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Fall Ministries

Network helps parents build peace and justice at home

NCR Staff

When it comes to suggesting how people can be peacemakers at home and in the larger world, James and Kathleen McGinnis are under few illusions.

“As the parents of three teenagers,” they wrote a few years ago in a new introduction to their re-issued book, Parenting for Peace and Justice -- Ten Years Later (Orbis, 1995), “we have wrestled with the challenge of integrating our family life and social ministry for almost 20 years.”

The McGinnises faced a quandary many families recognize: “We have wanted from the beginning to be able to act for justice without sacrificing our children, and to build family community without isolating ourselves from the world.”

That balancing act has been the content of and provides the context for their lives in peacemaking that began, as often happens, with protest.

In the 1960s, Jim McGinnis, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from St. Louis University (his dissertation was on Gandhi’s understanding of freedom and nonviolence), was on the university faculty. In 1970, with the war in Southeast Asia escalating, the university decided to continue its Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program.

Jim McGinnis organized a group of faculty members to start the Institute for the Study of Peace; 40 students enrolled in the first course. A year later, with Kathy (who holds an MA in history from St. Louis University) and who was also a staffer at the peace institute, the institute held its first course for teachers. That year, too, the Gandhi Peace Foundation in New Delhi invited the McGinnises to advise them on a college-based peace studies program.

The institute marked its fifth anniversary by leaving St. Louis University and establishing itself as the independent and ecumenical Institute for Peace and Justice.

In 1981 churches representing seven Christian denominations joined the McGinnises to form the Parenting for Peace and Justice Network, and two years later three families from the network were featured on the Phil Donahue television show.

Top priorities for the institute include the “Families against Violence” programs; an internship program for the institute, and “Fostering Family Vision and Values” workshops, aimed especially at the needs of families of color.

And families of color are again something the McGinnises know something about.

Their daughter Theresa’s “Black and Native American heritage called and continues to call us to move more deeply into her worlds.” The three McGinnis children, Tom, 28, David, 26, and Theresa, 24, are adopted.

Contacts: E-mail: PPJN@aol.com Web site: members.aol.com/ppjn

National Catholic Reporter, September 3, 1999