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Honorary Degree Citation - Chaplain Clementina M. Chéry

Friday, May 26, 2017
Chaplain Clementina M. Chéry
Doctor of Ministry

Transformative thinker in times of crisis. Life-changing leader for those in need.

Tireless advocate for your community. Staunch defender of peace and nonviolence.

Clementina Chéry, you are truly an enduring light that cannot be extinguished. As founder, president and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, you have served as a beacon to your community and an inspiration to all. A woman of deep faith and an ordained senior chaplain, you give solace to those who have been victimized by gun violence regardless of the circumstances. You offer solutions to prevent other parents from having to know that pain. You believe that “Peace is possible, but it starts within our hearts.” If only there were more hearts in this world as generous, as caring and as strong as yours.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, you experienced an unimaginable tragedy. Your 15-year-old son, Louis – a bright and compassionate tenth-grader at West Roxbury High School – was killed by a stray bullet on his way to an anti-violence group meeting for teens. In the face of inconceivable grief, you persevered. Through the pain, you asked yourself, “How can I lessen the pain of others who have lost a child to violence?” Your answer was the namesake institute that you established in memory of your wonderful son.

The devastating impact of gun violence is felt far beyond the confines of the criminal justice system. There are the victims and perpetrators, but also the mothers, fathers, families and friends. Entire communities are left shaken and distraught in the wake of such horrific incidents. Your extraordinary generosity and commitment extends to those affected on both sides of these events, whom you serve with dignity and compassion. That is why your important work is so vital to the Greater Boston community. You pioneered new strategies for addressing gun violence when your city needed your help. When the institute was founded in 1993, an average of one or more fatal shootings occurred each day in Boston. That sobering statistic has decreased significantly over the past three decades, and for that, we owe you and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute a great debt of gratitude.

With deep compassion and great generosity, you provide free, confidential support for grieving loved ones through the institute’s Survivors Outreach Services initiative. With prescience and clarity, you envision and develop programs that offer innovative and effective ways to address gun violence. You work to disrupt the roots of this crisis at the infrastructural level and provide solutions that help to prevent any regrowth. The families you have helped describe your programs as “gifts” and “godsends” received in their darkest hours.

You developed the Workbook for Grieving Children and the Survivors Burial and Resource Guide. You also co-authored an article, “Homicide Survivors: Research and Practice Implications,” for the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. You work tirelessly to educate others about peace and prevention. You encourage your peers to take up the mantle and join you in finding new ways to stop violence.

For your commitment to nonviolence, you were named Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers and one of Boston’s 100 most influential leaders of color. You also have been honored by Harvard University, among others.

That all may know of our great esteem for you and our strong support for the vital work you do through the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to prevent gun violence and to comfort families that have suffered unimaginable loss, the College of the Holy Cross confers upon you this day the degree, Doctor of Ministryhonoris causa.