Marie Kenyon named director of new Peace and Justice Commission

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Marie Kenyon has been named director of the newly formed Peace and Justice Commission of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson made the announcement Jan. 6.

Kenyon, who for almost three decades has directed the Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry, will join the staff of the Office of General Counsel for the archdiocese. She begins her new role Feb. 16.

In August, just weeks after Michael Brown's shooting death by a police officer in Ferguson, Archbishop Carlson announced he was re-establishing an archdiocesan commission on human rights. The Peace and Justice Commission, he said in a statement, will "assist the citizens and public officials throughout all 11 counties of our archdiocese in the effort to achieve peace and justice for all."

Kenyon, 56, started Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry 28 years ago, offering legal assistance to families and individuals in need who otherwise would not have the means to hire an attorney. The ministry, which receives assistance from the Annual Catholic Appeal, is part of Catholic Charities of St. Louis.

Through that work, Kenyon and the other attorneys have helped people touched by poverty, as well as lack of education, employment and housing. "We're confronted with those (issues) on an individual basis every day," said Kenyon. "This is an opportunity for me to take what I have learned for the past 28 years and take a hard look at how (the Church) can help to make systemic changes. I think there are a lot of great possibilities. I'm honored to be given this position and so grateful to be able to serve."

It's important to note that the commission will not focus just on the metropolitan St. Louis area, said Kenyon, but the entire archdiocese, which covers 11 counties, and it may require some effort to discover the differences in those areas. "The issues that people are facing in Ferguson are not some of the same issues that they're facing in Perryville or Ste. Genevieve," she said.

Topics such as race, poverty, health care, education and housing are expected to be part of the work of the commission. Kenyon said it hasn't been decided how many people will be asked to serve on the commission, but she estimated it could be upward of two dozen people. She added that it's "important we have a wide range of folks from all over the archdiocese. We want to make sure the commission is reflective of who we are as an archdiocese."

Kenyon is a past president of the St. Louis Bar Foundation and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, served with the Peace Corps in West Africa and served on numerous community boards. She earned her law degree from St. Louis University and a bachelor's degree in international relations from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. 

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