Last November, Anne Symens-Bucher ’82, a co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a pacifist organization formed in the early 1980s to promote peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons, was one of two East Bay women honored as Catholic Woman of the Year by the Catholic Charities of the East Bay at its annual award ceremony. When Symens-Bucher was majoring in community studies at UC-Santa Cruz, she read a book about the Catholic Worker Movement and, leaving college, headed to New York to become more involved. “After a year in New York, I felt ready to finish my education,” the 51-year-old social activist recalls. “My mom [Rita O’Neill Bucher ’54] was such a Holy Names girl. The relationships she kept with her Holy Names friends left a big impression on me. I decided to apply to Holy Names and when I handed her the letter of acceptance, it meant a lot to her. I was in my mid-20s and had come back really excited about learning, finishing 36 units in one year. I had incredible teachers and so much freedom to create what was meaningful to me, such as doing my thesis on the dropping of the atomic bomb. It was a great full year for me, to have intellectual and philosophical dimensions of learning attached to my activism.”
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was a radical at Catholic Worker,” she reflects. “Now I want the peace movement to be more peaceful. I believe peace comes into our world one relationship at a time. We have to foster relationships with people with whom we disagree, reaching out with openness about why people do what they do.” For many years, Symens-Bucher was a co-director of the Franciscan’s Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation office. Today, she and her husband, Terry, are collaborative trainers at Bay Area Nonviolent Communication, helping couples and parents learn to communicate in a positive, non-confrontational manner.