National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  September 5, 2003

Celebrating two 21st-century justice visions

The NCR staff joins countless others in honoring two visionaries -- one in death, the other in life -- for decades of service in building a more just and peaceful world.

United Nations envoy to Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was among at least 16 other U.N. workers who were killed when a massive truck bomb devastated the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad earlier this month.

He spent more than 30 years toiling to improve living conditions for ordinary people caught up in war and crisis. In diplomatic circles, he was viewed as embodying the highest ideals of the United Nations and was considered by many the person most likely to succeed Secretary General Kofi Annan. Much of his work in the 1970s and 1980s focused on helping refugees.

Vieira de Mello was the diplomat who shepherded East Timor to independence and helped hundreds of thousands of refugees across the region return to their homelands. His work in East Timor, Cambodia and Bangladesh endeared him to political leaders, diplomats and ordinary people alike across the globe.

Days later, some 900 women religious under the umbrella of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious joined together to honor Loretto Sr. Mary Luke Tobin. They gave her LCWR’s Outstanding Leadership Award at a banquet in Detroit, part of the Aug. 21-25 annual gathering. (Coverage of the gathering will be included in next week’s issue.)

Tobin, 95, has been a peacemaker and visionary for over six decades. Her Christian witness attests to the highest of human ideals. Her visions have inspired several generations.

Tobin was an auditor at the Second Vatican Council and one of three women auditors named to the commissions that planned the documents on the church in the modern world and on the laity. A Loretto sister since 1927, she was president of LCWR from 1964 to 1967 and a member of the International Union of Superiors General from 1967 to 1971.

“She was foundational, and absolutely at the heart of remodeling religious life in light of Vatican II,” said Sr. Mary Ann Zollmann, a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is outgoing president of LCWR. “Not only was Tobin a key player in the changes, but she did that in ways that were open, collaborative and inclusive,” Zollmann said.

It’s sometimes said that prayers of gratitude are the most genuine of all. In this spirit, we offer our thanks for these two great lives.

National Catholic Reporter, September 5, 2003

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