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  • THE CATHOLIC NONVIOLENCE INITIATIVE LECTURE SERIES

    More than 40 universities/colleges are collaborating for this unique five-week series (beginning Oct 3) to explore questions of how the Catholic faith, institutional church, and People of God can deepen an understanding of nonviolence today. Rose Berger will present on Oct. 10 and 11 with Marie Dennis on “Returning to and Exploring the Power of Nonviolence,” 5:00 p.m. -6:30 p.m. (Pacific U.S.) This series will follow themes in the book Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World.

    For interested university students, faculty, and staff go here: www.CNIseries.info. 

    For interested general public go here: www.fallseries.org.

  • Video: What I Learned on My Recent Trip to Ukraine

    This 30-minute presentation is a good starting point for updating your church and community on how Ukrainians are surviving in Russia’s war of aggression. You’ll hear about peacebuilders, religious leaders, as well as facts on the ground as our 17-member delegation observed them. When accompanied with Why I Prayed in Kyiv When I Could Have Prayed from Home, this makes a nice adult education forum or small group discussion. Also look for Sept-Oct 2022 Sojourners for my cover article on the international interreligious peace delegation.

  • Podcast: A Peace of My Mind with Rose Berger

    Photograph of Rose Marie Berger by John Noltner

    Award-winning photographer John Noltner and his partner, Karen, sold their Bloomington, MN, home a during the pandemic, bought an RV and headed out to learn about peace in America. Noltner spent three decades as a freelance photographer for magazines, nonprofits and corporations. To counter a growing divisiveness he witnessed as he traveled, he launched “A Peace of My Mind,” a multiyear, multimedia arts project sharing stories of the courage and kindness of everyday people.

    John and Karen parked their live-in van at Sojourners’ office in D.C. for a few weeks this summer. It happened to coincide with a) my first visit back to the District in a year since moving to California and b) my return from a peace mission to Ukraine. John was kind enough to interview me about the trip for both audio and print and take one of his famous portraits of me.

    A Peace of My Mind is a multimedia arts project, created by John that uses portraits and personal stories to bridge divides and encourage dialogue around important issues. Through exhibits, workshops, lectures, on-site studios, and distance learning, A Peace of My Mind leads transformative experiences that help a polarized world rediscover the common humanity that connects us.

    Listen to or read the interview here.

    Download the podcast.

  • Nonviolence: An Essential Basis for Peacemaking

    I was very pleased to join Dan Moriarty and Loretta Castro on a panel at the Catholic Peacebuilding Network conference this week. This hour-long video looks at now nonviolence is the substrate of Catholic peacebuilding and how it applies in situations such as Ukraine and the Philippines.

  • WHY I PRAYED IN KYIV WHEN I COULD HAVE PRAYED AT HOME

    Interreligious delegation at Caritas IDP center in Irpin, Ukraine, site of war crimes committed by Russian military.

    By Rose Marie Berger

    I have just returned from an intensive trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, with an international, interreligious delegation for peace. We took our “hearing ear and seeing eye,” as it says in Proverbs 20:12, to offer public prayers for peace and to see the impacts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unjust war.

    What we learned has disturbed us to our very bones.

    Since early March, I have been a part of a small group of religious leaders from around the world prayerfully discerning how to stop the bombing of Ukrainians by the Russian government. We have been seeking openings for the Holy Spirit to intervene for peace.

    Not long after the bombing started in February, Mayor Vitali Klitschko of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, issued a call asking religious leaders to come to Kyiv: “I make an appeal to the world’s spiritual leaders to take a stand … and to proudly assume the responsibility of their religions for peace,” said Klitschko. “Come to Kyiv to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people … Let us make Kyiv the capital of humanity, spirituality, and peace.”

    That is how the Holy Spirit works. For two months Sojourners has coordinated with colleagues at Poland-based Europe: A Patient Association and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to put together a religious leaders’ delegation for peace in Ukraine that was prepared to travel to Kyiv and answer the mayor’s call.

    I went to Ukraine to hear Jesus speak in the language of the Ukrainian people, to see their suffering and their creative determination, to touch their wounds and understand how the word of life is surviving there. As a Catholic I believe in the “real presence” of Christ — so being really present in the flesh is part of my call and mission. The “real Presence” is the miracle that changes the “absolutely impossible” to a glimmer of the possible. … Read the rest of this article by Rose Marie Berger at sojo.net.

  • Podcast: Back from Ukraine

    Rose Berger at UGCC Church of the Nativity of Mary in Irpin, Ukraine (Dawid Godsporek,24 May 2022)
    Rose Berger at UGCC Church of the Nativity of Mary in Irpin, Ukraine. Photo credit: Dawid Godsporek (24 May 2022)

    On Memorial Day 2022, Elaine Enns and Ched Myers interviewed Rose Marie Berger, Senior Editor at Sojourners magazine and veteran Catholic peace and justice activist. Rose was 48 hours back from a week-long international, interreligious Peace Delegation to Ukraine—the first such group to visit Kyiv since the Russian invasion began on Feb 24, 2022. The religious leaders visited Kyiv and surrounding areas. Hear the podcast.

  • +Jean-Marie Muller (1939-2021)+

    Photo by Rose Marie Berger, Rome, April 2016

    Jean-Marie Muller died on December 18, 2021 in Orléans, France. A Christian writer, activist, and philosopher, Muller dedicated his life to promoting nonviolence and making it a method of resistance.

    I met Jean-Marie in Rome in 2016 at the landmark gathering on Catholic nonviolence, hosted by the Vatican and Pax Christi International. While I wasn’t familiar with many of his philosophical texts (and he wrote almost exclusively in French), I was familiar with his brave actions as a conscientious objector.

    In 1967, while serving as a reserve officer in the French military he turned in his military papers, refused compulsory military service, and applied for conscientious objector status. The French Ministry of Defense declined his request and the case went to trial. Until 1963, France was the only western democracy that did not have legal arrangements for conscientious objectors. The only alternative to military service was five years in prison. (see “Conscientious Objection in France, Britain, and the United States” by Edward R. Cain in Comparative Politics, Jan. 1970.)

    During the contentious public debates–heavily influenced by the French colonial adventures in Algeria and Southeast Asia–philosopher Albert Camus pleaded, “Do not leave the CO with the only alternatives of exile or prison.” In 1969, Muller’s case went to trial and gained publicity when the Catholic Bishop of Orlean, Guy-Marie Riobé testified on Muller’s behalf recommending nonviolence as a legitimate defense for Catholics. Riobe said: “One of the central affirmations of Christian hope is that violence is not inevitable, and that, in consequence, history can become nonviolent.” (That same year, Riobé joined with Archbishop Hélder Câmara in public protest against the French weapons sales to Brazil.) Muller was given a three-month suspended prison sentence.

    Jean-Marie Muller eventually left teaching to follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In 1973, he took part in a ‘Peace Battalion’, a sea journey to protest against the French nuclear tests in the Pacific, with general Jacques de Bollardière, the priest Jean Toulat, and the ecologist Brice Lalonde. In 1974, together with de Bollardière and other friends, he was the driving force behind the creation of the Mouvement pour une Alternative Non-Violente. In 1984, he became a founding member of the French Research Institute on Nonviolent Conflict Resolution (IRNC).

    According to a remembrance in Peace News (Feb-March 2022), “For Jean-Marie Muller, nonviolence was not one moral principle among others, one possible political course amongst many. Nonviolence was, quite literally, what gave meaning to life. In his own words: ‘If violence is destiny, then our life is deprived of all meaning, and our history is absurd. Violence is the negation of the transcendence which gives meaning to our shared human adventure.’” Jean-Marie Muller–presente![]

    Learn more about Jean-Marie Muller: Jean-Marie Muller, l’ami de la non-violence (in French) + Jean-Marie Muller: Writer and thinker on nonviolence who influenced Solidarity

  • Janet Gottschalk, MMS: Rest in Power

    “They hate her who reproves in the gate, and they abhor her who speaks the truth. …For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. … Seek good, and not evil, that you may live … Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate. …  Lt me hear the true music: let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”–Amos 5:11-15, 24 Today we laid to rest my friend Janet Gottschalk. She was 91. It was time. For some reason, that doesn’t make it any easier. Janet was such a good friend to me during her years in Washington, D.C. While I knew of Janet’s work on various Catholic justice committees in DC (she was not one to be overlooked or forgotten!) and as convener of the Alliance for Justice with Susan Thompson, we became friends in 2004 on an extraordinary trip to Venezuela with Maryknoll. From January 2004 until she moved back to Philadelphia to the MMS motherhouse and then to the Protestant Home in 2015 for more intentional care, we were together nearly every week for meals, Mass, margaritas, Bible study, protests and demonstrations, getting arrested, discussing current events (sometimes from the DC jail holding tank), and various celebrations. Her participation in the World Conferences on Women, including the 1994 meeting in Beijing, reflected her deep deep solidarity with women on the margins. Her public health classes in Texas on the border–including a pioneering bi-national, bi-lingual community nursing certificate program–opened new generations of students to linking healthcare with social justice. She was a recognized authority and leader in public health around the world. And her students and coworkers never stopped calling on her for her wisdom, expertise, and incisive questions to keep their work grounded in the real experiences of women.  Our biggest project together was writing the book Drawn by God: A History of the Medical Mission Sisters from 1961-1991 (published in 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.” More than 50 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.” Drawn By God was a labor of love and tremendous work on Janet’s part. She took up the work from Sr. Sara Sommers, who had done remarkable research but was unable to complete the project. Janet took up the work. She was bull-headed and committed to telling the story–even as her eyesight failed and she adapted to using Dragon software for speech to text translation. She literally dictated most of that book! She would use a magnifying light at night to read through the research, then dictate the chapters in the morning. She would then send me the files and I would work on cleaning up the copy. Then we would sit for hours drinking tea and reviewing and making edits. It’s a story that the broader church desperately needs to hear and understand. I’m sorry the book has not received wider circulation. It builds, of course, on the monograph Janet wrote titled She Stepped Out of Her Class: The Life and Times of Agnes McLaren, MD (2003) about the medical doctor who was the inspiration for the founding of the Medical Mission Sisters. Janet was completely dedicated to telling the stories of the bold, brave, brash and bullheaded women of the MMS, whom she loved, struggled with, and laid down her life for–and who did the same for her. Janet was my friend. One of the great friends of my life. She called me the daughter she would never have.  I’m glad her final assignment to Sector Heaven has come through so she can get back to work. We need her brilliance, commitment, unvarnished speech, and skilled organizing at work among the Cloud of Witnesses.–Rose Marie Berger[]
  • Fourth Week of Advent 2021

    Between the last Advent candle and this one, we lost bell hooks, one of our shining stars. We can say, to paraphrase Sojourner Truth, that “bell hooks didn’t die. She went home like a shooting star.”

    We’ve been talking this Advent about the Beloved Community – a phrase and practice very dear to the heart of bell hooks. In one of her more recent books, Belonging: A Culture of Place, she offers as a dedication the phrase: “to dancing in a circle of love–to living in beloved community.”

    While I read bell hooks books on Black feminist pedagogy early on, it was Belonging: A Culture of Place that brought me back to her writing. When I heard that she’d shared an interview with Wendell Berry about the culture of place in Kentucky, I was intrigued. They are not a pair I would necessarily envision together.

    But they are both people of place, people of Kentucky soil, and Appalachian sensibilities. In coming home, both found a deep authentic peace rising out of their respective “beloved communities.”

    This fourth week of Advent is dedicated to the angels’ message: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth among those on whom God favor rests!”

    This “peace” is not some transactional reward for the chosen, it is instead as Wendell Berry wrote, “the peace of wild things.” The peace of feral angels bring untamed tidings of joy to homeless shepherds.

    Wendell Berry writes:  When despair for the world grows in me /and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be, / … I come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief.  I come into the presence  of still water. / For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

    This is the peace that’s on offer to anyone who seeks after God in all the wrong places, who seeks after God on the margins, in the hidden tents and nursing homes and prison cell blocks. Who searches for God’s message in the stars of the night sky and the random encounter with angels living rough.

    In the Beloved Community we thirst after this peace. We find it. We lose it. And we help each other find it again.

    Our Advent journey is one where we travel back in time, we gather in the present moment, and we live in full expectation of the Coming Child, Immanuel, God-With-Us. The birth of Jesus is an encounter with “the peace of wild things.”

    In Belonging, bell hooks offers a description that also describes our four weeks of Advent together. She writes:

    “We are born and have our being in a place of memory. We chart our lives by everything we remember from the mundane moment to the majestic. We know ourselves through the art and act of remembering. Memories offer us a world where there is no death, where we are sustained by rituals of regard and recollection. … I pay tribute to the past as a resource that can serve as a foundation for us to revision and renew our commitment to the present, to making a world where all people can live fully and well, and where everyone can belong.”

    Here’s “to dancing in a circle of love” Here’s “to living in beloved community.”

    Breathe in. Breath out. It’s Advent.

    –Rose Marie Berger (delivered as a reflection to Sojourners staff on Dec. 21, 2021, with reading of Matthew 1:18-25 )

  • Third Week of Advent 2021

    Scripture: Luke 1: 46-56 (The Magnificat)

    Finally, we’ve reached Gaudete Sunday and the week of rejoicing. It takes its name from the first word uttered in the old Latin Mass: Gaudete in Domino semper, itero dico gaudete/Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! We light the rose pink candle to mark that we are half way to Christmas, half way on our journey through the bleak mid-winter, through the shadows of fear and uncertainty; halfway to where the our little stars are leading us.

    Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidic Judaism, is credited with returning joy to Judaism. He raised Eastern European Jews up out of the ashes of despair into disciplines for cultivating joy such as ecstatic singing, dancing, and storytelling. One cannot serve God with joy, he said, if one doesn’t daily experience that unbounded spirit of joy within oneself.

    Howard Thurman reminds us: “Joy is of many kinds. Sometimes joy comes silently, opening all closed doors and making itself at home in the desolate heart. It has no forerunner, save itself. It brings its own welcome and its own salutation.”

    A Beloved Community organizes itself for joy. A theology of joy requires the ability to see beyond the present moment. When the present moment is one of violence and unspeakable injustice, this is very hard to do; and perhaps impossible outside of a community of believers with a narrative history of experiences with God.

    A theology of joy is more a perspective than an emotional experience. It is a lived history of God made out of sorrow, suffering, and despair. Dostoevsky described this aspect of joy when he said, “It is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess him. My hosanna has come forth through the crucible of doubt.”

    A Beloved Community holds space for these paradoxical hosannas, this unreasonable joy. It nurtures and cherishes those who have the gift of joy—”Wherever they go, they give birth to joy in others.” A Beloved Community celebrates the ecstatic moments in worship, when as a body we move beyond ourselves. It recognizes joyful awe, a feeling of transcendence that follows a “mountaintop experience” those fleeting moments when we glimpse the face of God in our child, our neighbor, our beloved, or a stranger on the train.

    It’s these moments of revelation that produce a joyful response from us. From Mary: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” or in my own translation Miryam says “All the lives within me shall be made many in the Lord, the Spirit that breathed over the waters at the beginning now stirs up a mighty fountain within me. Together we leap joyfully into the arms of God.”

    Howard Thurman said, “There is a joy that is given.” If you have received it, then “Wherever [you] go, [you] give birth to joy in others. [These ones] are the heavenly troubadours, earth-bound, who spread their music all around and who sing their song without words and without sounds. To be touched by them is to be blessed of God. They give even as they have been given. Their presence is a benediction and a grace. In them, we hear the music and the score. And, in their faces, we sense a glory, which is the very light of heaven.”

    Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Advent.

    –Rose Marie Berger (delivered as a reflection to Sojourners staff on Dec. 14, 2021, with reading of the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56)