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WSW: Remembering A Long Life Dedicated To Social Justice

Thomas Good, Next Left Notes, Wikimedia Commons

Kalamazoo Peace House co-founder Jerry Berrigan says the Reverend Daniel Berrigan became more frail in his later years. But he says his uncle remained convinced that work for peace was necessary. 

Daniel Berrigan passed away earlier this year, a few weeks short of what would have been his 95th birthday. Peace House, Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War and Saint Thomas More Catholic Church will hold a memorial service for Daniel Berrigan on Friday. WMUK’s Gordon Evans spoke with Jerry Berrigan.

Berrigan says that first and foremost his uncle, and his parents were Catholics who took the gospels very seriously. His father Phillip who passed away in 2002. Berrigan says his uncle Dan persuaded his father to join the priesthood. Phillip was assigned to inner cities parishes in D.C. and New Orleans by the late 1950’s was convinced that racism was sinful and against the will of God. Berrigan says that lead to activism on many other issues includes protests against the Vietnam War.

The Berrigan brothers lead a protest in Catonsville, Maryland where draft records were burned with napalm. Jerry Berrigan says “the tremendous breach of protocol” followed years of conventional protests. Berrigan says his uncle was working as a chaplain at Cornell and saw students were in a riskier position than he was, and burned their draft cards. Berrigan says the protests were “very Catholic” because they were symbolic in nature. And Berrigan says Catholicism is a very symbolic religion.

The impact of the protest would hit home for the younger Berrigan years later growing up in Baltimore. Berrigan says his best friend’s dad who “didn’t’ agree with us politically at all”, shared that he didn’t have to go Vietnam because of the draft card burning. 

Interview with Jerry Berrigan - web version

Daniel Berrigan remained a Priest until the end of his long life. But Phillip Berrigan left the priesthood to marry former nun Elizabeth McAllister. Jerry Berrigan says his parents fell in love and made “an incredible pair.” He says by temperament his uncle Dan was “very much a Priest and his primary relationship was with God.”

Berrigan says he grew up in a community dedicated to resistance to war. He says his family still believes in being civically engaged, but in a different way than his parents and uncle. His mother is still alive and Berrigan says “affirms the choices we’ve made for our families.” But Jerry Berrigan says there are big problems in he the world, and “there’s always more to do.”

Image from wikimedia commons

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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