Social Justice Organization To Celebrate 40 Years

Jan 30, 2012

The Thomas Merton Center on Penn Avenue celebrates its 40th anniversary Tuesday, January 31, which would be its namesake's 97th birthday.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk who wrote literature on spirituality, nonviolence and the call to social justice.

The main event of the anniversary is a keynote address by the Reverend Arthur McDonald, a pastor of a Unitarian Church in Maryland and former staff organizer for the Center. He will speak at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church on Highland Avenue from 7:00-9:00 PM about the relevance of Thomas Merton's ideals in today's society.

Established on Pittsburgh's South Side in 1972, the center began, in part, to protest the the war in Vietnam. Molly Rush, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors for the Center, says that throughout their forty years, the Center has been involving people in campaigns for peace and justice.

"I think it's extraordinary that a peace and justice center in Pittsburgh is one of the few that has gone from the Vietnam Era to the era of today, where there's so many issues to be dealt with," Rush said.

The center has been regularly involved in peace efforts plus living wage, poverty, human rights, racial justice, economic rights, and environmental safety issues.

Rush says they have hundreds of members right now, and they are trying to recruit more after a recent period of low membership. She adds that all of the challenges they encountered could be defeated with persistence and Thomas Merton's influence.

"The fact that there has been that grounding in a real attempt to live the way we are to live, to know who we are, and to try to be people who care and to work together. I think all of that has made a tremendous difference," Rush said.

Diane McMahon, President of the Center's Board of Directors, says that they sometimes serve as an umbrella organization which hears ideas and concerns from other groups, and as long as they align with the mission of the Center, they will help them achieve their goals.

"Our mission overall is to promote a more peaceful and just world in a nonviolent manner. If they align well with that mission, then we do the best that we can to help them become all that they can be," Rush said.