September 1, 1973 – The Capuchin Community started Milwaukee’s Justice and Peace Center in 1971 (Above photo: Sister Carol Thresher speaking at a Justice and Peace Easter People gathering). Several different roots nurtured the center’s growth. The emergence of liberation theology in Latin America struck a chord with Milwaukee’s local religious communities. Even closer to home, our country’s involvement with the war in Vietnam brought the very idea of peace to the forefront.
In its September 1973 newsletter, the Capuchins stated, “The long-range goal of the Justice and Peace Center is to enable the staff and the people they work with to grow in Gospel liberation through just relationships reflected in lifestyle and action.” It was a vision our sisters – and their Salvatorian “brothers” – could get behind. And they did.
What started as a two-person staff quickly grew into a cooperative venture, with four local religious communities signing on to help the Capuchins work toward their stated goal. They were Sisters of the Divine Savior, Society of the Divine Savior Priests and Brothers, School Sisters of St. Francis, and Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. In a short time, other Wisconsin religious communities (Racine Dominicans, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and School Sisters of Notre Dame) also came on board.
Not only did this collaboration sharpen the vision for a just and peaceful future, it also consolidated social justice efforts among the religious communities. For Capuchins, reaching out to communities like SDS was the next logical step. Salvatorians – both vowed religious and our Lay women and men – were already committed to creating a peaceful and just world.
The Justice and Peace Center would go on to develop programs striving for systemic justice on every level. Their hope was to raise justice awareness within the constituent communities and to cooperate with already existing groups with similar goals. Their long-range vision was to provoke systemic change in social, political and economic structures in the U.S. and around the world. When the center dissolved in 1982, it left a legacy of valuable lessons, many of which we still call on as we continue to seek a more just and peaceful world.
Sister Carol Thresher, SDS worked closely with the Justice and Peace Center throughout its existence, even before joining its staff in 1974. During her final years teaching at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, she coordinated our members’ engagement with the center, serving as a leader, liaison and finally, full-time staff member. In fact, Sr. Carol kindled our sisters’ commitment to the Justice and Peace Center from the very start. More than a year before SDS formally signed on with the center, she formed a “Justice and Peace Action Group” within our sisterhood. Sr. Carol saw justice as vital to our work toward salvation.