July 1, 2017 – By Michael Calhoun

The United States is currently in the midst of arguably the most polarizing, life-changing transition in US history. While not directly influenced by this exchange of power in Trump’s newfound government, the Thomas Merton Center (TMC) is no exception to transition.

Antonio Lodico, the previous Executive Director of the center, stepped down after a year and a half of guiding the center towards taking on the trials and obstacles that the nation currently faces. These past years have been busy for the center; there is a pledge on its mission page to support “the right to educate and raise awareness” on topical issues to “ensure a safe and just world.”

TMC has committed to that pledge by vastly expanding their social media presence. The number of Facebook-publicized events increased from just 6 between 2012 and 2014, to 58 once Mr. Lodico started his position. Additionally, paying a visit to the center’s Facebook page will provide a torrent of relevant news surrounding social justice issues and movements. This is indicative of one of the major changes that Mr. Lodico has noticed in the TMC and Pittsburgh at large, a “generational shift” of which the TMC was a “microcosm.” Mr. Lodico is proud to have helped foster this change within the organization, and he hopes to see this shift continue, as more engaged youths take leadership positions within TMC and in organizations throughout Pittsburgh.

Lodico is also pleased with his role in cementing TMC’s stability during his tenure. The organization was well-known in the community, but there was still work to be done to ensure future success through pursuing “more financial stability, more active membership, more devoted leaders, and more financial security.” The active membership and extension of the leadership roles is something that ties directly into the generational turnover, as the TMC has seen more and more students from local universities and colleges take on responsibilities for campaigns like Pittsburghers for Public Transit and Fight For Lifers West.

Mr. Lodico saw his work in facilitating the center’s financial stability and involvement in the growth of the young activists as a continuation of the progress made by the former Executive Director, Dr. Diane McMahon. Mr. Lodico has taken on his new position as an adviser and mentor to Gabriel McMorland, a veteran organizer and activist in the TMC and the new Executive Director, with pride. As a mentor, his most important piece of advice to impart was, ironically, to “never let any one person tell you how to run the organization,” (not even former executive directors).

Since the center is a member-based organization, equality and impartiality are paramount to the core values of the organization’s structure, and Lodico stresses that listening to everyone is the only way to act responsibly. Being an executive director is “something you can never train for; you learn by doing,” and Lodico sees the center embracing the values it has always cherished through the work of good people. For the future of the center, Mr. Lodico hopes and believes that it will continue to be a force for social justice and peace in the region. And as for Mr. Lodico himself, he still holds social justice as one of the driving forces behind his life and career, as something he’s “still willing to keep working for,” and the future will see him persisting in his campaigns for the greater good.

 

Michael Calhoun is a junior Urban Studies and English Writing double major at the University of Pittsburgh. He writes for the Pittiful News and is a Browne Leadership Fellow for the summer.