Anne Montgomery remembered: “new birth, new time, new humanity”

Editor’s Introduction:  Dear Friends, Art Laffin, of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington D.C., wrote the following remembrance of our dear friend (and co-conspirator in the creation of God’s vision of a world at peace and with justice for all) Anne Montgomery, who died last year on August 27th.  It is, as is appropriate, mostly in Anne’s own words.  Anne’s words and witness in her life live on long after her passing; may they give us all strength for the long journey.  In our common humanity and in Peace, Leonard

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Dear Friends,

Today is the first anniversary of Anne’s home-going to God. I/we give thanks for Anne’s life and for all she did to make the Word flesh! We know Anne is advocating for us as she is among the cloud of witnesses in paradise.

Below is Anne’s letter that she sent out describing her cancer and expressing gratitude to all those she walked with and accompanied in the earthly vineyeard.

Anne comforting a Palestinian girl as she watches her family's orchard being destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, August or Sept. 1998. (courtesy of Christian Peacemakers)

Anne comforting a Palestinian girl as she watches her family’s orchard being destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, August or Sept. 1998. (courtesy of Christian Peacemakers)

In light of the Empire’s ongoing violence, past and present, including now the latest US military threats against Syria, the below poem by Anne speaks to the heart of the matter.

Anne Montgomery–presente!

With gratitude, Art

March 1, 2012 letter Anne wrote to friends describing her cancer and really a final farewell:

“I have been on chemotherapy for cancer, and it seemed to be helping, but, last weekend I had breathing problems and tests showed a lung full of fluid and that continuing any chemo, etc. would not help. I have been blessed by so much support, personal, and medical, that I know I must share that in some way with all those across our world who lack so much and are near desperation, especially for their children. I also know that the Spirit prays at the heart of the universe and that creation is an ongoing journey of death and resurrection, however mysterious that process is. Because it is energized by Love, we can enter into it rather than count on our own weak efforts and vulnerabilities and worry about failures. When I made my final vows, our group was named, “Joy in the Faith,” I am coming to believe that must somehow be possible since it is promised in the Beatitudes and that those who have nothing show us the way.

I am constantly filled with gratitude to you all who have done the nitty-gritty work of peace and nonviolent action and invited me to join you. I hope to be able to do so in a new way. As Phil Berrigan said in his last letter, that work must come from our own vulnerability. Much love, Anne.

FEAST OF THE INNOCENTS:1991
In Memoriam: Mass Graves

by Sr. Anne Montgomery, RSCJ

A voice in Ramah — a voice in Panama, Iraq–
weeping,
as yet again, Herod proclaims new birth
a threat,
the young expendable,
beginnings buried:
bulldozed into ditches,
shoveled into unmarked graves,
cast into the sea,
or flamed to ashes.

But in the sand and sea,
grass and cinders,
in silences,
the question will not die:
“Where is the one who is born?”
the child who sees with one eye__
or not at all,
who walks with one leg–
or never again,
whose dreams were shattered by shrapnel,
hunger stilled by pain.

The year’s death reminds us of an old story,
a nightmare that will not go away,
but, dragon-like, rises from the sea,
blinds the dawn,
blasphemes God’s name and dwelling
with fire from heaven
on those, uncounted, who do not count:
“You the nameless, do not exist.”
So it has been decreed,
for to allow the naming,
to confess reality and promise,
means new birth,
new time,
new humanity

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Sr. Anne Montgomery, Plowshares leader against nuclear weapons, dies; National Catholic Reporter Online; Aug. 29, 2012

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Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life!

Editor’s Note: This is an article I was asked to write for St. Patrick Church, Seattle.  It was recently published in the Summer 2013 Roots of Justice, the parish Social Justice Newsletter.  Click here for the PDF reprint.

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Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Choose Life

by Leonard Eiger

“In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all – whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them – agree to change their course by clear and firm decision and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.” (Pope Benedict XVI, World Day of Peace, 2006)

Decades before, the Archbishop of the Seattle Archdiocese, Raymond Hunthausen, was active in resistance to the U.S. stockpiling of nuclear weapons and the new Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, which included the Bangor Trident submarine base in Puget Sound just 20 miles west of Seattle. In 1981 Archbishop Hunthausen referred to the Trident submarines based there as “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”

The Church’s condemnation of nuclear weapons is grounded in the Church’s respect for life and the dignity of the human person. People of faith have been active throughout the movement to abolish nuclear weapons, and the struggle to resist Trident mirrors this history. Even before the first Trident submarine sailed into Bangor, people were coming together to build a resistance to it.

The Pacific Life Community (PLC), a small intentional community, formed to resist the coming of Trident to the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, out of the initial PLC experience, Jim and Shelley Douglass co-founded Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (GZ). The GZ community purchased land adjacent to the Bangor base, laying the groundwork for the long work ahead.

As the submarines came and the base grew, so did the resistance. In the early years resisters handed out leaflets at the Bangor entrance gates. When the first Trident submarine arrived it was met by thousands of protestors on land in addition to a small flotilla of boats.

Next came rocket motors, and then nuclear warheads, transported by trains to Bangor for assembly to complete the Trident nuclear missiles. These trains were met by huge numbers of people, many of whom risked arrest blocking the tracks leading into the base. Archbishop Hunthausen was present at some of these actions in solidarity with the resistance.

The Douglasses later moved to Birmingham, Alabama to start a Catholic Worker House, and GZ’s work continued. Today that work is as strong as ever. A new Center House has risen from the ashes of earlier structures on the grounds. Three annual actions ground our continuing resistance to Trident – Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Mother’s Day weekend and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki commemoration.

This continuing resistance, deeply rooted in nonviolence, is absolutely necessary in this time of renewed pursuit of nuclear weapons as a foreign policy tool. Besides the US Government’s buildup of its nuclear weapons research, development and production infrastructure, it is pursuing new nuclear weapons systems – among them a new generation of Trident submarines.

The new submarines, currently in research and development, are intended to replace the aging Trident nuclear weapons system, a relic of the Cold War. Twelve submarines will cost $100 billion just to build, in addition to hundreds of billions in operational costs.

Beyond the costs – For people of faith killing is simply wrong, and nuclear weapons, which are omnicidal by design, are an abomination in the eyes of God. His Holiness was clear in his 2006 statement – Nuclear weapons must never again be used; they must be eradicated, and we must dedicate ourselves to life-affirming ends.

May we choose life.

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