An Appreciation of My Fellow Plowshares Friends:
by Martha Hennessy
(Martha sent this from prison to her friend John Dear, who typed it up and shared it with us. It is a series of reflections about each of the other participants of the Kings’ Bay Plowshares).
Steve Kelly, S.J.
Steve has been in custody for three years now, since our April 4th, 2018 Plowshares action. He is 71 years old and has participated in several Plowshares actions since the 1990s. His time in prison exceeds ten years, and this recent stint is his longest. God’s love and our resistance community keeps Steve walking on clouds.
He is now detained five months after having served his sentence of 33 months for the Kings Bay action, and has just arrived in Seattle prison to attend court for a previous anti-nuclear action. Justice delayed is justice denied but this is how the system works. It holds onto the prisoners—3.2 million of them in the United States. The Bureau of Prisons operates on a budget of $84 billion annually. Steve is just another pawn in this industry. When he called on the phone a few times before my own incarceration, his voice was always clear and cheerful. His mind and spirit are strong, he knows how to do prison time by letting God hold him in the light. But three years with no outdoor exercise and a poor diet worries me. It will take time for him to recover his physical health, God bless him.
Father Steve delivered the homily at Daniel Berrigan’s funeral five years ago, in early May, 2016. This May 9th marks the 100th anniversary of Dan’s birthday, so we hold Dan and Steve in our hearts these days. Like Dan, Steve is a beacon of light. His humility, cheerful self-sacrifice, adherence to the Gospels, and sense of humor carry many of us in our small boat on roiling, troubled waters. We thank you, Steve, from the bottom of our hearts.
Liz is the widow of Philip Berrigan, mother of three and grandmother of six, and carries the bearing of both a nun and a family woman with amazing integrity and strength. She has lived the joys of family life in tandem with the pain and suffering of peacework. She is a stalwart member and matriarch of the Atlantic Life Community, dedicated to ending war and nuclear weapons.
She spent three years in prison in the 1980s for the Griffiss Plowshares action, and over time has become our anchor in the practice of peacemaking and bible study. She spent a year and a half in prison for our Kings Bay action. Her compassion and wisdom brought an indispensable voice and spirit to our effort to visualize and actualize a world free of nuclear weapons.
Liz likes to quote Psalm 46:9: “God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow and shatters the spear. God burns the shields with fire.” She reminds us what scripture really tells us—that ending war is God’s work, and therefore ours as well.
In both our discernment process and while in jail, I learned from Liz how to study and apply the New Testament to our lives in the 21st century as followers of Christ.
Liz now dwells with her family serving probation for another two years. She and Steve Kelly hold the standard high for peaceful, direct, nonviolent, sacramental action for the abolition of nuclear weapons. We rejoice in their lives, their commitment, and their holy obedience as they walk the way of the cross, bringing so many others along this pilgrimage. I am humbled to be in their gracious, serious, fun-loving presence.
Mark has dedicated his life to the Catholic Worker works of mercy, along with his wife Luz. They follow Peter Maurin’s “Easy Essay” called “Share Your Wealth:” “1.God wants us to be our brother’s keeper. 2.To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to instruct the ignorant, at a personal sacrifice, is what God wants us to do. 3.What we give to the poor for Christ’s sake is what we carry with us when we die.”
Mark and Luz carry the Catholic Worker banner through their work of hospitality and resistance, all while raising a family, in an impoverished neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. But they really know how to throw a block party, as well as provide retreat space for holy discernment.
Mark’s quiet and powerful analysis of the teachings of Jesus has on many occasions bowled us over. He is humble and radiant, giving of himself in so many ways.
He served one and a half years pre-trial for our Kings bay action and will be sentenced this April. We love the way he playfully and defiantly dances through the distortions of the legal process as he continues to live a rich, full life.
Mark worked with a tent city project this winter, helping the homeless to reclaim space desperately needed for housing. We are wealthy beyond imagination and incredibly stingy about providing for those who have nothing. Mark and Luz are there for those in need, with open hearts and open hands, showing us all that each one of us can make a difference.
Clare faithfully carries the people marginalized by their skin color in our white culture. In her closing argument at trial, as she spoke about her reasons for engaging in this Plowshares action, she quoted these powerful and beautiful words given to her that morning from her goddaughter: “For the hanged and the beaten, for the shot, drowned and burned, for the tortured, tormented, and terrorized, for those abandoned by the rule of law, with hope because helplessness is the new enemy of justice, with courage because peace requires bravery, with persistence because justice is a constant struggle, with faith because we shall overcome.”
Clare helps us to keep our eye on the ball of systemic racism, the underpinning of all our wars, weapons and insatiable greed. She is an Irishwoman with ancient roots in the practice of healing, knowing, seeing, and acting in God’s love for us all, and for all creation.
Clare is now serving time at Alderson, where she served time for her first Plowshares action in the 1980s. She uses her life to nurture all life. She tends to the garden of Eden for and with the human family. She attracts thousands of diverse and hardworking people to our beloved community. Her devotion to her Catholic baptism, her scriptural insights, and her generous life continue to bless us all.
Patrick is currently being held in the Elkton, Ohio prison under harsh conditions compared to the three of us at “camp” living under low security. Prisoners’ rights are being further eroded every day under the COVID pandemic which doesn’t allow for exercise or rehabilitation. Racial segregation is prevalent at Elkton. There are no religious services, and no one is allowed to visit the chapel or the library.
Patrick and his wife Mary have run a Catholic Worker community in North Carolina for over thirty years. His adult children testified eloquently at our trial. Their moral and intellectual integrity were a sight to behold.
Patrick’s stories and jokes helped carry us through difficult and serious days. He always brought the Holy Spirit when he talked about the history of the Plowshares movement, great peace actions, and other memories from his own journey. His deep faith and commitment to the Catholic Worker and Plowshares movements enrich our history and our lives.
His writing and journalistic contributions are also a significant and great gift. All of us offer many prayers for Patrick and his family that his prison time may be merciful and fruitful despite the hardships and injustice. May he be safe and peaceful as he continues to follow Jesus so closely.
Carmen comes from two big and beautiful families: his Irish/Italian blood family, and Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker family. His practical and spiritual devotions have inspired countless people and given new hope. Along with his years of dedicated service and hospitality to the poor at St. Joseph’s House in New York City, his great singing voice has been a gift.
Carmen does his time an hour and a half west of here in Danbury at the Otisville Camp. We are all guessing that his Midrashic studies are going well.
His powerful presence over time has helped to form our Catholic values into a real way of life, with a vital focus on the duty of peacemaking. He entered our Plowshares action with trepidation. His self-sacrificing act was immediately recognized for what it was—another consistent step in his faith-based life of service and love at the Catholic Worker movement.
Carmen is a fine example of both a scholar and a worker who has dedicated his heart, mind and soul to the teachings of Jesus in the birthplace of the Catholic Worker.
Steve, Liz, Mark, Clare, Patrick and Carmen, my comrades of the Kings Bay Plowshares Seven sacramental action, offer me and the world shining, divine inspiration about how to love God and one another. May God bless them, and may we heed their beautiful example.