They Might Be Giants: Remembering Jerry Berrigan

Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)
Jerry Berrigan, left, and his brother the Rev. Daniel Berrigan with Sister Elizabeth McAlister in 1972. (Credit: UPI)

Catholic peace prophet Jerry Berrigan died last week at home in Syracuse, NY. His brother Dan Berrigan is now the last of the six Berrigan brothers that called America to account for its soul. Among them they raised generations peace prophets. Below are excerpts from Jerry’s obituary and a recent profile of him. Thank God for the Berrigans — and all their relations!

Jerry Berrigan, a Catholic peace activist who, like his better known brothers Philip and Daniel, was arrested frequently for protesting the Vietnam War and other conflicts, died on July 26, at his home in Syracuse. He was 95.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Carla Berrigan Pittarelli.

Mr. Berrigan was a quieter counterpart to his brothers, the former Josephite priest Philip and the Jesuit priest and author Daniel. The two of them became international antiwar figures after they participated in the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., on May 17, 1968. The trial of the Catonsville Nine, as they were known, helped galvanize protesters across the country.

Though he was not among the Catonsville Nine, Mr. Berrigan joined his brothers in other protests, against nuclear proliferation, both wars in Iraq and other causes. He, Daniel and 58 others were arrested in 1973 for disrupting a White House tour by kneeling in prayer on the last day of United States bombing in Cambodia, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for pouring blood on the floor of the Pentagon in 1979. …

New York Times (By Daniel E. Slotnik, AUG. 2, 2015)

And from the profile:

Jerry Berrigan can offer plenty of first-hand stories about giants.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the legendary Catholic Worker movement, was a friend. Day believed in “a revolution of the heart,” in the idea of hospitality and community for those who have the least.

When Day visited Jerry and his wife Carol in Syracuse, she spent a night at their home in the Valley.

Just over 50 years ago, Jerry traveled to Selma for the great march for voting rights, part of a contingent led by the Rev. Charles Brady of Syracuse. By sheer chance, they had an opportunity to meet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

That was three years before King was shot to death by an assassin. Berrigan said his overwhelming reaction – in a place where he witnessed the essence of raw hatred – was a sense of just how willing King was to put himself at ultimate risk, for a higher cause.

Decades earlier, as a young American soldier during World War II, Jerry had served Mass for Padre Pio in Sicily. Pio was revered among Catholics for bearing the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, and he’d later be canonized as a Catholic saint.

‘Heart! Heart! Heart!’: Jerry Berrigan, at 95, on greatest moment in life of conscience by Sean Kirst (July 25, 2015)

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