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Fond farewell

Kamaria Porter | Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How many of us follow God’s call for us? How many of us can even see it clearly? I see our greatest mandate in life as to “Love each other as I have loved you.” The “I” being Jesus. This is a special calling to love, perhaps distinct to loving one another as we love ourselves. Our scriptures tell of God’s unfaltering help to us, concern for the least in a society, and action taken to relieve people from suffering. This is our challenge today. Yet, far from the days of model saints, we need models of this existence to show us the way to love each other. One model laywoman, Margaret “Peggy” Roach, who has inspired so many even on this campus, has left this earth. Yet her legacy lives on in the action she took for the Kingdom of God.

Peggy Roach served the U.S. church as a laywoman, mentor and teacher. Last week she died of cancer in the company of friends and family. This week we celebrate her life in Chicago. Roach worked at the Archdiocese Council of Catholic Women in Chicago, then later at the national office in Washington D.C. fighting for social and racial justice issues. She was at the right place and time – in D.C. in the early 60s – and represented Catholic women at meetings of the National Council of Leadership on Civil Rights. She marched alongside the thousands for racial justice. Local fights were also important to her. In Chicago, she was involved with the Contract Buyers League, a group trying to stomp out racist realtors who would intimidate or prey on whites moving from the city, buy their houses for cheap, then sell to black families for inflated prices. As Chicago faced its race question and more people left the city unwilling to integrate, people like Peggy Roach worked to stop the work of exploiters in hopes for peaceful race relations.

Roach is most well known as assistant to Monsignor Jack Egan, a social justice priest in Chicago. This is indeed how I met Roach last October. I was writing my senior essay on Msgr. Egan and eager to do some original interviews. I called her up and she happily agreed to meet me in the city to talk about Egan. I loved listening to her stories, because the work that I wanted to investigate of Egan was her work too. Egan was said to have the ideas and Roach the know how to get them done. They were a dynamic duo. Egan needed someone to organize him, in order to do his organizing.

When Egan left Chicago for Notre Dame, one of his initial questions to Fr. Hesburgh was whether he could bring Peggy Roach. During their 13-year stint under the Dome, Egan and Roach started the Catholic Committee of Urban Ministry. Basically pulling together their dual talents in networking, CCUM hosted conferences, retreats and other programs to feed the people who do the Kingdom building in their communities.

They returned to Chicago in the 1980s, working for the Archdiocese Office of Human Relations and Ecumenism and at DePaul University. Roach retired when Egan died in 2001, but kept in contact with friends in their circles. She was known for her notes and e-mails of encouragement to young people and former colleagues, always keeping them in her prayers and giving them advice for the journey. Peggy Roach took a life-long journey seeking and fighting for social justice, while touching the lives of people from all different generations and walks of life. She teaches us how to live out Jesus’ teachings with courage of will and humble nature. I am reminded of a quote by another model of Christian existence, Cesar Chavez, “When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it’s how we use our lives that determines what kind of [people] we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life.” Roach’s dedication to Christian love and a better world for us all is stirring. She will be missed, yet she challenges us to remember her through our actions – fighting injustice wherever we find it.

Kamaria Porter is a senior history major. Thanks for the memories, angry e-mails, nice notes and the chance to talk and rant for three years. Bye.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.