Deacon Tom Cornell, a co-founder of Pax Christi USA as well as the Catholic Peace Fellowship and a longtime associate of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, died Aug. 1. He was 88.
He died at a hospital in Poughkeepsie near Peter Maurin Farm in Marlboro, where Deacon Cornell and his wife, Monica, lived for many years. The farm is part of the Catholic Worker movement, providing hospitality to the formerly homeless and for men recovering from addiction or struggling with impairments.
Deacon Cornell was ordained for the Archdiocese of Hartford in 1988 and transferred to the Archdiocese of New York in 1993 to continue his work with the Catholic Worker.
He served at St. Mary’s in Marlboro, where a Funeral Mass was to be offered Aug. 10.
He joined the Catholic Worker in Manhattan in 1953, serving the homeless and poor who visited Maryhouse and St. Joseph House. He also was a writer and editor for The Catholic Worker newspaper.
His reflections and essays on peacemaking dating to the 1960s were published worldwide and translated into various languages.
A strong promoter of Gospel-based nonviolence, Deacon Cornell was among the earliest protesters of the Vietnam War, joining two other Catholic workers in July 1963. The demonstration grew to 250 people within 10 days and was the first protest against the war to be broadcast on television.
He served on the executive committee of the Dorothy Day Guild, which promotes her sainthood cause. The Archdiocese of New York announced in 2016 that a canonical inquiry into her life was under way.
Pax Christi USA said Deacon Cornell was one of about a dozen people who attended the “Pax Christi Affiliation Discussion” in July 1972 from which the organization eventually was formed.
Last year, he was named a Pax Christi USA ambassador of peace. Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA executive director, in an Aug. 1 statement, said, "Tom’s wit and wisdom, his prophetic edge and challenging witness have been gifts to the Catholic peace and justice movement for over half a century.”
Besides his wife of 58 years, Deacon Cornell is survived by son Thomas Christopher; daughter Deirdre; five grandchildren; and a sister, Ann Marie Tomasillo.—CNS