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On April 30, we received the sad news that Fr. Dan Berrigan, SJ, had died. Dan was a priest, poet, prophet, and protester; he was also a spiritual God-father of Jonah House, the brother and uncle and friend of Jonah House members, and an inspiration to thousands. Dan and Phil Berrigan were the prototypical “radical priests,” which was acknowledged by Time Magazine in 1971.

berrigans_timeLiz was asked to do a eulogy for Dan at his funeral, in New York City. Joe, who once entered a Catholic seminary with the aspiration to be a priest like Dan Berrigan, went up with Liz on Thursday, May 5.

The wake was held in the afternoon and evening of May 5 at St. Francis Xavier Church, a Jesuit church in Manhattan. The St. Francis Xavier school, next door to the church, put out a banner in tribute to Dan. The banner displayed one of Dan’s better-known poems, “Some.”


Joe took the picture while walking to the church with members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community. Moments later a uniformed member of the school’s ROTC program walked by. Kathy Boylan of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker stopped him to point out the irony (hypocrisy?) of a Jesuit school with a ROTC program putting out a banner in tribute to one of the great Jesuit peacemakers. Kathy encouraged him to quit the ROTC program and convince all the other ROTC members at Xavier to do the same.

The wake offered a platform to many of Dan’s friends to commemorate this great voice and actor for peace. Many pictures of Dan were on display.


Dan’s funeral was the following day. It began with a march from the New York Catholic Worker, where Dan spent time with his friend Dorothy Day and said mass for the Catholic Worker community, to St. Francis Xavier Church. Even though it was pouring rain, it was a raucous, joyful celebration of Dan’s life. The march was led by a rowdy brass band.


Here’s another shot of the march.


The celebration continued in the warm, dry, and very packed St. Francis Xavier Church. Steve Kelly SJ, a friend of Jonah House, gave an inspired homily at the funeral mass. He began by jokingly telling the FBI agents in the audience that they can finally close their file on Dan Berrigan. Though this might be premature, because Dan – like St. Therese, the Little Flower – will likely spend his time in heaven doing good (and making merry mischief) on earth.


A highlight of the funeral mass was Liz’s eulogy of Dan, beginning with Dan’s famous statement concerning the Catonsville action in 1968. As a sign of appreciation for all Liz has done for peace, and in hopes that she will carry on the legacy of the Berrigan family, the audience gave Liz a standing ovation that lasted for a few minutes.

Jerry, Frida and Kate Berrigan – children of Liz and Phil, and nephew/nieces of Dan – also gave touching eulogies, as did their cousin Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.



The funeral mass was followed by a reception at St. Francis Xavier Church. There were many more pictures of Dan, and some of him with his brother Phil. The picture below features just Phil and a quote that is still very much apropos.


Dan Berrigan, along with his brother Phil and all the Berrigan clan, will forever be “presénte” at Jonah House.


From April 20-23, Joe had the opportunity to join the 2016 Peace Walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji. The Nipponzan Myohoji is a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist order dedicated to the work of peace and justice.  It is the practice of the order to chant “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” (derived from the Lotus Sutra), and beat on hand drums, while walking for peace, human rights, and nuclear disarmament.


The title of the 2016 Peace Walk was “Walk for a New Spring.”

The walk began at the beginning of March from Leverett Massachusetts, the location of the New England Peace Pagoda. Joe joined the March in Baltimore. On April 20, there was a potluck dinner and presentation by the Peace Walkers at the Friends Meeting House on Charles Street, in downtown Baltimore. Liz McAlister attended, with Joe.


The next day, the walkers proceeded from the Friends Meeting House and marched through Baltimore, then Catonsville, and ending up in Ellicott City. For part of the walk, the walkers went up North Avenue, passing just a few blocks away from Jonah House.

While walking through Catonsville, the walkers stopped for a few moments in front of the Knights of Columbus building, to commemorate the Catonsville 9 Draft-board raid in 1968. Jonah House co-founder Phil Berrigan participated in this action.

The following day, the walkers marched through Hagerstown, MD, and then went to the nearby Antietam Battlefield, to witness for peace. The battle of Antietam, also known as the battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest engagement during the American Civil War. The walkers left flowers at some monuments and walked up “Bloody Lane,” where the pile of dead was six feet high.


The Antietam phase of the Peace Walk ended up at the Dunker Church. During the battle, this white-washed church was used as a point of reference for both armies. This was bitterly ironic in that the building was a place where a Brethren church – a historic “peace” church – met to worship.  After the battle, the church was commandeered as a field hospital. The surgeons and their assistants dropped amputated limbs into piles outside the windows of the church.


The following day, the peace walkers went to Xa Loi Temple, in Frederick, MD. This is a Vietnamese “Pure Land” Buddhist temple where one of the Nipponzan Myohoji monks, Tim-Shonin, is building a Peace Pagoda. Here is a picture of a quarry pond on the property. The statues are representations of Kwan Yin (or Quan Te Am, in Vietnamese), who is an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and can be compared to the Catholic Virgin Mary.


There are many statues of Kwan Yin, the Buddha, and other Buddhist figures at the Temple. Joe’s favorite was made of plaster, and was just the head of a unfinished statue of massive proportions.


At Xa Loi, the peace walkers celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, known in Japan as Hanamatsuri, in the main meditation hall at the temple.


Below is a shot of Jean Chapman, a friend of the Jonah House community, bathing the baby Buddha in tea. This is a traditional ritual during Hanamatsuri.


Joe spent the night in the hermitage built by Tim-Shonin. Tim-Shonin’s Ancestor Altar included a familiar face (and I’m not referring to Mr. Rogers!). Phil Berrigan was one of the peacemakers on Tim-Shonin’s altar.


After the ritual, Joe caught a ride to DC and from there got the train to Baltimore and was soon back where he began the peace walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji, at home at Jonah House.


At this year’s Holy Week Faith and Resistance Retreat, organized by Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Community, four members of the Jonah House Community participated. Joe, Liz, Ardeth, and Carol traveled to St. Stephen and the Incarnation Church in Washington, DC, on Thursday, April 24 – the 36th anniversary of the assassination of the Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero – for the two-day retreat. We joined members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, students from Loras College in Iowa, the Atlantic Life Community, Pax Christi Metro DC and Baltimore, and other friends. The theme of the retreat was: “Put Away the Sword – Stop Crucifixion Today.”

On Thursday evening, we were present for an inspiring talk on Oscar Romero and the eucharist, by Cinnamon Sarver. After this, we participated in a foot-washing ritual, in which each of us in turn washed the feet of the person to our right, as all chanted “Let Me Be An Instrument Of Peace.” This was followed by an eucharistic bread-breaking. In our Holy Thursday activities, we joined the millions of Christians throughout the world also commemorating Jesus’s act of washing the feet of his disciples, followed by his last supper, before his arrest by Jewish religious authorities and his execution by the Roman state.


We rose early the next morning to vigil for peace at the Pentagon, continuing a practice begun by faith-based peacemakers (including those at Jonah House) decades ago. We were there, on Good Friday, to remember the many who continue to be crucified by institutions of power and economic structures in our world today. While police looked on and Pentagon workers passed by, we read a statement, alternating with a verse from the old spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” As this was going on, four members of the group – dressed in black and enacting Jesus’s way of the cross – proceeded towards the Pentagon metro entrance. As they processed, they knelt and prayed three times the traditional prayer of Good Friday, “We Adore You O Christ and We Bless You, Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed the World,”  followed by the plea “Put Away the Sword!” These four, including Ardeth and Carol from Jonah House, were arrested, taken into custody, and await arraignment and trial in May.

We returned to the church to break our fast, to discuss our witness at the Pentagon, and to go over our witness at the White House, at noon. Before leaving for the White House, Dr. Ahn, a Korean scientist-turned-peace-activist, shared with us his story, which included his involvement in developing the cruise missile program, and his deep belief in the power of redemption. He also spoke about the “Cheonan” incident in March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 South Korean sailors.

goodfriday2016_whitehouseOur ritual witness at the White House, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House fence, was in the form of a stationary Stations of the Cross. As many tourists looked on, eleven people, dressed in black, took turns mounting the cross to dramatize contemporary crucifixion. The eleven represented, respectively, Iraq war victims, Afghanistan war victims, drone bombing victims, victims of militarism and nuclearism, victims of racial violence, victims of poverty and economic exploitation, torture victims, victims killed as a result of nonviolent action, victims of imprisonment, immigrant victims, and our desecrated Earth.

For many more details, including the statements read, see Art Laffin’s account on the Dorothy Day House blog:

Report of March 24-25, 2016 Holy Thursday-Good Friday Faith and Resistance Retreat-Witness in D.C.–Four Arrested at Pentagon

Friend of Jonah House, Brian Barrett, at the White House.

Friend of Jonah House, Brian Barrett, at the White House.


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