the making,” and that everyone is called to aspire toward the holiness and selflessness of a Mother Teresa or Saint Francis.

At the end of 2011, Busted Halo looked back and remembered important figures who had died during the year. Included was a piece about Sargent Shriver that I read — because it was about Sarge. It was written by Joe Williams, an RPCV from South Africa, who is the head art, graphics and video producer for Busted Halo. After graduating from Texas Christian University with a degree in production and religion, Joe taught on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona, explored the film and music scene of Chicago,  then when to South Africa with the Peace Corps.

Here’s what Joe Williams had to say about Sarge….

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Lately I’ve been thinking about the Beatitudes, as well as the Corporal Works of Mercy, thinking that if I could just grasp and follow these fundamentals of the faith, I could actually live the Christian life and truly do what Jesus asks of us. It should be simple enough to care for those less fortunate, but it always seems so difficult when you get down to the practicalities of it: I work 40 hours a week, my commute to and from work takes a lot of time, I need to keep up my social life, friend and family time, my movie watching, and I should probably try and fit exercise somewhere in there – so where’s the time to try to take care of others when I’m so busy just taking care of myself?

But then I think back to my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer when my friends and I didn’t really need to worry about fitting in works of mercy outside of work, because it was kind of our full-time jobs. I wonder if I will ever have the courage to reach that point again. Even on your bad days, where you don’t accomplish enough (or anything,) you’re still there, devoted not to yourself, or making money, or climbing corporate ladders, or for some abstract ideal, but simply present and there for the benefit of those in need.

Sargent Shriver, the first leader of the U.S. Peace Corps, who passed away early last year, worked his entire life for the benefit of others. In looking back on his life and career, I’ve discovered that not only did his work and accomplishments extend far beyond the scope of the Peace Corps, but that his projects spanning over four decades always combated injustice and instability in the world through peace and action. And at the heart of it, always, was helping those who were less fortunate.

In the 1950s, he addressed America’s racial conflict, working to integrate Chicago’s public and parochial schools. The initiation of the Peace Corps in the 1960s was, along with his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy, his worldwide goodwill response to the international conflicts of the Cold War. His efforts with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty created the now well-known programs of Head Start, Job Corps, Americorps, VISTA and Upward Bound among others. In the 1970s he focused on easing inter-religious tension in the Middle East by convening the Trialog of the Abrahamic faiths, as well working to ease international tensions over the intensifying nuclear arms race. In the 80s and 90s he worked with his wife and son to create and promote the Special Olympics. The list goes on and on, and his life’s work even inspired Bono, another modern peacemaker.

All these programs and initiatives amaze me. How can one man do so much good? Did his faith inform him (he was known as a devout Catholic, a daily Communicant who always carried a rosary,) or was he just a natural? As I sit here and reflect on this one man’s life, I see a life that has touched millions. Because when the Peace Corps and all those programs listed above get it right, and so often they do, those mentioned in Beatitudes and the Works of Mercy (the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the homeless, the persecuted and the sick) are taken care of as they should be. And the legacy those programs continue today owe so much to the vision, values and leadership of Sargent Shriver, a true peacemaker of our time.

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  • Having known him for 50 years, and worked with him at the Peace Corps, the “war on poverty,” and his presidential campaign, One thing I know for sure is that his religious faith was deep, personal, quiet, and unobtrusive. He welcomed comrades for peace and against poverty, hunger, and discrimination without regard to their professions of faith or lack thereof. In my understanding of the meaning of sainthood, he certainly was one. He fully embodied President Kennedy’s inaugural admonition “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own” and was its best example.

  • Sargent Shriver was a man of many parts, all good, and Joe Williams listed them all in his insightful essay. He chose good people in his endeavor to start the Peace Corps and the magic that brought to the table was to bring together people who had obvious talents but who proposed wide, diverse and closely held sets of proposals. Shriver listened and took it all in, fashioned his way of proceeding and thus was born the Peace Corps. This talent of gathering and listening to a very bright and diverse set of ideas, then producing a solution was one of many extraordinary gifts he had in abundance. possessed.

  • I first met Sarge when I was a PCV in Sierra Leone and later worked with him on the Peace Corps staff in Washington. He was a unique man in many ways. I admired his moral and ethical manner in dealing with issues and people. Being a Catholic myself, I was aware of his deep religious faith and how he practiced it privately on a daily basis. His leadership and commitment in whatever cause he undertook was recognized by all. He was a man of integrity who never wavered in his dedication to serving mankind both at home and abroad.

  • Bill Clinton adressed the bereved at Shriver’s funeral when he began his eulogy with the words “Come on , people, no one is that good all the time”! But as we have come to learn, Sarge Shriver was such a man.

    But I like what Joe Williams writes:

    Even on your bad days, where you don’t accomplish enough (or anything,) you’re still there, devoted not to yourself, or making money, or climbing corporate ladders, or for some abstract ideal, but simply present and there for the benefit of those in need.

    We learned that lesson from Sarge.

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