To dwell upon the eventual outcomes of chance events in one’s life is to delve into the world of fascination. So it was when the Prince of Peace Plowshares brought attention to the fact that the nuclear-capable Aegis destroyers built at Bath Iron Works were, in fact, themselves, weapons of mass destruction, and thus a threat to all living beings and the Earth herself.

It was that moment that I was introduced to the Catholic Workers, to Jonah House and to Daniel and Phil Berrigan, former Jesuit Catholic priests, who had earlier helped spur open defiance to the Vietnam War.

Although Peace Action Maine, of which I was a board member, had made the decision not to be directly involved in the actions, several members supported the movement and risked arrest themselves. In hindsight, all members of Peace Action Maine and the entire Portland community would have benefited from being actively involved in the entire process.

Inspired by Isaiah’s prophecy to turn swords into plowshares, on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1997, Susan Crane, Steve Kelly, Steve Baggarly, Mark Colville, Tom Lewis-Borbely and Phil Berrigan boarded the USS Sullivans, a nuclear-capable Aegis destroyer at BIW. They hammered and poured blood on different parts of the battleship.

Armed military security personnel intercepted them and forcibly pushed them to the deck and placed them under arrest. At their trials, Judge Gene Carter denied the group’s defense of international law and sentenced them each with varying federal prison terms.

As James Carroll points out in his book, “House of War, The Pentagon and Disastrous Rise of American Power,” “The former priest (Philip Berrigan) had taken solemn note of the fact that the flag of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had been lowered from above the Kremlin for the final time on Christmas Day, 1991. A month later, in his State of Union Address, President George H.W. Bush declared that the United States had, ‘by the grace of God,’ won the Cold War.”

And yet, we continued to create, build and sell new weapons to any and all takers. Many more Ploughshares actions were carried out over the following 20 years, each calling our attention to a perpetual “House of War.”

Several times in the ensuing years, the Berrigan brothers visited Portland. I felt a sense of deep awe and respect for their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons, indeed a world without war.

In June 2001, it came my time came to appear before Judge Arthur Brennan for protesting against the nuclear-capable Aegis destroyers built at Bath Iron Works. No prison sentence for me, but the small action on my part brought me closer to both Daniel and Phil. By the time Phil Berrigan died in December 2002, he had spent 11 years of his life inside prison walls. When Daniel Berrigan died in April of this year, I am called to say, “Daniel Berrigan, Presente.”

Sally Breen

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