Fwd: Phil Berrigan Dies

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sat Dec 7 17:40:31 MST 2002

>Hello Everyone,
>Phil died tonight at Jonah House. The family is grieving, but also thankful
>that his last painful days are over and he can now rejoice. There are many
>who have helped and supported the family with prayers and food and kind
>words; all of your support is greatly appreciated. All the letters and
>calls Phil got in his final days showed the strength and compassion of this,
>the beloved community. Please keep checking your email for a following
>message about housing possibilities in Baltimore if you choose to come for
>the wake and/or the funeral mass. Folks from Viva House Catholic Worker
>(410-233-0488) here in Baltimore have volunteered to coordinate housing;
>Jonah House is filled to the brim with family, so please contact Viva House
>if you need to find a place to stay. See below for specific information
>about the funeral arrangements (see the last paragraph for pertinent
>information). This is the press release the family sent out, as well as a
>chronology of Phil's life and works, and a statement he and Liz write
>shortly before his death.
>Thanks to you all, and peace be with you.

>Philip Berrigan, Anti-War Activist, Dies at Home in Baltimore, MD
>Baltimore, MD - Phil Berrigan died December 6, 2002 at about 9:30 PM, at
>Jonah House, a community he co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and
>friends. He died two months after being diagnosed with liver and kidney
>cancer, and one month after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy.
>Approximately thirty close friends and fellow peace activists gathered for
>the ceremony of last rites on November 30, to celebrate his life and anoint
>him for the next part of his journey. Berrigan's brother and co-felon,
>Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan officiated.
>During his nearly 40 years of resistance to war and violence, Berrigan
>focused on living and working in community as a way to model the nonviolent,
>sustainable world he was working to create. Jonah House members live
>simply, pray together, share duties, and attempt to expose the violence of
>militarism and consumerism. The community was born out of resistance to the
>Vietnam War, including high-profile draft card burning actions; later the
>focus became ongoing resistance to U.S. nuclear policy, including Plowshares
>actions that aim to enact Isaiah's biblical prophecy of a disarmed world.
>Because of these efforts Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison. He wrote,
>lectured, and taught extensively, publishing six books, including an
>autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.
>In his last weeks, Berrigan was surrounded by his family, including his wife
>Elizabeth McAlister, with whom he founded Jonah House; his children Frida,
>28, Jerry, 27, and Kate, 21; community members Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck,
>and David Arthur; and extended family and community. Community members
>Ardeth Platte and Carol Gilbert, Dominican sisters, were unable to be
>physically present at Jonah House; they are currently in jail in Colorado
>awaiting trial for a disarmament action at a missile silo, the 79th
>international Plowshares action. One of Berrigan's last actions was to
>bless the upcoming marriage of Frida to Ian Marvy.
>Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death. His final
>comments included this: "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and
>Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for
>them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the
>human family, and the earth itself."
>The wake and funeral will be held at St. Peter Claver Church in West
>Baltimore, (1546 North Fremont Avenue, Baltimore MD 21217); calling hours:
>4-8 PM Sunday December 8 with a circle of sharing about Phil's life at 6 PM;
>funeral: Monday, December 9, 12 PM. All are invited to process with the
>coffin from the intersection of Bentalou and Laurens streets to St. Peter
>Claver Church at 10 AM (please drop off marchers and park at the church). A
>public reception at the St. Peter Claver hall will follow the funeral mass;
>internment is private. In place of flowers and gifts for the offertory,
>attendees may bring pictures or other keepsakes. Mourners may make donations
>in Berrigan's name to Citizens for Peace in Space, Global Network Against
>Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch, Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister,
>or any Catholic Worker house.
>Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002
>Born: October 5, 1923, Minnesota Iron Range, near Bemidji to Frieda Fromhart
>and Thomas Berrigan
>1943-1945: Served in WWII, artillery officer, Europe.
>1949: Graduated from Holy Cross College.
>1955: Ordained a Catholic Priest in the Josephite Order, specializing in
>inner city ministry.
>1956-1963: Taught at St. Augustine's high school, New Orleans, a segregated
>all black school.
>1962 (or 3?): First priest to ride in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride.
>1963-1965: Taught at a Josephite seminary, Newburgh, NY.
>1966: Published first book, No More Strangers.
>1966: Served at St. Peter Claver parish, Baltimore, MD.
>October 27, 1967: Poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with 3 others.
>Known as the "Baltimore Four."
>May 17, 1968: Burned draft files in Catonsville, MD with 8 others, including
>his brother, Fr. Daniel Berrigan. Action known as the "Catonsville Nine."
>Convicted of destruction of US property, destruction of Selective Service
>records, and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967. Sentenced
>to prison.
>1970: Married Elizabeth McAlister, an activist nun, Religious of the Sacred
>Heart of Mary.
>1970: Became a fugitive when appeals failed. Captured and returned to
>1971: Named co-conspirator by J. Edgar Hoover and Harrisburg grand jury
>while in prison. Charged with plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow
>up the utility tunnels of US Capitol buildings. Convicted only of violating
>prison rules for smuggling out letters.
>1973: Co-founded Jonah House community of war resisters in Baltimore, MD.
>April 1, 1974: Birth of Frida Berrigan at Jonah House.
>April 17, 1975: Birth of Jerry Berrigan at Jonah House.
>1975: End of Vietnam War and beginning of focus on weapons of mass
>destruction and changing U.S. nuclear policy. Actions included pouring of
>blood and digging of graves at the White House and Pentagon resulted in
>several jail terms ranging up to six months.
>1975: Atlantic Life Community conceptualized as East Coast counterpart to
>Pacific Life Community.
>1976: First of summer community building sessions; led to triannual Faith &
>Resistance Retreats in DC.
>September 9, 1980: Poured blood and hammered with 7 others on Mark 12A
>warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant, King of Prussia, PA. Charged with
>conspiracy, burglary, and criminal mischief; convicted and imprisoned.
>Action known as the "Plowshares Eight;" began the international Plowshares
>1980-1999: Participated in 5 more Plowshares actions, resulting in ~7 years
>of imprisonment.
>November 5, 1981: Birth of Kate Berrigan at Jonah House.
>1989: Published The Times' Discipline, on the Jonah House experience, with
>Liz McAlister.
>1996: Published autobiography, Fighting the Lamb's War.
>December 14, 2001: Released from Elkton, OH prison after nearly a year of
>imprisonment for his final Plowshares action.
>July 12, 2002: Underwent hip replacement surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital,
>Baltimore, MD.
>October 8, 2002: Diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, cancer in the liver and
>December 6, 2002: Died at home in Baltimore, surrounded by family and

>PHIL'S STATEMENT 12/05/02 (via Liz McAlister)
>Philip began dictating this statement the weekend before Thanksgiving. It
>was all clear - he had it written in his head. Word for word I wrote...
>WHEN I LAY DYING...of cancer
>Philip Berrigan
>I die in a community including my family, my beloved wife Elizabeth, three
>great Dominican nuns - Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert, and Jackie Hudson
>(emeritus) jailed in Western Colorado - Susan Crane, friends local, national
>and even international. They have always been a life-line to me. I die with
>the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are
>the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them,
>use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We
>have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of
>them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We
>left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes - a prime
>counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia,
>Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted
>uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has
>saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in
>high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear
>weapons factories that can't be cleaned up - and so on. Because of myopic
>leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media,
>there has been virtually no response to these realities...
>At this point in dictation, Phil's lungs filled; he began to cough
>uncontrollably; he was tired. We had to stop - with promises to finish
>later. But later never came - another moment in an illness that depleted
>Phil so rapidly it was all we could do to keep pace with it... And then he
>couldn't talk at all. And then - gradually - he left us.
>What did Phil intend to say? What is the message of his life? What message
>was he leaving us in his dying? Is it different for each of us, now that we
>are left to imagine how he would frame it?
>During one of our prayers in Phil's room, Brendan Walsh remembered a banner
>Phil had asked Willa Bickham to make years ago for St. Peter Claver. It
>read: "The sting of death is all around us. O Christ, where is your
>The sting of death is all around us. The death Phil was asking us to attend
>to is not his death (though the sting of that is on us and will not be
>denied). The sting Phil would have us know is the sting of institutionalized
>death and killing. He never wearied of articulating it. He never ceased
>being astonished by the length and breadth and depth of it. And he never
>accepted it.
>O Christ, where is your victory? It was back in the mid 1960's that Phil was
>asking that question of God and her Christ. He kept asking it. And, over the
>years, he learned
>· that it is right and good to question our God, to plead for justice for
>all that inhabit the earth
>· that it is urgent to feel this; injustice done to any is injustice done to
>· that we must never weary of exposing and resisting such injustice
>· that what victories we see are smaller than the mustard seeds Jesus
>praised, and they need such tender nurture
>· that it is vital to celebrate each victory - especially the victory of
>sisterhood and brotherhood embodied in loving, nonviolent community.
>Over the months of Phil's illness we have been blessed a hundred-fold by
>small and large victories over an anti-human, anti-life, anti-love culture,
>by friendships - in and out of prison - and by the love that has permeated
>Phil's life. Living these years and months with Phil free us to revert to
>the original liturgical question: "O death, where is your sting?"
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