Westminster Justice and Peace extend congratulations to Ellen Teague and John Williams on receipt of the Pax Christi 2021 Peace Award. Both have a long association with Justice and Peace in the Diocese and we applaud this recognition of their labours over many years to bring faith to bear on many issues connected to peace-making and justice-building.
The gifts and talents of Ellen Teague and John Williams, recipients of the Pax Christi 2021 Peace Award, were celebrated with great thanks at the Pax Christi AGM on 22 May. Since 2001 Pax Christi has offered this bi-annual Peace Award to those who have shown a commitment for peace and justice but whose work may not be publicly recognised. Both happen to be Pax Christi members but the award sought to recognise the great breadth of their commitment to the Gospels.
Many would share our view that Ellen has done more than any other individual to bring together the strands of ‘justice and peace’, human rights and justice for the global poor, peace, disarmament and nonviolence, and environmental issues, particularly climate change. Her work in this field goes back decades. Ellen’s sheer hard work, responsiveness, commitment, skill, and efficiency is astonishing. As is her writing, from her editing for many years of the Columban journal Vocation for Justice to weekly Mass bulletins put out by the Redemptorists, the international St Anthony Messenger magazine, The Tablet, The Universe, and Independent Catholic News. Her personal integrity and honesty shines through especially about the Church, means that Ellen asks the awkward questions, however unpopular that might be with some church leaders put on the spot. People across the country value her warmth, concern for others, and encouraging friendship.
In accepting her award Ellen reflected on some of her experiences with Pax Christi since 1990: Some of the highlights have been editing the 1995 publication A Taste for Peace, taking part in a delegation to Palestine in 2015, kneeling outside the Ministry of Defence on Ash Wednesdays, playing the guitar at Pax Christi liturgies and much more.
“I also owe thanks to the Columban JPIC programme, where I have worked for three decades and greatly appreciate the strong links that have been established between Pax Christi and the Columban global family.”
It was encouraging to see Columban Lay Missioners and Columban priests at the ZOOM ceremony.
John Williams’ gifts have been especially expressed through his career in Catholic education. As a teacher in St Wilfrid’s School, Crawley, then as Head of RE and subsequently Deputy Head at St Peter’s in Guildford to his role in the Westminster Diocesan Education Advisory Team, John has championed the role of peace education and the social teaching of the church within Catholic schools. In all of this, he has been a close partner of Pax Christi and has given great support to successive Peace Education workers, a source of wise advice.
In his advisory work John coordinated a number of INSET days for teachers to explore issues of peace and nonviolence, especially in the wake of a number of knife crime incidents in Catholic schools in the Diocese. He took a lead role in developing a peace resource for schools for the London Olympics in 2012.
Within his parish Justice & Peace Group in Guildford John has helped to organise prayer vigils and memorial services including around the time of Remembrance and the 2014 WWI commemorations in particular
John continues to be valued Trustee of the Christian Peace Education Fund.
John said that he was accepting the award on behalf of all teachers who live peace through their skills in conflict resolution and in the way they present themselves to students. He reflected on the power of international visits, to schools and communities in Bethlehem in 2009 and to Malta in 2012, where he visited a church-base refugee project, as life-expanding experiences.
Both spoke with thanks of the role their families have played in supporting and forming them.
The medal they received was created by the artist Natasha Ratcliffe, its theme, PEACE, Please Enlist All Communities on Earth, an injunction certainly reflected in the life and work of both Ellen and John.