Celebrating Mother’s Day in a BIG Way at Ground Zero

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was a great day to be outdoors (not a cloud to be seen), and people gathered at the Main entrance gate to the Bangor Trident submarine base to demonstrate our resistance to the most horrific weapon (system) of mass destruction ever devised – TRIDENTGround Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held its annual Mothers Day Weekend action – this year’s theme was Moms Against Bombs. Continue reading


Activists express concern for imprisoned priest

[Thanks to National Catholic Reporter Staff Writer Joshua McElwee for this article published in NCR Online on January 23, 2012]

Activists and friends of an 83-year-old Catholic priest imprisoned for an act of civil resistance are expressing some relief after prison officials responded to concerns he was facing unfair treatment in prison. The priest has not eaten since Jan. 10 to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel was serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash. He was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

Fellow activists say Bichsel has begun a fast since his return to prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The activists also were concerned that Bichsel, who suffers from blood circulation problems, was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

In a posting at the blog of the “Disarm Now Plowshares” group [2] Jan. 19, activist Blake Kremer said Bichsel had told him “it is very cold for me all of the time.”

“I cannot sleep at all,” Kremer reported Bichsel as saying during a phone call. “24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill. I have asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.”

Activist Joe Power-Drutis reported this afternoon on the same blog that Bichsel has now received extra blankets and is “much warmer,” following a support vigil for the priest outside the prison Sunday, which saw more than 40 people attend.

Power-Drutis also said there “remains a couple of other health related issues” that the activists “hope to resolve those soon through direct negotiation.”

Supporters say Bichsel was visited by Buddhist monks with the Nipponzan Myohoji order when he was moved to the Tacoma facility Jan. 10. They say the authorities at the facility reprimanded Bichsel for the visit and had him rearrested the next morning.

According to Kremer, Bichsel started his fast partly “to unite us as one and strengthen resolve against nuclear weapons” and would be appreciative of any who would join him in the effort.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said that while he couldn’t comment on the case of a specific inmate, he did say that the “typical issue” for all inmates in the federal system is a blanket and sheet, and that there is a “full health services staff on duty at all of our facilities.”

“If we receive information either from the inmate or the inmate’s doctor on the street that there was some sort of pre-existing condition that was being treated, obviously we would pick up the ball from there,” said Chris Burke, a public information officer at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Now, sometimes, our doctors’ treatment may differ from what [the prisoner] was receiving on the street for a lot of different reasons. But those conditions will still be treated regardless.”

Before his imprisonment for the Y-12 action, Bichsel had served a three-month sentence in the spring of 2011 for a November 2009 act of civil resistance at the U.S. Navy nuclear weapons base in Bangor, Wash.

Supporters were concerned for Bichsel during that imprisonment, as he was transferred between at least six different facilities across the country.

Writing on the “Disarm Now Plowshares” blog, Power-Drutis said that a May visit to Bichsel in the Knox County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Detention Facility found the priest “a broken and very hurting soul.”

Twelve others participated with Bichsel in the 2010 action at the Y-12 complex, for which they faced sentencing in September.

Four others participated with the priest in the 2009 action, which saw the activists cut through the outer fences of the Washington state naval base before walking toward the center of the base holding a sign that read “Disarm Now Plowshares Trident: Illegal Immoral” and scattering sunflower seeds and hammering on a roadway and fences.

Among the other four who participated in that action was Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been imprisoned since April at the Seattle facility, where he is serving a 15 month sentence. According to supporters, Kelly has been in solitary for most of his imprisonment.

Two of the other three people found guilty for the 2009 action have since been released. Susan Crane, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, is still being held on a 15 month sentence at the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, Calif.

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org.]

Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company

Rise Up: Challenge Nuclear Madness


I have the honor and occasional pleasure of exchanging emails with a couple of uppity nuns from Minnesota who happen to think we need to abolish nuclear weapons and that it is high time that people everywhere rise up and make it happen.  They even wrote a letter to the editor, recently published in the LeSueur News Herald, that states the case quite eloquently (I think).  In fact, it got me thinking that one really good place to start is for all of us to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers (and do it NOW!). Continue reading

If we don’t end nuclear weapons, they will end us

Editor’s Note: This is an editorial published in the National Catholic Reporter Online, July 20, 2011.

“Viewed from a legal, political, security and most of all — moral — perspective, there is no justification today for the continued maintenance of nuclear weapons.”

With these words while speaking in Kansas City, Mo., on July 1, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations, reaffirmed Catholic teaching on nuclear weapons and deterrence — teachings seemingly not widely known among Catholics and totally rejected by the nuclear-armed nations, including our own government. Continue reading

Fellowship of Hope: An Invitation

I was fortunate to attend last Sunday’s continued Fellowship of Hope in which supporters of the Disarm Now Plowshares, and everything for which they stand, came together in prayer, song and fellowship.  On the table leading into the sanctuary at St. Leo Church in Tacoma were flowers, a photo of the Disarm Now Plowshares five holding their banner, and a handout that stated boldly, “Disarm Now Plowshares – Trident: Illegal – Immoral,” and small handouts that read “We pray for peace… and for them… until all are free…”

Bill Bischel, S.J. Steve Kelly, S.J., Anne Montgomery, RSCM, Lynne Greenwald, Susan Crane

Those last four words gave me pause, as I realized that beyond the freedom from prison for our five brothers and sisters, there is the global issue of freedom from the dark cloud of nuclear omnicide that has darkened our world for decades.  As the nuclear powers focus their efforts to upgrade their nuclear arsenals I realize that none of us are free until the day we see the last nuclear warhead decommissioned.   

The Disarm Now Plowshares, through their act of faith and courage, have brought together a community of peacemakers committed to working for peace, and particularly willing to join the struggle in one of the most (if not the most) difficult topics of our time – the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Amidst the song, the prayers and the news of Disarm Now Plowshares and other nuclear resisters, we heard a message from Bix.  John Dear had asked Joe Power-Drutis to ask Bix for a message, and of course Bix came through with something deep from within his heart; more than a message, it is an invitation. 

Here is Bix’s message dated May 31, 2011:

We Americans are lulled and brainwashed. We accept the security of nuclear weapons as our guardians. As a result, we live a type of Midas Touch, embracing gold and all that shines while we decay within from greed, addiction, and selfishness. Beyond this, we arm ourselves more and more for the destruction of others.

Jesus comes to us in the midst of this, and no matter how high the waves of empire might be, that threaten to swamp us, he invites us to walk the path he walks and to believe his Kingdom is real.

Jesus doesn’t give up on us. He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” He invites us to follow him and walk through the violence, to walk in resistance to the Powers that bring death. He invites us to a life of real community where we care for each other as brothers and sisters. No matter how small the seed of our efforts, the Powers fear most our attempts to come together and live as God intended us to live.

We as a people must come together and meet one another and invite the Spirit to come into our midst. “Where two or more are gathered,” the Spirit will be. We must trust this and follow the call of our hearts. We are called to say “yes” to God’s invitation and to be a part of God’s Kingdom as it unfolds in our lives.

May we remember our imprisoned resisters and join their efforts for peace and justice, for a world without cruel and inhuman punishment.

I felt that spirit of which Bix speaks as I sat with my brothers and sisters the other evening at St. Leo’s, and feel it with each contact with someone who offers to help or write a letter or asks what they can do to abolish nuclear weapons.  That spirit that brings us together and binds us together knows no church walls; it knows no boundaries.  May that spirit continue to bind us together in the spirit of love, compassion and community as we continue disarming our hearts as we struggle towards global disarmament and a world at peace with justice. 

As the last line of the prayer on the back of the handout said, “…let this be the time when your Spirit changes human hearts, and you grant to the world your everlasting peace.”  May it be so.

Thank you Bix and Disarm Now Plowshares.




CLICK HERE to see the full day’s schedule.  Click here for directions to GZ.  Hope to see many of you local folks there on Saturday! 

Questions: Contact Anne Hall, annehall@familyhealing.com, 206-545-3462, or Sue Ablao, gznonviolencenews@yahoo.com, 360-930-8697.

Praying for Conversion: A Lenten Reflection

Turn our hearts
Turn our minds
Make us branches holding fast to the vine
Patient Keeper, hold us in your tender mercy, Tree of Life.

This Lenten journey has been one of prayer and conversion. I wake each morning asking god to turn my heart and mind toward nonviolence, love and compassion. It is very humbling to be here with the women being held, waiting for their cases to come up, waiting for sentencing, waiting for a destination. Their stories touch my heart. Their generosity and kindness brings a smile and a disarmed heart minute by minute.

During Lent, we follow the journey of Jesus as he prepares for his arrest, trial and execution. He was tortured and executed by the Roman occupying forces, by the Roman empire that didn’t want any unrest or challenge to its power. Jesus, who taught nonviolence, who healed, fed, and encouraged people, was a threat.

As Jesus is about to be arrested, Peter brings out his sword to defend him. John Dear, SJ, reminds us that if there ever was a time to use violence to defend someone, it would be to defend Jesus, the incarnate God. But Jesus tells Peter, NO. Put away the sword (Matthew 26:52).

He rejects violence, even knowing the consequence can be his own torture and death.

“Put away the sword” is good advice to us today. Put away our nuclear weapons. Put away our military spending. Put away our war making.

Archbishop Hunthausen once said, “Jesus’ acceptance of the cross, rather than the sword raised in his defense, is the Gospel’s statement of unilateral disarmament.”

We 5 are held here at SeaTac Federal Detention Center for saying No to nuclear weapons: No to the trident nuclear warheads.

Archbishop Hunthausen called Trident the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound”. The trident nuclear warheads, like flying ovens, are ready to be launched from the Trident submarines and incinerate millions of people anywhere in the world.

The parishioners of St. Leo Parish sang a hymn of conversion, Tree of Life, at the Mass where we were blessed and commissioned to federal prison. The love, prayers and encouragement of the people at St. Leo’s strengthens us everyday.

We pray for the women and men held here at SeaTac and for the guards; we pray for disarmed hearts in a disarmed world, and for the conversion of our hearts and our weapons.



Relevant Links: 

Archbishop Hunthausen’s 1981 speech on Faith and Disarmament

Click here to learn about the Vancouver Declaration.

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