1991 Nov 16 – 3rd Sun Ord (Bulletin Letters)

1991 Nov 16 – 3rd Sun Ord (Bulletin Letters)


Dear Friends;

BISHOP, PRIEST PERSONNEL BOARD and FR. FRANK MEET My meeting with the Bishop and the Priest Personnel Board went well. It was the first official step in the process of deciding what to do with Fr. Frank next year. This year marks my seventh in Harrison County. According to the Diocesan priest tenure policy, I should be up for a move. A full range of options, including my staying on in Harrison County, was discussed at the meeting.  The big question that needs to be answered, for me, is whether or not there is room in our diocese for a priest doing resistance work. No decision was made. We are still in the talking stage. Please continue to hold the Bishop, the Personnel Board and me in your prayers. We’ll need them!


I picked up Norman Searah at the Des Moines Catholic Worker early Friday morning and we left for Chicago. We got into the “Windy City” early in the afternoon, and I dropped Norman at the St. Francis Catholic Worker House in North Chicago. Norman spent Friday and Saturday at the Catholic Worker.


I parked my car at the Catholic Worker and took the “L” – Chicago’s mass transit system – to the downtown business district. I had hoped to visit Fr. Jerry Zawada.  Fr. Jerry is doing a six month prison term for violating probation. Fr. Jerry was one of the Missouri Peace Planters. He did close to two years in jail for his missile silo witness. When the Feds cut him lose, they put him on probation. Once freed, Fr. Jerry continued his resistance ways. The Feds picked him up and gave him another six months to serve.

He is doing his time in the Federal holding facility in downtown Chicago. Its a twenty-five story sky- scraper filled to the brim with prisoners from all over the country. Its not a pleasant place. Prisoners are mostly kept in lock down similar a typical large county jail only bigger.

I filled out a visitor’s form a couple of weeks ago and sent it in. I fully expected to be let in to visit Fr. Jerry, but when I got to the front door, I was denied visiting rights because my name was not on their list. There was a slip-up. I had no recourse. I got back on the “L” and headed for the Catholic Worker without having visited Fr. Jerry.



From the Catholic Worker I drove to the Ramada Hotel near O’Hare Airport to the Call to Action Conference. Over nine hundred people attended this three day Conference. It was a belated and much needed follow-up to the original Call to Action Conference in Detroit in 1976.

The 1976 Conference was called by the U.S. Catholic Bishops as the first attempt to hold a national Pastoral Council.  Appointed voting representatives from every diocese were in attendance and many Bishops were on hand. The 1976 Conference dealt with a wide range of issues. They made many strong and progressive recommendations to the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

The open process,  and the Conference’s far- reaching recommendations, frightened many of the Bishops. The Bishops National Conference ignored the recommendations of Call to Action, and their  open and democratic process was tabled by the U.S. Bishops.

This year’s Chicago gathering was an attempt to revive the 1976 Call to Action spirit. During the three day Conference, there were many keynote addresses, as well as a wide range of workshops to attend. Nationally known people were speaking and leading workshops.  The conference focused attention on such intra-Church issues as the ordination of women and married people, the end of mandatory celibacy for the priesthood, full consultation and participation of the laity in developing Church teachings on human sexuality and the right of the local Church laity, religious and clergy to help select their Bishop. The Conference also focused on the broad range of peace and justice issues challenging the Church in the world today.

The Conference brought together people who are ‘trying to change the Church’ with people who are ‘trying to change the world’.  Together we shared, listened and dreamed of what our Church might be if we really lived up to what we say we are.

I was able to visit with Fr. Dan Berrigan and Liz McAlsiter. I renewed many old friendships and make some new ones. The high point of the Conference, for me, came during the Leadership Award ceremony. The recipient this year was Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick, the national coordinator of the Women’s Ordination Conference. During her acceptance speech, Ruth read a list of names of people who have furthered the cause of women in the Church.  After each name the audience responded out loud with “Presenta!” The fifth name she read was Bishop Maurice Dingman. I almost fell out of my chair, and I let out a big ‘yea!’.



Sunday night Larry Morlan and I went back into the city to pick up Norman at the Catholic Worker and listen to Sam Day. Sam was the speaker at the Sunday Night Round Table Discussion. He is with Nuke Watch in Madison, WI. Sam and Nuke Watch helped organize the Missile Silo Occupation in Missouri in October.

Sam, who is in his 60’s, told us the story of his personal journey to a resistance way of life.  He was a journalist by trade.  He worked for the Atomic Bulletin, a scientific magazine that exposed the dangers of nuclear weapons.  Sam got tired of writing about the dangers of nuclear weapons – he wanted to do something about them. He quit his job at the Atomic Bulletin  and started working for the Progressive Magazine.  The Progressive is a radical, leftist magazine that advocates major social, economic and political change. He became the editor of the Progressive Magazine.

His work with the Progressive Magazine was good, but not good enough. Sam felt called to do more. In the 1980’s he was attracted to faith-based people who were doing active, non-violent, civil disobedience at nuclear weapons facilities. He quit his job at Progressive Magazine and helped start Nuke Watch in Madison, WI.

Sam’s first major resistance effort was with the Missouri Peace Planters. He got six months for his missile silo witness. While in jail, he had a small stroke, which caused blindness. Except for his sight, he recovered fully. Being blind hasn’t stopped him, however. Sam is still a strong advocate for faith-based, non-violent resistance, and he fully intends to ‘act up’ again an be back in jail. His story was very inspiritational.

It was great to see Sam. He is trying to organize a regional network of Resistance   Communities for the Midwest,  It’s called “The Prairie and Lakes Life Communities”. Their next meeting will be in Chicago in January. I’m planing to attend.

Sam, and the others who will gather in Chicago in January, are part of the Resistance Church I keep talking about.



While in Chicago, I stayed with Larry Morlan at Mundleline Seminary. Mundleline is the major seminary for the Arch-diocese of Chicago, and is one of the largest  in the country. Over 250 seminarians from all over the world attend. The Seminary’s buildings and grounds embody the status of great wealth and worldly power.

Archbishop Mundleline wanted to build a school as grand as any found in Europe. He did. It sits on a large tract of land  about 30 miles north of Chicago. From the front gate, there’s a mile-long drive to the Seminary parking lot. A lake sits in the middle of the property. Many large and grand buildings make up the campus. There are plenty of statues and pillars dispersed around the buildings.  The Cardinal has his own mansion next to the Seminary on the lakeshore.

The most striking piece of architecture is the vast ‘temple’ type on the lakeshore frontage. It serves as a boat house, dock and mausoleum. It was built by the family of a priest who was killed in WWII. The priest is buried in the mausoleum.

I was glad I got to spend time with Larry Morlan. He is experiencing many of the same things I did when I went back to Seminary at St. Johns in Minnesota after my Catholic Worker days. It’s no easy transition.  One never really gets completely comfortable in places like St. John’s and Mundleline after living at a Catholic Worker. The disparity between the desperate lives of the poor we served at the Catholic Worker, and the affluent life style of the Seminary is too great. Its always a struggle to keep your head on straight.

If  90% of all communication is non-verbal, then the message places like St. John’s and Mundleline  are giving is that wealth and power are good, and the Church must keep it. From our Catholic Worker perspective, this is in direct opposition to the message the Gospels give us about wealth and power.

I was given a chance to share my thoughts with some of the  seminarians on Monday during lunch. The Peace and Justice Committee of the Seminary sponsored me for a luncheon talk in a dining room off the main cafeteria. I talked to 30 seminarians for over an hour. The title of my talk, “The Resistance Church-What’s a priest to do?” seemed to be well recieved.

It’s always a special challenge and grace for me to talk to seminarians. Each time I do it, I come away more deeply aware of my own priesthood and the unique way in which the Lord is leading me to live it out.

After my talk, Norman and I said our good-byes to Larry and headed back for Logan.



Rev. Jonathon Chadwick, formerly of Logan and now Pastor of the Methodist Church in Fayette, IA, has lined up a talk for me in Waterloo, IA, on Tuesday, and in Fayettee on Wednesday of this week. I’ll be back in time for the second resceduled St. Anne’s Parish Council meeting on Thursday night.





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