1995 Aug 20 – 20th Sun (Bulletin Letters)
Fr. Frank’s East Coast Travel Log:
My twelve day road trip to Wash. D.C. was filled with many memorial moments and events. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was going and coming back with four people in my little GEO Metro. Elijah Terrell, Brain’s 12 yr. old son gets special mention for his patient endurance in putting up with his father, Eddy Bloomer and myself. Constant adult conversation can be very boring to a 12 yr. old. Elijah more than held his own with us and never once complained.
The over all best thing about the trip was the opportunity to reconnect with old and dear friends plus met a few new ones. I got to touch base with friends who have been doing Catholic Worker/Resistance Work for many years.
There aren’t a lot of people who think and feel the way I do about peace and justice issues. It was spiritually up lifting to be with others who share the same world view and faith perspective. In many ways they represent an important Faith community in my life that serve as my mentors and peers.
I was grateful we got to spend our first night out with Jacquee Dickey and Joe Taschetta in So. Bend IN. Jacquee and Joe are both long time Catholic Worker’s and old Iowa friends. Jacquee was one of the founding members of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community. Joe is a teacher at heart, a painter, photographer and great banjo player. When he was in Iowa, Joe played his banjo at many of our demonstrations. Joe and his wife Ronda fixed us a sumptuous supper with grilled fish and sweet corn.
On the way back we got to spent our last night with Fr. Larry Morlan in Bloomington IL. Larry is also a former Davenport Catholic Worker & Plowshares Activist. I got to know Larry when we I spent four months with him at the Fed. Prison Camp in Marion Il. Larry was part of a Plowshares Witness and ending up doing four years at Fed. Prison Camp in Marion. After he got out, he reentered the seminary. He got ordained a Catholic Priest for the Peoria Diocese this Spring.
We also got treated to a day at the Atlantic Ocean. We took an over night break from Wash. D.C. to visited Carol Fennelly on the Delaware coast. Carol spent 15 years with the Community for Creative Nonviolence (CCNV) in Wash. D.C. She was Mitch Snyder long time companion and friend. Both Carol and Mitch were leaders at CCNV and national leaders with homeless advocates. Before Mitch died in 1992, they did much to help make known the plight of the poor and homeless. Carol is living in Lewes MD. Her house is a short walk form the water.
When we were not in Wash. D.C, we were staying with Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham at Viva House in Baltimore MD. Brendan and Willa started Viva Catholic Worker House for over 25 years. They live at the house and are currently serving a meal three times a week to over 200 people in their neighborhood. We were able to help server their community meals a couple of times. Their home & soup kitchen is a beautiful place, filled with posters and movement art, much of which Willa did. She is a great artist. Once a week, a volunteer comes in and plays a mean piano for the folks who come to eat in thier soup line. The poor are feed with dignity in their home.
One night they treated us to a crab dinner. Crab’s are a Baltimore specialty. The work it takes to get to the crab meat through its shell is part of the whole experience. Elijah had the most difficulty, feeling sorry for the poor crabs. He reminded us that the crabs were once living beings while we were tearing them apart for their tasty meat.
When we were in Baltimore we also got to visit the folks at Jonah House. Jonah House is a nonviolent resistance community. They have done non violent resistance to nuclear weapons and militarism for over 25 years. Phil Berrigan* and Liz McAlister, founding members of this community, raised their three children at Jonah House.
I first met the folks at Jonah House in the summer of 1977 when I attended a two week session they conducted on Resistance and Civil Disobedience. We ended the program with a witness at the Pentagon in which I participated in my first act of civil disobedience, a blood spilling on the Pentagon pillars. I served a 30 jail sentence for that effort.
I was glad I got to spend an afternoon at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Wash. D.C. It is a unique Catholic Worker community who, along with doing hospitality and serious resistance, are raising nine children below the age of seven in their community. Four of whom are two year old’s! God bless them…..
Through out the six days we spent in Wash. D.C., we met many old and new friends from Wash. and around the country who game to join the effort – too many to mention right now. Each one of them a sign of hope and encouragement for me.
The Events in Wash. D.C.
The programs and events surrounding our Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations were staged from St. Aloysius Catholic Parish in down town Wash. D.C., a few blocks north of the Capital building. St. “A”s, as it is referred to, is a Jesuit run parish that does a great deal of direct services and advocacy for the poor and oppressed in their neighborhood.
We were given use of the basement church cafeteria for our evening meals and night programs.Participants were also allowed to sleep at the Church during the campaign. There were nightly programs and daily protest at the Pentagon between July 16 and Aug. 9. In stead of returning to Baltimore after a talk, we sleep at the Church the nights before we joined the early morning protest at the Pentagon.
My personal high point came Thursday night Aug. 4th when I got to speak. Over 100 people attended. I dedicated my talk to Bishop Dingman. I spoke mostly about what it means to be following in the Ways of the Nonviolent Jesus and laid out my four point plan for a Resistance Church. At the end, I told my 1979 White House Ash Spilling story. Both my talk and my story were well relieved.
Brian, Elijah, Eddy and I joined the Pentagon protest the following morning and were arrested with seven others for “Obstructing Free Passage”. We were attempting to block the south entrance of the Pentagon. We were immediately arrest. We were finger printed, photographed and given a citation right at the Pentagon and than released to our friends.
It was what we call a “low risk arrest”, meaning there is little likelihood of anyone going to jail for the offense. Over 100 arrest were made during the three week campaign. Every one was given an Oct. 6 court appearance date. Most of us expect that the charges will eventually be dropped. I will of course keep you posted.
The most exciting moment came Sunday night, Jug, 6th at the National Cathedral, during an Ecumenical Prayer Service planned by a coalition of peace and justice organizations. The National Cathedral is an Episcopalian facility. Fr. Dan Berrigan SJ* was slated to talk at this service. A few weeks before the event, the Cathedral authorities had a change of mind about their support for the event. They forced a rewrite of the whole service, regulating Dan Berrigan to a reading role.
At the beginning of the service, a representative of the Cathedral welcomed the 1,000 participants. He spoke of the Cathedral’s long history of social justice activities. He even boasted of having Martin Luther King speak at the Cathedral, four days before King’s death. He proceeded to read a prepared statement in which the Cathedral disclaimed taking any position on the morality of the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. The representative said that as a National Cathedral, they were not allow to take public sands on controversial issues.
Clearly, some very important and powerful people had gotten to the Cathedral authorities. Many of us were shocked and sadden by this odious reversal and change of heart by the Cathedral authorities.
When it came time for Dan Berrigan to read his assigned text, he put aside the script and spoke directly to the Cathedral authorities. He started out by saying that it was a good thing Martin Luther King had spoken at the Cathedral. But than Dan said he doubted Martin Luther King did “not have” a definite position on racism. When Dan said this the whole church erupted in applause. Dan relieved an immediate standing ovation, that lasted a couple of minutes.
Dan went on to say that any Church that can not take a definite stand on issues like racism, violence, sexism and war was not much of a Church at all. Worse yet, Dan said such Church’s often serve as moral cover for the people benefiting the most from continued racism, violence, sexism and war.
It was an electrically charged-Spirit filled moment. It was Dan Berrigan being his ‘Prophetic best” in one of most powerful and influential Church’s in the country.
Aug. 9th was our last day in Wash. D.C. We attended the morning protest at the Pentagon. Over 70 people joined Bishop Thomas Gumbelton in a prayerful procession around the Pentagon. Bishop Gumbelton is a long time peace and justice activist and the Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Detroit. (Bp. Gumbelton also ‘cross the line’ at Offutt Air Force Base in May of 1989. Fr. Kevin ‘crossed the line’ on the same day.)
The procession stopped at different Pentagon entrances along the way. At each entrance some people from the procession risked arrest in attempting to block flow of people coming and going. The procession was closely watched and contained by Pentagon security people.
At a certain point in the procession three women broke away from the group and proceeded to splatter human blood on the outside walls of the Pentagon.
It all happen right in front of me. It came as a surprise. Two of the women are good friends, Sr. Ardeth Platte and Sr. Carol Gilbert. Both sisters are from MI. and have just recently moved to Baltimore to join the Jonah House community.
This blood spilling was a powerful spirit filled moment for me. The three blood spillers were immediately arrested and taken away. The whole procession stop and knelt down as close to the blood stained walls as the security people would let us. Some powerful words were spoken and prayers said.
The whole incident reminded me of my first effort at blood spilling back in 1977. Blood spilling at the Pentagon made ‘Faith” sense to me back in 1977 and the witness Ardeth and Carol made by marking the Pentagon walls with their blood makes “Faith” sense for me today.
I’m sure that there is much in the above report that many of you find hard to understand or accept. I hope in time to explain more about my unusual Faith perspective and world view. I ask you to respect the process and Faith journey that has lead me to this way. I don’t want to convert you to my way of thinking as much as I would like to have you understand and respect my efforts at trying to be Faithful to God’s call as it has been given to me.
*Dan and Phil Berrigan are the Catholic priest who destroyed draft card files in Catonsville MD in 1968 to protest the Vietnam War. They served long prison terms. When they were released they continued in their Resistance ways.
Now in their seventies, both are very active in the peace movement. Fr. Dan continues to be a Jesuit in good standing. He lives in NYC, writes, talks, ministers to AIDS patients and continues his protesting ways. Phil left the active priest hood after his release from Fed. prisons for the draft card burnings. He married Liz McAlsiter and helped start Jonah House. Liz and Phil raised three beautiful children at Jonah House. The both continued doing resistance, making sure that one or the other are free for their kids when the other is in jail.