Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements, Vermont Catholic Professionals will meet this month — but instead of an in-person meeting, it will be streamed live April 29 from 8 to 9 a.m.

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The speaker will be John Reuwer, a retired emergency physician and adjunct professor at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. His topic will be “From Emergency Physician to Peace Activist: Adventures in Mitigating Suffering.”

The meeting was moved online rather than cancelled or postponed as a way to continue to serve Catholic professionals throughout the state during this time of pandemic. “Instead of cancelling events and isolating ourselves, I feel that Catholic Church is being creative and looking for ways to adapt, overcome and connect with one another,” said Brittany Czekaj, chair of the committee for Vermont Catholic Professionals. “My hope is that through this virtual event, attendees will have the opportunity for professional development from our speaker and will also learn more about faith and career resources available to them during this current pandemic.”

Reuwer grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, attended college and medical school at the University of Virginia and completed his postgraduate work in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He practiced emergency medicine for 28 years before directing a free clinic in the mountains of Virginia. He moved to Vermont nine years ago to practice occupational medicine and consult for the Department of Corrections.

As an avocation, Reuwer has been exploring the problem of harmful behavior for more than 35 years and now devotes his full time to studying, teaching and practicing alternatives to violence. He is currently adjunct professor of conflict resolution at St. Michael’s College where he teaches courses in nonviolent communication and nonviolent action. He serves on the Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for Physicians for Social Responsibility and on the Board of Directors of World Beyond War and facilitates workshops for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

Reuwer has served on several volunteer unarmed peace teams in Haiti, Guatemala, Colombia, Palestine/Israel and several U.S. inner cities. His latest mission was to South Sudan for four months in 2019 as an International Protection Officer with the Nonviolent Peaceforce, one of the world’s largest organizations advancing the field of Civilian Unarmed Protection.

“Thanks to the flexibility of our speakers, we were able to rearrange this year’s schedule to have a speaker with a background relevant during these current times to address professionals throughout the state,” Czekaj said. “It is important to us to bring information that is relevant to current times to our members.”

Now, more than ever, she said, it is important for Catholics to stay connected and stay strong in their faith: “Many people feel alone and isolated or have increased anxiety due to challenges they are facing due to the pandemic. It is in these times that our faith is tested; continuing to keep up with the community that we have built is extremely important.”

Vermont Catholic Professionals works to foster community, inspire discussions and spread their faith, which was the intent of the group’s founding in 2018.

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