Students and faculty gathered together in Hardin Garden on March 24 for the unveiling of Winthrop University’s first Peace Pole in memory of Catholic minister and peace activist, Father David Valtierra.
According to a recent release, the peace pole is the most recognized symbol of peace in the world. The newly unveiled peace pole is six feet high and is engraved with the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in six different languages.
Opening the ceremony were musicians Adrian Bailey and the Soulful Echoes. The band performed a blend of melodies heavily influenced by ambient and Native American styles.
Associate professor of history and director of the peace, justice and conflict resolution studies minor Ginger Williams gave the opening address.
“Planning this peace pole has been a goal for three years,” said Williams. “In 2010, before Father David passed away, we had already begun discussions of a memorial to commemorate his life.”
Father Valtierra was active within the Rock Hill community in his roles as Winthrop University’s Newman Apostolate Director, a sacramental priest at St. Mary’s and director of the Oratory Center for Spirituality. In his role with Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Valtierra prioritized social justice as the foundation of his ministry.
In a post dated Aug. 23, 2011 on the Oratory’s official website, Valtierra stated, “I joined the Oratory that had strong social justice roots. The priests and brothers had a connection with the Catholic Committee for the South, with the movement for racial equality and school integration and with efforts to organize textile workers.”
Following Williams’ opening address was a performance of “Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace” by the Winthrop Chamber Singers. The hymn was composed by John Rutter and serves as a setting of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Dr. Peter Judge, shared his own memories of Father Valtierra. “David was himself a man of peace. His attitude of peace and non-violence was infectious.”
Opening a series of Ecumenical Prayers of Peace was Evelyn Hannaman with the Baptist Peace Fellowship.
“Baptist and peace are not words that are heard together often,” Hannaman said. “We are a network of seeking to equip and immobilize Baptists to work for peace and justice.”
Following a deliverance of an the oratory by Father Agustin Guzman and a traditional Catawba prayer from Debbie Garris, Winthrop’s Phi Mu Alpha performed “Dona Nobis Pacem,” a piece composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
International students, Mohammed Hooshmand Zaseranieh from Iran, Majid Alasfoor from Saudi Arabia and Sijia Zhuand from China delivered a message of peace in their native languages.
To conclude the ceremony was a solo by assistant professor of voice, Dr. Kristen Wonderlich of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” composed by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller.
Together, Phi Mu Alpha and those in attendance sang “Solidarity Forever,” by Ralph Chapin and Gilbert DeBenedetti to commemorate the unveiling of the peace pole.