By Joyce Rothermel
The Merton Center was founded in 1972 by faithbased people seeking to follow and live out the teachings of Jesus Christ and joining with others to build a more peaceful and just world. Thomas Merton was chosen as a fitting namesake for the center because he was a twentieth century monk and writer who inspired his contemporaries and readers to combine contemplation with social justice activism. Very early on, it was decided that annual awards would be given to a person and/or group of people on the local level (the New Person Award) and a person and/or organization on the national and international level (the Thomas Merton Award) to recognize social justice advocates who dedicate their lives to peace and justice.
What does it mean to be recognized with the New Person Award? The name of the award: “New Person” comes from St. Paul’s Letter in the New Testament, Ephesians 4: 24: “…put on the new person that has been created in God’s likeness, in the justice and holiness of the truth.” The New Person Awards honor those local activists who work in our community as leaders of our peace and justice mission. Together they have helped transform Pittsburgh’s social justice presence on the local, and sometimes national, scene.
Past recipients of the New Person Award include: Robert R. Lavelle, Anne Feeney, Willard Meade, Tim Stevens, Tom and Jean Kerr, Elizabeth Carroll, RSM, Gail Austin, Dan and Anita Fine, Carl Redwood, Dr. Lincoln Wolfenstein, John Townsend, Robin Alexander, Joni Rabinowitz, Jules Lobel, Shirley Gleditsch, and many more.
As you can see, these social activist leaders come from a breadth of experience and issues facing our region. Many have been life long witnesses for peace and social justice in the Pittsburgh area. This year, the tradition continues with the honoring of Wasi Mohamed. Please join us on June 25th!
Joyce Rothermel is a long time member of the Thomas Merton Center.