Oct 1980 v.p. – What’s Happening p. 3

Oct 1980 v.p. – What’s Happening p. 3

Cordaro, VP, Vol.4, No. 5, Oct-Nov1980, What’s Happening p. 3


By Frank Cordaro

Fall is with us and signs of change abound around us.  The abundant harvest from the gardens is all in.  The last of the hot peppers were being picked just the other day.

Progress on the new house is slow, with little more than faith some days to keep Fr. Bert and Norman going.  We were hoping to get major holes plugged before winter sets in.  Despite the perceived slowness in our progress, the work thus far has made our new home look 100% better than when we took possession a couple of months ago. God is good!

Boots had another litter of five kittens.  Mother and babies are all doing well.  We did something that we’ve never done before here at the Catholic Worker last Aug. 14th.  Fr. Bert and our community brought into the church, through the Sacrament of Baptism, Paola Cezares.  Paola and her parents were guests of the house.  Neither of the parents spoke English, but somehow they communicated to Fr. Bert that Paola had never been baptized.  She was only two month old.  The ceremony was performed in the Justice and Peace Center by Fr. Bert. Paola was accompanied by her mother, grandmother, and an aunt. She is now officially registered into the Baptismal Records of St. Mary’s in Elkhart, IA.  It is a times like this that one has to believe in the ‘ex opre opera’ (by the power of the rite) of the sacrament, because none of the family understood a word of English.

We joyfully celebrated our 4th anniversary on Aug. 24th at a Friday night program.  Fr. Steve Orr was on hand to say the Mass, and I entertained with the ‘always in process’ CW slide show.

We had a full slate of activities surrounding Aug. 6th and 9th, the 35th anniversary of the United States dropping the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. We started with a small CW community Mass at the Japanese temple bell here in Des Moines at 8 am on August 6th, about the time of the first bomb on Hiroshima.  On the 7th and 8th of August, many from our community and around the whole region were on retreat outside of Omaha to gather, reflect, build community, and plan a direct action at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offut Air  Force Base outside of Omaha.  There were about 35 people at different times on retreat, which was led by Fr. Carl Kabat from Johah Ho House in Baltimore.  (Fr. Kabat was one of the eight arrested in King of Prussia, PA at the G.E. War Plant.)  On the afternoon of the 9th, about 50 people gathered at the main gate of Offut Air Force Base to support 14 people who were prepared to risk arrest in a nonviolent direct action at the SAC headquarters.  The 14 people who blocked the gate and spilled blood at the entrance to SAC were immediately arrested and given a ‘barring’ letter, which indicated that each person was officially unwelcome at SAC for life.  I received my 2nd such letter from SAC.  Apparently, the 1st one does not count.  Later that evening, back in Des Moines, Bishop Dingman closed an ecumenical religious service which commemorated the dropping of the A-Bomb on Nagasaki, with a spontaneous prayer from the foot of the Japanese temple bell overlooking the city.  The Bishop asked all of the approximately 100 attendees to slowly make a full circle and try to imagine the A-Bomb exploding in Des Moines and destroying all that we could see.  The Bishop also wrote his pastoral letter on nuclear war, his 3rd letter in as many years.

On September 10th, 12 of us from the Religious Task Force of the Iowa Mobilization for Survival ambushed George Bush on the Eby farm north of Adel.  We were among 100 people who came to hear him speak to the concern of farmers.  We came bearing a large banner saying, “IOWA FARMERS WILL NOT SURVIVE A NUCLEAR WAR.”  We were hoping Bush would retract a statement he made in January when he said that he believed that the United States could survive an all-out nuclear war.  Bush tried to shrug us off when we began to ask him questions about his statements on the survivability of nuclear war.  Finally, when asked how many nuclear weapons this country could withstand and still consider itself a survivor of nuclear war, Mr. Bush replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.”  It is pretty frightening to think that this man may one day be President and to know that our guess is as good as his.  GOD HELP US!

On September 12th, a dozen of us piled into the United Methodist van for the long trip to St. Louis and then to the  Marion  Prison rally on the 13th.  We spent Friday night at the CW houses in St. Louis.  It was the first time many of us had been to the city and their CW.  Their houses are so large, but there is little question of the need. St. Louis looks like a war torn city; the effects of a misdirected national priority of weapons vs. people.  We enjoyed the hospitality of the St. Louis folks and hope that one day we can reciprocate.

The rally at the Marion Prison brought together nearly 500 people from across the country to walk a half mile from the highway to the edge of the federal property.  The larger rally met up  with the “Walk with the Marion Brothers” that started on Sept. 2nd in East St. Louis, and ended at Marion on the 13th.  Among the 10-day walkers were three folks from our community:  Jeff Patch, Steve Andsager, and Steve Marsden.  Once the gathering reached the gate leading to the prison, a group of American Indians who were there to support Leonard Peltier, now presently in the Marion Prison, led those assembled in a traditional Indian prayer.  Throughout the ceremony at the gate, the crowd was buzzed by a military helicopter which came as close as 25 feet above the group.  It was not hard that day to make a connection between the Federal Prison System and the U.S. Military’s joint efforts of putting down third world peoples’ struggles for liberation; as we witnessed American Indians praying for their brother who is unjustly being held in a Federal Prison while the US military helicopter harasses the service.

After the prayer service there was a rally with speakers and music.  The effort was very much needed.  Many of us, for the 1st time, began to feel how the isolation that Marion Prison must mean to so many of its inmates who come from urban minority settings and are placed in an all white southern rural area.

The latest word from the prison is that there is a general strike by the general population, seeking better living conditions and the closing of the Control Unit.  We need to continue to be present at places like Marion which rely so much on their invisibility to continue the evil work that they do.

The state Pax Christi meeting on the 20th of September in Iowa City brought to our area Fr. Dick Morley, SJ.  Dick is a longtime peace activist who has written extensively on disarmament and nuclear weapons.  He was the first person to coin the phrase, “It is a sin to build a nuclear weapon.”  Dick shared with us that morning at a slide show that his Peace Center in Washington, D.C. has put together.  In the afternoon Lucia Dryanski and I shared with the group our experiences in direct peace witnessing.  Pax Christi is relatively new in this area of the country.  Anyone interested in finding out more, please contact the Justice and Peace Center.

The Iowa Mobilization for Survival state meetings in Dubuque September 26-27 brought together more than 25 die-hard activists who made the long trip to Dubuque to meet and plan the next for months of the MFS state activities.  There were people from as far away as Sioux City.  High on the agenda is the resistance to the impending draft.  We are always looking for new people to add their energy to the Mobilization for Survival.  Contact the J & P Center for more information.

Recent months have brought a number of visitors who should be mentioned.  Kathy Jennings spent a night and a day with us.  Kathy was one of the folks who cut through a fence at Rocky Flats last fall for a sunrise service.  She served six months in jail for her prayerful witness.

We had a young man from Denmark spend a couple of days with us. His first name is Henrick.  He was sent to us from folks at the St. Louis CW.  We enjoyed Henrick’s visit.  He is seeing America from the bottom up.

Two women from the Washington state area came through Des Moines, making contacts for “The Walk to Moscow.”  They hope to start on the west coast and make their way to the east coast, then through Europe and on to Moscow.  The walk is for disarmament.  We should expect the walkers to be coming our way sometime in July 1981.

We received a letter from Jim Siemer the other day.  Jim is the nephew of Tom Siemer and they both stayed with us here at the Pope’s visit last fall.  Tom and Jim have been trying to get the Pope to declare the making of nuclear weapons a sin for any Catholic.  Tom was working for Rockwell International making weapons systems until the Lord moved him to quit his job at Rockwell and work for peace.  Jim has gone public with his refusal to register for the draft and plans to take his registration to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in hopes the Church will declare the right of all Catholics to refuse to register for all modern wars.

Jeff Parch and Steve Andsager are still with us, residing in the basement of Ligutti House.  They have become part of the community.  It is hard to imagine that sometime after the elections in November they could be prosecuted for their refusal to register for the draft.

Between the time that I write this and the time that you read it in, via pacis, we will already have gone to SAC Headquarters to pray with Bishop Gumbleton on October 2nd.  Richard Cleaver should be back with us by then.  David McReynolds, a Korean War and Viet Nam war resister, longtime No Nukes activist, and socialist presidential candidate, will have come and gone on his campaign visit to Des Moines.  That is the problem with  writing this article for  via pacis; I never know when to start and finish it.  My hope is that you get the flavor of what is happening here while we continue to do everyday hospitality that makes our community what it is.  May God bless our work as we struggle to embrace the spiritual journey which is the Catholic Worker tradition.


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