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Bethel College history professor to speak on Catholic Peace Fellowship

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - Penelope Adams Moon, assistant professor of history at Bethel College, will present "The Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF) during the Vietnam War" at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 2 in the Administration Building Chapel at Bethel College, North Newton. The lecture is part of the 2002-03 Faculty Seminar series at the college. Admission is free and open to the public. Moon majored in fine arts and European history for the bachelor’s degree she received at Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Ind., in 1991. She completed a master’s degree in art history at Vanderbilt University in 1994 and a doctoral degree in history at Arizona State University in 2001. She taught at Arizona State University in Tempe and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and began teaching at Bethel College last August.

"We Have Got to Lead Them in the Ways of Peace: The Catholic Peace Fellowship in the Vietnam Era" was the topic of Moon’s doctoral dissertation.

"Several things inspired me to learn about the Catholic Peace Fellowship," Moon says. "I became interested in social history - the idea that ordinary people shape history. A good deal of Catholic history focuses on the church as an institution or on ‘hero’ priests or on the pioneer-like stories of how dioceses were founded. I knew very little about how ordinary Catholics understood their faith and how that faith shaped their political and social behavior."

Eager to learn more about how non-clerical Catholics operated in history, Moon was drawn to study the CPF after reading about the antiwar movement of the Vietnam Era. "Historians would mention people of faith who protested the war, but usually the historians would lump all religious protesters together, as if all religions were the same. I was eager to understand what made Catholic protesters different from other protesters, both religious and secular."

When Moon, herself a Catholic, heard a family member say, "No real Catholic protested the Vietnam War," she was even more intrigued with the topic. "I had seen pictures of priests, nuns and other Catholics protesting the war, and I began to wonder what kind of Catholics they were if, as this family member had asserted, no real Catholic protested the war. Were these fake Catholics?!"

She learned how non-clerical Catholics protested the war in Vietnam, how their faith informed their arguments and tactics and how these individuals fit into the larger Catholic culture. Moon gathered information from the University of Notre Dame Archives in South Bend, Ind., where the CPF had sent most of its organizational records, from the Swarthmore (Pa.) College Peace Collection and from the Catholic Worker collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

Recent anti-war protests have reminded Moon "how Catholics and other people of faith mobilized marches against the war in Vietnam even before the Vietnam War became a huge issue. A strong symbolic and educational component to the current antiwar movement hearkens back to the antiwar movement of the Vietnam Era. Petitions, marches, teach-ins and mailings began the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, and I see that happening today," Moon says.

Funding for the Faculty Seminar series at Bethel College was provided in part by the Earl and Meta Leisy Eymann Endowment.

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