Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic poet and writer who has worked for social change movements for 40 years. With a Masters degree in poetry, she is poetry editor and senior editor at Sojourners magazine, which has a mission to inspire hope and action by articulating the biblical call to social justice. She has published numerous articles and collaborated on several books. She was born at 319.08 ppm CO2. She was raised in the American River watershed, in traditional Miwok territory. She has lived for more than 30 years in Washington, D.C., in the Anacostia watershed, in traditional Anacostoan-Piscataway territory. She is currently active in the Watershed Discipleship movement and the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, which formed in 2016 following a landmark meeting in Rome on Catholics and Nonviolence. In 2020 she co-edited Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World based on the work of the global Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. In 2021, she was elected to served on the board of the International Thomas Merton Society.
A native of the West Coast, Rose has lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. since the mid-1980s. Her people migrated as peasant Catholic and Mennonite farmers from Ireland and Germany to Nebraska and Wisconsin, as landed gentry from Scotland to the British-controlled southern slave states and into the Spanish and French-controlled southern slave states, before migrating to the U.S. West Coast in the 1930s. In the course of a 40 plus-year career in faith-based activism, advocacy journalism, and pastoral leadership, she has proven to be a skilled organizer, exceptional writer, visionary pastoral leader, and innovative teacher of biblical literacy.
For more than three decades, Rose has rooted herself with Sojourners magazine and ministry. She has worked as a peace organizer, internship program director, liturgist, community pastor, poetry editor, and, currently, as an senior editor of Sojourners magazine. She is responsible for the commentaries, biblical reflections, poetry, and interviews – and oversees the production of study guides, discussion guides, and the online bible study Preaching the Word. Additionally, she writes a monthly column for Sojourners on spirituality and social justice called “The Hungry Spirit.” She is also a religion reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
Rose has a veteran history in social justice activism, including: educating and training groups in nonviolence; leading retreats in spirituality and justice; and writing on a wide range of topics related to faith, politics, and culture. She has interviewed civil rights activists Vincent Harding and Yvonne Delk, the Love Canal’s Lois Gibbs, and Mexican archbishop Ruiz, Palestinian political leader Hanan Ashrawi, poet-farmer Wendell Berry, Filipino activist Karl Gaspar, contemplative prayer guru Thomas Keating, Latino organizer Nane Alejandrez, and many others.
Rose’s writing includes: ‘Free At Last’ on the release of the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq; “A Presidential Option for the Poor” on Venezuela’s model of social capitalism; “A Laboratory of Reconciliation” on the Bosnian wars; “The Time of Coca” on Colombia’s drug war; “The Good Housekeeping Award” on women heroes of the environmental movement; “Who Controls the Spigot? On water privatization; “Death’s Dance Broken” the story of Sr. Dianna Ortiz; and much more.
Rose’s interview with Dr. Vincent Harding has been included in the 2008 revised version of Martin Luther King: An Inconvenient Hero by Vincent Harding (Orbis Books, 2008). Her interview with Wendell Berry has been included in Conversations with Wendell Berry edited by Morris Allen Grubbs (University Press of Mississippi, 2007). She has a chapter on war and peace included in The Revolution (Relevant Media Group, 2006) and a chapter on the spiritual necessity of daydreaming in The Impossible Will Take A Little While (Basic Books, 2004).
Rose has traveled throughout the United States, and also in Israel/Palestine, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and El Salvador visiting primarily with faith communities working for peace in situations of conflict. She has traveled with Witness for Peace, Ministry of Money, Maryknoll, Pax Christi, and worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Additionally, she leads seminars and retreats, teaches, preaches, and facilitates gatherings on a wide variety of issues linking spirituality and social justice.
Rose has served as a mentor with the World and World Mentoring Program dedicated to putting 22-30-year-olds with a thirst for justice in conversation with some of the most influential and committed radical theologians and activist-scholars of our day.
In 2014-2016, she served on the board of Friends of Silence, a group founded by Nan Merrill and dedicated to facilitating others in reverencing silence, prayer, contemplation, the Divine Guest, and the Oneness of all creation as well as to encourage the life-giving empowerment that derives from the Silence.
A founding member of a small creative writing group, Rose has taught writing and poetry workshops for children and adults. Her poetry has been published in Sojourners, The Other Side, Radix, D.C. Poets Against the War, Beltway, Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting a Bioregional Faith and Practice, and Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together.
Rose holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in poetry from the University of Southern Maine (2005) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from the University of California at Davis (1985).
Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World, edited by Rose Marie Berger, Ken Butigan, Judy Coode, and Marie Dennis (Pax Christi International, 2020)
Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World is the fruit of a global, participatory process facilitated from 2017-2018 by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI), a project of Pax Christi International, to deepen Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. This book includes biblical, theological, ethical, pastoral and strategic resources that might serve as a contribution to Catholic thought on nonviolence. It details how:
Nonviolence is a core Gospel value, constitutive of the life of faith. Nonviolence is essential to transforming violence and injustice. Nonviolence is a universal ethic. Nonviolence is a necessary foundation for culture of peace.
Bending the Arch: Poems by Rose Marie Berger (BUY)
In answer to Seamus Heaney’s Station Island and Pablo Neruda’s The Heights of Machu Picchu, Berger unmasks the worldview of westward expansion from architect Eero Saarinen’s arch in St. Louis to the Golden Gate in a way that subtly and mystically taps the unconsciousness of the intended audience. When she writes “We never entered the West on bended knee,” the impurity of language used in this epic creates tension between discourses and creates a charge or pressure on each sentence that pushes the reader toward declaring an allegiance. Drawing on historical documents, the Latin Mass, and multivalent voices, Berger moves through the anguish of unintended consequences and leads the reader through the “ghost dance” of feeling to the powerful Pacific Ocean, which enters human consciousness like a dream. Entangled historical memory, climate crisis, and inverse expansionism compress into a spiritual reckoning to face the world to come.
Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood (BUY)
By Rose Marie Berger
In March 2005, a nine-year-old boy was gunned down in his Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The unsolved murder tore the community to its core and sets Rose Marie Berger on an exploration for the soul of our nation’s capital. How can urban space be read as biblical narrative? Where do people locate themselves in urban time, space, and spirituality? Who do cities sacrifice and why? Rose Marie Berger has lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., since the mid-1980s. She is Associate Editor and Poetry Editor for the award-winning progressive magazine Sojourners. Berger has written on a wide range of topics related to faith, politics, and culture, and has interviewed some of the world’s foremost social and political activists.
Forward by Rose Marie Berger (Principalities in Particular: A Practical Theology of the Powers That Be by Bill Wylie-Kellermann, 2017)
Drawn By God: A History of the Society of Medical Missionaries from 1967 to 1991
by Sr. Janet Gottschalk with Rose Marie Berger (2012)
In fall of 1967, a small but extraordinary group of women arrived in Rome. Some had suffered through the cataclysmic struggles of World War II on opposing sides. Some were from countries that had only recently thrown off colonial masters. The majority were health professionals from large urban hospitals or rural health clinics. As Medical Mission Sisters, they came to Rome “because the documents of Vatican II touched us deeply and opened us to a whole new way of thinking about ourselves as part of the Christian community, as members of a religious congregation with a mission in the world.” Fifty years later, Medical Mission Sisters now serve in 20 countries, with leadership growing in Asia and the Global South. These courageous and pioneering women are a shining affirmation that they are, indeed, “drawn by God … to be a healing presence at the heart of a wounded world.”
[This book is not available online but may be purchased from the Medical Mission Sisters by contacting Sr. Suzanne Maschek at suzannem (at) mmsmission (dot) net.]
Cut Loose the Body: An Anthology of Poems on Torture and Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib Paintings (BUY)
Edited by Rose Marie Berger and Joseph Ross, with preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz (2007)
“We thought the word was gone. We thought we healed it out of our national vocabulary. We thought ‘torture’ belonged to a foriegn language, spoken only by dictators, who ruled anywhere but here. We were wrong.”–Introduction to Cut Loose the Body
Syllables of the Perfect Word: Advent Reflections 2004
By Rose Marie Berger, Photographs by Ryan Beiler
During Advent we leave the place of our birth to journey to the birthplace of another. It is an invitation to renewal – to receive comfort and hope in the deep of winter, and be immersed in the eternal unchanging nature of God. These reflections include a phrase from the daily scripture, a reflection, the daily scripture references at the bottom, and the name of a saint or holy person of God who the Christian community remembers on that day. Written by Rose Marie Berger, associate editor at Sojourners. Commissioned by Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Out of print.