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Award honors nonviolent Christian activism

(DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)

A new award at DePaul this spring will honor a group for acts of Christian nonviolence that resist injustice, transform conflict, foster reconciliation, and seek justice and peace. Presented by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences along with the Division of Mission and Ministry, the Berrigan-McAlister Award is named for the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., his brother Phillip Berrigan, and Elizabeth McAlister. The award also coincides with the 100th anniversary of Daniel Berrigan’s birth.
Kings Bay Plowshares 7
The first Berrigan-McAlister Award at DePaul will be presented to the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, a group of Catholic activists who engaged in symbolic disarmament of nuclear weapons at the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. (Image courtesy of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7)

“From the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War and beyond, few Catholics in the United States have been more influential than the Berrigan brothers and Elizabeth McAlister,” says Michael Budde, professor of Catholic Studies and political science. “Their work against war and in support of peace has earned them international stature in the Church and secular society.”

The first Berrigan-McAlister Award will be presented May 5 to the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, a group of Catholic activists who engaged in symbolic disarmament of nuclear weapons at the largest nuclear submarine base in the world. A moderated conversation with members of the group will follow the virtual ceremony. As part of this celebration, there will be a May 4 screening online of a new film on the Berrigans, “Devout and Dangerous.” The film’s director, Susan Hagedorn, and members of the Berrigan-McAlister family will join in this event. Register for the events online​.

Berrigans' connection to DePaul

The Berrigan brothers and McAlister are known for their provocative nonviolent protest, extensive writing and teaching, and everyday experiments in intentional community. McAlister married Philip Berrigan and was his lifelong collaborator. Daniel Berrigan authored more than 50 books and was an acclaimed poet. His work and protest called for Catholics and others to reject war and nuclear weapons. Along with the Division of Mission and Ministry, DePaul faculty and staff organized the award after reflecting on the importance of their legacy.

DePaul has had significant relationships with the Berrigans over the years. Daniel Berrigan was a scholar-in-residence for a time during the 1990s, taught courses and led student retreats. DePaul hosted Phillip Berrigan for an important week-long series of seminars in the mid-1990s, and McAlister has also spoken at DePaul on several occasions. DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives holds a significant number of papers from the Berrigans and McAlister.

Kings Bay Plowshares 7

The inaugural award will honor seven advocates for peace and justice who entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia, without authorization to draw attention to the global dangers of its Trident submarine fleet. The group was McAlister, the Rev. Steve Kelly, S.J., Carmen Trotta, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy; Mark Colville, and Patrick O’Neill. Their action was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., who called out the triple evils of “militarism, racism and consumerism.” 

“The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 has kept alive the spirit of resistance to mass murder and have drawn attention to the evil of nuclear weapons in a world grown accustomed to them,” Budde says. “They are fitting recipients of DePaul's first Berrigan-McAlister Award as they continue the Plowshares disarmament movement.”

The group’s name and mission of conducting nonviolent action to plea for peace and justice based on the biblical concept of beating swords into plowshares: Isaiah 2:4. Budde points to Pope Francis’ words on the immoral possession of nuclear weapons: “Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.”