CTU held its annual Blessed Are the Peacemakers event this past April. 430 guests gathered in-person at the beautiful Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago’s South Loop. Welcome sunshine streamed into the reception hall as students, alumni, and CTU supporters mingled and celebrated.

This year, CTU recognized Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which was adapted into a film in 2019 and decorated the event’s tables for attendees to take home. In recognition of his dedication to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial end economic inequality, and to defending the intrinsic rights of all persons through programming, policy, and preservation of history, Stevenson received the Blessed Are the Peacemakers Award. Stevenson said in his acceptance remarks,

I’ve tried in my small way to live by the Biblical exhortation that the prophet Micah gives us. When those believers of that era asked what God required of them, Micah said that God requires that we love mercy, that we do justice, and that we walk humbly with God.

I do believe that the pursuit of peace necessarily means the pursuit of justice. We cannot have peace without justice, and justice becomes the context in which peace flourishes. I’m persuaded – and that’s why I so celebrate the work of many of you at Catholic Theological Union in particular – that the pathway to peace and the pathway to justice are connected, but that they require us to be proximate to those who are poor, those who are excluded, those who are disfavored, and those who are marginalized.

In a video preceding Stevenson’s remarks, four featured alumni – Emily Cortina (MA in Ministry, ‘15), Ryan Lents (MA in Justice Ministry, ‘18), Christine Riley (MDiv, ‘08), and Fr. Akizou Kamina, SVD (MDiv/MA, ‘21) – each shared about how their time at CTU led them to work in various justice-related ministries. You can view the full video HERE.

CTU was also pleased to recognize the academic leadership of Donna M. Carroll, EdD by presenting her with the Diakonia Award, given to those local leaders who display exemplary commitments to lives of service. Carroll, who served as the President of Dominican University for 27 years, also spoke in her remarks about the transformative impact of personal encounter,

We all know the famous quote from [St.] Catherine: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the  world on fire.” If my work has ever approached that standard of clarity or impact, I owe it to a boy on a bicycle in a snowstorm. As he explained to me, once we got his bike into the trunk of my car, he was undocumented and could not get a driver’s license. His story broke my heart, ignited my advocacy, and literally changed the trajectory of my presidency.”

This spirit of transformative, personal encounter – the significance of, as Stevenson says, proximity – is what drives Catholic Theological Union, and it is at the heart of what motivates us to gather each year to honor the work we are doing as a wider CTU community.

By the end of our night together, we were pleased to have exceeded our fundraising goal. We look forward to gathering once again for our 2024 Blessed Are the Peacemakers event on April 24, 2024. You can browse the gallery of pictures HERE.