Peace and Justice Director retires after 16 years Print this post

Neil Michaud helped develop action on many issues

by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (5/18/2012)

VENICE – Neil Michaud took a picture of the sign in front of the Catholic Center office as one last reminder of the 16 years he committed to the Diocese of Venice.

Michaud retired as Director of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office in late April content in the knowledge that through his steadfast dedication thousands of people were educated on many key issues which motivated them to take a more active role in the Church.

“I must credit any success of the Peace and Justice Office through the years to the hundreds of committed social justice advocates and volunteers who energize others,” Michaud said. “I did very little but to guide these special people in a manner in which Bishop (Frank J.) Dewane and Bishop Emeritus (John J.) Nevins wanted.”

He credits the direct support and interest by Bishop Dewane, and previously by Bishop Nevins, about Peace and Justice issues in helping grow the outreach over the years.

“Neil Michaud dedicated his life to issues involving Peace and Justice, a passion and interest he shared with many others,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Diocese of Venice is blessed to have had him here for so long and we wish Neil the best in his future. Our prayers go with him for the God-given talents he has shared with us. Thank you Neil!”

The Peace and Justice Office works to support issues of Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community, and Participation in the Common Good; Human Rights and Responsibilities; Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Global Solidarity; and Care for God’s Creation.

Michaud first came to the Diocese of Venice in 1995 and consulted for and then directed Catholic Charities before being tapped to run the Peace and Justice Office. The Leaven Conference, the annual event organized by the office, has grown from attracting a dozen activists to being a Diocesan-wide event with internationally recognized speakers. Each of the conferences takes on a theme found in the social teachings of the Church. Michaud ran the events each year from 1999-2012.

The Leaven Conference brings Gospel values to public social policies, ongoing efforts to bring justice to farmworkers, and continuously educating the faithful to become effective stewards of God’s Creation.

“The conferences helped many people who might not otherwise have an interest in a variety of topics (such as prison reform, sustainable environment, hunger, labor and many more) become more aware and ultimately more active,” he said. “We are each called to live our faith and act as Jesus did.”

In addition to the Leaven Conferences, the Peace and Justice Office developed a system of registered Social Justice Advocates, who help bring Gospel values to domestic and international public policies. The office also sponsors a diocesan-wide Environmental Justice Commission.

One of the keys initiatives of the Peace and Justice Office under Michaud has been to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida. This effort has been to help raise local and national awareness of the plight of farmworkers and to advocate a better wage and living conditions for the workers.

Michaud is retiring to his home state of Maine with his wife, Pat, where they plan to spend more time with their six adult children and 12 grandchildren. He worked in Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Portland for 23 years.

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