UIW Celebrates Progress and Honors those Lost at Peace Day

October 27, 2023

Sr. Martha with studentsThe foundation of UIW was laid down in 1869 by three Sisters who in addition to providing healthcare, hoped to provide a sense of peace to Texas residents who needed their aid. Guided by faith, Sisters Madeleine Chollet, Pierre Cinquin, and Agnus Buisson were able to establish San Antonio’s first infirmary to heal the sick and injured, an orphanage to provide shelter to children, and a school to offer knowledge to those seeking an education. Through their efforts, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word were able to bring a sense of peace to the body, mind, and spirit.

Since then, UIW has worked to maintain their mission of peace by promoting human dignity. One such way the University does this is through the continued celebration of the Season of Peace and Justice in the month of October.

Beginning in 1986, Peace Fairs were held on campus in order to offer informative workshops, dramatic and musical performances, and to commemorate the creation of the Peace and Justice Graduate program by planting the first “peace pole” monument. Peace Fairs eventually evolved into Peace Days in honor of Dr. Bernie O’Halloran, a beloved English professor who was murdered by a homeless man he offered hospitality to in 1992. To those who knew him, Dr. O’Halloran was a symbol of compassion and non-violence, and the Peace Day initiative was one that celebrated the example he left.

In 1997, the first Peace Day, or “Dr. Bernad O’Halloran Peace Day Celebration,” was held in remembrance of O’Halloran and to promote efforts that contribute to a less-violent world.

At this year’s Peace Day commemoration, UIW offered a variety of panels and events that explored topics such as human dignity, peace, compassion, remembrance, and the impact of gun violence and poverty.

The event gave the opportunity to celebrate not only the efforts of UIW, but also the City of San Antonio. During the Compassionate USA Session, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI, and Migdalia Garcia, director of the San Antonio Peace Center with Northwest Vista College, discussed the City’s CompassionateUSA campaign.

San Antonio developed CompassionateUSA as a people-center campaign that offers videos, educational microcourses, and other tools to help spread compassion through the country. “We seek to help people develop foundational skill sets, a shared vocabulary, and a common practice for all people to ultimately decrease violence and trauma and increase individual and collective healing,” reads CompassionateUSA’s website.

Garcia and her team at Northwest Vista helped to develop the series that CompassionateUSA is today. Sr. Martha Ann explained that this web series is a way proclaiming how the city itself wants to be compassionate, and that that it wishes to spread compassion to others throughout the nation. In terms of how the campaign ties into UIW’s own Mission, Sr. Martha Ann shared, “At UIW, we have been building the movement of compassion within San Antonio as a ‘City of Compassion’.”

Other Peace Day events highlighted the impact that certain forms of violence have had within the San Antonio community. An installation, titled “Vidas Robadas, Stolen Lives,” displayed shirts hung on clothes lines on Dubuis Lawn. The shirts were hung by the UIW community in collaboration with Texas Impact and COPS/Metro Alliance to represent lives lost to gun violence and/or suicide. Each shirt bore the names of victims and the dates they lost their lives.

One shirt depicted a crying eye, created by UIW student Margaret Schwegmann. “Her creation of the eye that cries in the face of suicide is echoed in the heavens crying and raining on our T-shirts,” Sr. Martha Ann commented, referencing the rains that fell on campus throughout Peace Week.

Whether it be celebrating past victories towards a more peaceful world or spreading awareness on current issues, UIW’s Peace Day is a celebration that aims to embrace progress and consider how to create a more peaceful future for all. The UIW community looks to the founding Sisters to consider how we too can offer peace to those around us as we strive to do our part to create a better world.