Prophet of Peace Award: Kelly Armor
Reflection and Presentation by Prioress, Sister Anne Wambach, OSB
February 10, 2017
Today Benedictines around the world remember Scholastica, believed to be the twin sister of Benedict and a model of the feminine aspects of Benedictine monasticism. The story is told of how she and her brother met yearly at a house equidistant to their respective monasteries. On one occasion, so enjoying the prayer and conversation they shared, Scholastica asked Benedict to remain until the next day. He refused to spend the night outside of his monastery, citing that it was against the rules. Scholastica asked God to remedy the situation and the next thing you know there was fierce thunderstorm and neither Benedict nor Scholastica or their companions could get home and so, they spent the night continuing their conversation, prayer and presence to one another.
While it is true that saints are not made in the course of a single storm we learn important things about Scholastica from this instance. Clearly, she was a strong, resourceful woman who was empowered by desire and love—not unlike Kelly Armor whom we honor this evening with the Prophet of Peace Award.
We have known Kelly for a long time and have fond memories of her sharing her wonderful gift of music with the community. We are very proud of all that she has accomplished in the many years that have passed since her relationship with the community began.
Kelly Armor has been a professional folk musician and storyteller for more than 20 years. She currently is the Folk Art and Education Director at the Erie Art Museum. Kelly specializes in Appalachian, Celtic, maritime and East African music, storytelling, songwriting, and instrument making. She has also amassed a collection of over 70 traditional children's songs from refugees now living in Erie. She lived in East Africa for 2-1/2 years which sparked her love and interest in oral tradition.
Kelly, a certified early childhood teacher trainer, leads students and teachers through a creative process that integrates fully with the academic subjects at hand. Folktales and folk music are potent cultural, historical, even mathematical and scientific documents.
Kelly initiated and directs the Old Songs New Opportunities Project (OSNO), a collaboration between the Museum and over nine local agencies that collects traditional children’s songs from refugee women living in Erie and trains these women to work in early childhood settings and to use their traditional songs on the job. Since its inception in 2004, OSNO has trained 63 refugee, immigrant, and Hispanic women and two men with a four-month program that included 40 hours of accredited professional development and 90 hours of internship at a local childcare. Over half have gained employment as a result of the program. In addition, she has helped over 50 local folk artists, all former refugees, gain recognition and grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts which allowed them to pass their tradition down to local apprentices and share their art with the wider community.
Kelly’s endeavors have earned her several awards. Locally she has been recognized through “Women Making History” by the Mercy Center for Women and she also received the Imagine Arts Education Award from Erie Arts & Culture. Her work through the Erie Art Museum was instrumental in the Museum receiving a National Medal. The highest federal honor a museum can achieve and one that commends exemplary community service.
While these particular facts merely touch on the contributions Kelly has made through her commitment, effort and work, they are enough to give you some insight into a woman who is incredibly creative and talented, caring and courageous—a woman who has used her gifts without hesitation to bring out the best and create the best for others, especially in relationship to the refugee population, the new Americans in our city.
Kelly has shown that unity can be preserved, and peace can be gained through the recognition and acceptance of difference. She has used her gifts and talents to educate, show respect and bring different peoples together to help build and maintain a culture of acceptance and love, recognition and reverence, peace and nonviolence—a culture that forms the foundation of respect and dignity for all and the acceptance of cultural identity and diversity.
We were reminded in this evening’s reading that we have been given different gifts for doing certain things well. “If God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
The story of Scholastica personifies a strong woman of deep conviction and of many gifts who, out of love, was willing to challenge the rigidity of rules for a necessary good.
The story of Kelly Armor personifies a strong woman of deep conviction who puts her gifts at the service of the diverse populations in our midst with kindness and care, freedom and love, also for a necessary good.
Yes, Kelly and Scholastica have a number of traits in common.
Like Scholastica, Kelly is a woman who knows that to dare more means to receive more.
Like Scholastica, Kelly is a woman who knows how not to lock herself into one course of action but rather, to look at her entire range of choices.
Like Scholastica, Kelly is a woman who knows that love has the power to drive out fear.
And it is for these reasons, on the day we remember Scholastica, that we honor Kelly Armor with our 2017 Prophet of Peace Award.
Kelly, I invite you to come forward.
Kelly Armor, you embody the corporate commitment of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie as a prophetic witness of peace and justice.
Tonight we extend our annual Prophet of Peace Award to you—
—A woman who in a climate of fear, xenophobia, and bigotry toward the refugee population stands as a beacon of inclusivity and welcome.
—A woman who empowers refugees, especially women, through innovative accredited programs such as “Old Songs, New Opportunities,” by training them to preserve and share their folk arts as employed teachers and song coaches in childcare centers and classrooms across Erie County.
—A woman who enriches all our lives by validating and celebrating the beauty and strength of cultural diversity.
We honor you.
We applaud your life’s work.
We pray for the courage to follow your example.
May you continue to “seek peace and pursue it” with the honor and support of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.