by Danny Wilson, Peacebuilders Initiative, September 8, 2014
Peacebuilders is not a yearlong experience; it is a way of life. At Peacebuilders, we learned about the different injustices in the world through sessions that were taught by renowned theological professors, as well as through our own eyes at the different ministry sites we were a part of. We also were given the resources and mindset to help end and prevent these social injustices through the use of communication, teamwork, Catholic Social Teachings, and prayer. I believe that one of the most powerful parts of the experience were the ministry sites.
The ministry site I was assigned to was Harmony, Hope, and Healing (HHH), an organization dedicated to the promotion and healing of battered men, women, and children through sharing their stories and singing songs. At the end of each of their meetings we would sing “Bambelela,” which means “Never Give Up” in an African language. It was a God sighting to see the hope that was in the people at this site. Many members of HHH have gone through horrific and unimaginable experiences, yet they were able to overcome their past through being a part of a supportive community and by being with God. Seeing the positive attitudes of this group really showed me that everything would be okay no matter what happens in the future.
Going into Peacebuilders I was a little nervous. I was the only one from my parish going so I knew nobody. I decided that I should try to put myself out there and let my personality shine. I was immediately welcomed and made so many new friends during the first day. That day really gave me confidence for going to college. I know of one or two people going to St. Norbert next year which isn’t a lot; however, I also know that if I am myself and put myself out there, I will make friends at St. Norbert.
I really saw God during my experience. Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” God’s light shined through every person I met. He was in the mentors, the participants, Craig, Birgit, the people at the ministry sites, and everyone else. I now am able to see God in everyone I meet. I have found to believe that perhaps one of the greatest gifts we have are the relationships we share with others. I am truly blessed to know so many wonderful and inspiring people, not only through Peacebuilders, but also through Holy Family, Kairos, Fremd, and many other places.
In the theology sessions, we learned about different social injustices that were going on. I was taught about the living wage, which is the amount of money that someone needs to make in order to be able to afford all necessities. I continued my education in workers’ rights. We saw who Jesus was and how we can carry out his teachings today. After Peacebuilders, I knew that I had to do something with social justice. That is how I decided to minor in Peace and Justice Studies.
Part of the Peacebuilders Initiative is that the participants implement a Peace Project within their own community. Mine, for example, is called “The Forty-Day Challenge,” in which I ask people to try to do one random act of kindness a day and submit it in my website https://sites.google.com/site/dannywilsonpeaceproject/. Creating a Peace Project is easy; getting people to participate is the hard part. It took a lot of communication with others, including people I did not know.
My Peace Project motivated one of my friends to try to do one as well. Soon, my friend and I are going to start collecting gently used backpacks and fill them with toiletries, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. During the summer, we are going to Chicago and are going to drop the backpacks off to homeless people.
The Peacebuilders Initiative has influenced my life in many ways. If I hadn’t participated I would not be the person I am today. If I never participated in the Peacebuilders Initiative, I never would have decided to go to St. Norbert or minor in Peace and Justice Studies. Peacebuilders gave me a better understanding of myself, of others, and of God. I highly recommend that everyone consider participating. It’s a life altering experience and it’s also really fun. I met so many people that I am sure I will be friends with into adulthood.
I would like to thank a few people. Thank you Craig and Birgit for molding Peacebuilders into such an amazing experience. Thank you Melissa a Rachel for being the best mentors ever. Thank you Señora Houchins and Owen for writing my recommendations. Thanking you Cardinal Bernadin for realizing that the youth are the church of today. Thank you God for blessing me with this experience and giving me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.
I would like to leave with a bible verse, which showed me that we are all leaders in some way or another. Ezra 10:14 says “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
Danny Wilson is recent graduate from Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois. Next year he will be attending St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and will major in Biology, on a Pre-Med track, and minor in Peace and Justice Studies, with the hopes of becoming an emergency room doctor. His parish is Holy Family in Inverness, Illinois. He participated in the Peacebuilders Initiative in the summer before his senior year.