1991 March 10 – 4rd Sun Lent (Bulletin Letters)
SPEAKING TOUR: Last week’s anti-war speaking tour went well. Friday night March 1st, I was in Dubuque at Loras College. I spoke at a public meeting attended primarily by students making the annual Spring Break/Holy Week trip to Wash. D.C. These students will be living and working with the Community for Creative Non-Violence at their shelter for the homeless. They will also join the folks of Jonah House and the Atlantic Life Communities for the annual Holy Week protest at the Pentagon. There were over 70 folks at the talk on Friday night. My message was well received.
Saturday March 2nd, I was in Ia. City for the Rural Symposium prior to the play RIVERS AND RAVINES. Fifty people attended the pre-play symposium and panel discussion. The high point of the night was the play that followed.
During the play, I was sitting next to a retired farm couple who lost their farm during the ’80’s’. They were visibly moved by the production. At the intermission, we shared how well the characters portray the pain and anguish our rural communities suffered during the worst times of the crisis. We were able to identify different people we knew in our own communities with the different characters in the play.
While the symposium laid out the facts and figures of the rural crisis, the play present the human tragedy of the crisis. It brought back a lot of memories, for me, of the days when I was more directly involved in rural organizing.
The play also served to remind me the Rural Crisis is long from over. Everything I read these days from the progressive farm organizations tells me that the 90’s are going to be just as devastating for the family farmer as the 1980’s ever were. The play RIVERS AND RAVINES is not just rembering the past, it may well be an accurate portrait of difficult times yet to come.
Sunday afternoon I drove into Des Moines to the surprise 80th birthday party for Helen Tichy. Helen is a good friend and long time supporter of the Catholic Worker. Helen is one of the ‘Grand Mothers’ of the peace & justice community in the Des Moines area. Many of the area peace & justice people were on hand for the celebration. It was a great celebration and a chance to see so many old friends
That night I was back in Ia. City for my talk at the Congregational UCC Church. About 70 people showed up. Most of the progressive feminists, that I expected to have a hard time with did not attend. Instead, a good number of area Mennonites came. The talk was well received.
After my talk, an elder in the Mennonite community asked if I would be willing to speak in a couple scripture classes and lead the weekly all school chapel service at the Ia. Mennonite High School in Kalona Ia. the following morning. Kalona is 14 miles south of Ia. City. I gladly accepted the invitation.
I gave the students a strong message about the non-violent Jesus. I also supported the Mennonites long standing opposition to war and violence. I talked of the Christian Church’s need to reclaim the non-violent spirit of Christ found in the New Testament. I called on all Christians to renounce all forms of violence. Again, my message was well received.
After my talks at the school I was told by the elder who invited me how much he appreciated meeting and hearing a Catholic Priest who passionately embraces the non-violence of Jesus. He told me that the founder of the Mennonite Church was also a Catholic priest who passionately embraced the non-violence of Jesus. He confessed that he sensed in me some of the same spirit that moved their founder to start the Mennonite Church. I was humbled by the comparison, though not interested in starting yet another Christian denomination.
Monday night March 4th I was in Cedar Rapids at Mount Mercy College talking to 30 people. This was a smaller group and the talk was more of a dialogue. The frustration among the peace community people was most apparent at this talk. All of us have been overwhelmed and sadden by the strong support the War has been receiving from Americans.
Some of the students who attended were challenged in their thinking about War, and their belief in Jesus. Some who were pro-war left confused and no longer sure of their pro-war position. I consider this a good sign. My message was making them think.
Tuesday March 5th, I was in Cedar Falls Ia. at UNI. It was good to be back at my alma mater. The campus has changed a great deal since I was a student. There are lots of new buildings and much construction work is taking place.
I spent the afternoon talking in two of Ron Roberts classes. Ron was teaching at UNI when I was there. He was one of the first teachers who helped me look critically at the economic and political structures of our society. His students were most receptive of my message. Many appreciate hearing, for the first time, of a radical, Christian, social perspective. Most did not even know that one excised.
Before my night talk, I had supper with the student peace organization who invited me on campus. We talked about the possibility of having a weekend in the Fall, where students from different college would come to Omaha for a two day workshop and teach-in on the nuclear arms race. We would end with a line crossing at SAC. We promised to keep in touch and follow through with this idea.
The night talk in the student union was my best of the tour. Close to 100 people attended. Again, my message was well received. I ended my presentation by telling the story of my ash spilling effort at the White House in Nov. of 1979. It’s one of my best, and funniest stories. It ended the talk on a humorous note.
I felt real good about the tour. It was great to see so many old friends and make some new ones. The tour impressed on me my need to continue seeking forums for my message. I will continue to actively seek out similar speaking opportunities in the future.
MARCH 18 PROTEST IN DES MOINES CALLED OFF: The planed protest at the military processing center in West Des Moines on March 18th has been called off. There will be a planning meeting in Des Moines on Sunday March 17th to discuss future efforts. I plan on attending this meeting in Des Moines. Will keep you posted of its developments.