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Love Your Enemies: Lessons from 9/11

Date: 9/16/2011

Love Your Enemies: Lessons from 9/11

Alvernia celebrated its Franciscan heritage during the university’s annual Founders Day celebration on Thursday, Sept. 15, with a presentation from guest speaker Marie Dennis, an internationally known peace advocate.

Dennis is director of the Maryknoll Catholic Missioners’ Office for Global Concerns, charged with bringing the global experience of Maryknoll missioners into the process of shaping public opinion in the United States and abroad. 

She is also president of Pax Christi International, the global Catholic peace movement, a position she shares with Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa. She is the first lay person and the first woman to hold that position since Pax Christi was founded over 65 years ago. She is also a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace.

During her lecture, “Love Your Enemies: Lessons from 9/11,” Dennis discussed the difficulties many people face when 'loving thy neighbor' is applied globally. To help her audience better understand the complexities of war, Dennis told stories of several children and adults she encountered during missions to war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Marie reminds us that gospel values, if taken seriously, are unsettling and profoundly countercultural," said Alvernia President Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D. "Loving one’s dear ones and friends is, after all, comparatively easy.

“But 9/11 and other such horrific events challenge us in ways we wish to avoid to confront the radical meaning of Christ’s message. For us here at Alvernia, we have the opportunity to contemplate our core value of “peacemaking” not only not as a global concept embedded in complex political realities but as an ideal to be practiced in our more mundane daily lives, both individually and as members of multiple communities."  

Among many other awards, Dennis received the 2008 Peacemaker Award from the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States — an award previously bestowed upon Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King.

Dennis was awarded an honorary doctoral degree of humane letters during Alvernia's May 2011 graduation. Upon receiving her degree, she spoke inspirationally to graduates, challenging them to make lives of deep meaning, to be witnesses, and to act with and for others in commitment to peace and justice.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.