BY ISN STAFF | April 30, 2016
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated at 11:00 AM ET on 5/1/16 to reflect information shared in a statement from the Berrigan family.
Jesuit peace activist and writer Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J., has died at the age of 94. The news was shared via Twitter by Fr. James Martin, S.J., at 1:44 PM ET on April 30, 2016. In a subsequent tweet Fr. Martin described Berrigan as “one of the great Catholics of our time, a champion of social justice and tireless promoter of peace.” The USA Northeast Province of the Jesuits shared the news later in the day, saying that Fr. Berrigan died peacefully at Murray-Weigel Hall, a Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University.
The great Daniel Berrigan, SJ, Jesuit priest, activist, poet and peacemaker, died today. May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/SYcdaF2Zqq
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) April 30, 2016
“We are bereft. We are so sad. We are aching and wrung out. Our bodies are tired as Dan’s was—after a hip fracture, repeated infections, prolonged frailty,” said Berrigan family in a statement shared with ISN by Frida Berrigan, Fr. Berrigan’s niece. “We are aware that no one person can pick up this heavy burden, but that there is enough work for each and every one of us,” stated the family later in the statement. The full statement can be read below.
Statement from the Berrigan Family:
April 30, 2016
This afternoon around 2:30, a great soul left this earth. Close family missed the “time of death” by half an hour, but Dan was not alone, held and prayed out of this plane of existence by his friends. We – Liz McAlister, Kate, Jerry and Frida Berrigan, Carla and Marc Berrigan-Pittarelli—were blessed to be among friends—Patrick Walsh, Joe Cosgrove, Father Joe Towle and Maureen McCafferty—able to surround Daniel Berrigan’s body for the afternoon into the evening.
We were able to be with our memories of our Uncle, Friend and Brother in Law—birthdays and baptisms, weddings and wakes, funerals and Christmas dinners, long meals and longer walks, arrests and marches and court appearances.
It was a sacrament to be with Dan and feel his spirit move out of his body and into each of us and into the world. We see our fathers in him—Jerry Berrigan who died in July 2015 and Phil Berrigan who died in December 2002. We see our children in him—we think that little Madeline Vida Berrigan Sheehan-Gaumer (born February 2014) is his pre-incarnation with her dark skin, bright eyes and big ears.
We see the future in him – his commitment to making the world a little more human, a little more truthful.
We are bereft. We are so sad. We are aching and wrung out. Our bodies are tired as Dan’s was—after a hip fracture, repeated infections, prolonged frailty. And we are so grateful: for the excellent and conscientious care Dan received at Murray Weigel, for his long life and considerable gifts, for his grace in each of our lives, for his courage and witness and prodigious vocabulary. Dan taught us that every person is a miracle, every person has a story, every person is worthy of respect.
And we are so aware of all he did and all he was and all he created in almost 95 years of life lived with enthusiasm, commitment, seriousness, and almost holy humor.
We talked this afternoon of Dan Berrigan’s uncanny sense of ceremony and ritual, his deep appreciation of the feminine, and his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He was not strategic, he was not opportunistic, but he understood solidarity—the power of showing up for people and struggles and communities. We reflect back on his long life and we are in awe of the depth and breadth of his commitment to peace and justice—from the Palestinians’ struggle for land and recognition and justice; to the gay community’s fight for health care, equal rights and humanity; to the fractured and polluted earth that is crying out for nuclear disarmament; to a deep commitment to the imprisoned, the poor, the homeless, the ill and infirm.
We are aware that no one person can pick up this heavy burden, but that there is enough work for each and every one of us. We can all move forward Dan Berrigan’s work for humanity. Dan told an interviewer: “Peacemaking is tough, unfinished, blood-ridden. Everything is worse now than when I started, but I’m at peace. We walk our hope and that’s the only way of keeping it going. We’ve got faith, we’ve got one another, we’ve got religious discipline…” We do have it, all of it, thanks to Dan.
Dan was at peace. He was ready to relinquish his body. His spirit is free, it is alive in the world and it is waiting for you.
[SOURCE: Frida Berrigan, niece of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J.]
Resources about Daniel Berrigan, S.J.:
- To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography
- Daniel Berrigan: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
- The Berrigan Letters: Personal Correspondence between Daniel and Philip Berrigan
- Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94 (The New York Times)
- A conversation with Daniel Berrigan (America | 2009)
- Daniel Berrigan’s ‘Ten Commandments’ (America | 2012)
- Berrigan’s message to peacemakers: Persevere (National Catholic Reporter | 2010)
The Catonsville Nine original 5/17/68 Footage:
About Daniel Berrigan, S.J.:
Born in Virginia, Minnesota, in 1921, his father Thomas Berrigan was a second-generation Irish Catholic. His mother Frieda Fromhart, of German descent, would feed any hungry itinerant who would come to the door during the Great Depression. Although his father had left the Church, Daniel remained attracted to the Catholic faith. Directly out of high school in 1939, he became a member of the Society of Jesus and was ordained in 1952.
Daniel was deeply influenced by his younger brother Philip. Philip served in the army during World War II and after the war became a Josephite priest. Daniel marched with Philip in the civil rights movement at Selma in 1965. As Philip became more active in the antiwar movements against U.S. involvement in Vietnam in the late 1960s, Daniel joined him in the protests. Their most famous protest was in 1968. With seven other participants, Daniel and Philip burned 378 files of young men who were to be drafted for military service. This led to the Berrigans’ arrest with the other members of their group. For a time, Philip and Daniel avoided their prison dates and were on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. Eventually, Daniel served two years in prison and was released in 1972. Berrigan wrote of the incident and the trial in his play The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.
Other protests followed, leading to more arrests and prosecutions. From 1970 to 1995, Berrigan spent a total of nearly seven years in prison. He has continued his peace activism, protesting against the 1991 Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the U.S invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Berrigan’s political involvement overshadowed his accomplishments as a writer and a poet. His reflections on war resistance, his time in prison, and peace appear in some 35 books of essays and poetry. Berrigan reflected on his life in his 1988 autobiography To Dwell in Peace.