Friday, August 18, 2006

Jonah House

DAY 20 of "A Journey with the Brethren"

On the last day of our four day visit to Baltimore, where we experienced living among the disadvantaged and "left behind" at a men's shelter and rehabilitation center, we changed our focus slightly to spent a day at Jonah House of the Plowshares Project.

Jonah House is located at 1301 Moreland Avenue on the grounds of a very old Irish/Catholic cemetery in west Baltimore called St. Peter's Cemetery. Yes, it's located right inside the perimeter of the old cemetery! The house, built by the organization in 1995, is large two story that, with it's natural-wood shiplap siding, actually resembles a "ship of old." Roman Catholic Dominican Sisters Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert (photo), Jackie Hudson, along with Jesuit Priest Steve Kelly, are the principle residence of Jonah House.

A faith-based, nonviolent resistance community, Jonah House began as a community in 1973 with a group of people that wanted to bring awareness and effect a change.

The Jonah House community lives year around in the 22 acre cemetery, loaned to them by the city of Baltimore in exchange for renovating the grave sites and taking care of the grounds. They are on a spiritual journey to nonviolence; their motto: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares..." —Isaiah 2:4.

Back in February of 2003 IndyMedia.org reported, "Amid all the talk of other countries possessing weapons of mass destruction, three Roman Catholic Sisters—Ardeth Platte, Carol Gilbert and Jackie Hudson—decided to look in the US to expose weapons of mass destruction here. Consequently, since October, they have been in jail in Colorado.

"They opened the site for public inspection. Forty-five minutes later they were arrested and taken to jail.

"The nuns and their legal team argue the obvious. Any United States threat or use of any weapon or tactic of mass destruction is every bit as illegal and criminal as anyone else's. Any threat or use of the Minuteman III nuclear weapon is a war crime. The US must pursue and complete good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament in all its aspects as agreed to in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This, necessarily non-violent process, includes declaration of all nuclear weapons, taking them off high alert and allowing inspections to verify disarmament."

After a warm introduction to Jonah House by Sister Carol, we all spent the day helping out with outside and inside chores like gardening, picking fruits and vegetables, cooking and straightening tomb stones. In between we stopped to eat a great lunch prepared by Sister Ardeth (photo) and some of our volunteers, and watched a PBS documentary on the above political action.

Along with four vegetable gardens, their are also two llamas, a couple of goats, one sheep and a some guinea hens on the grounds. I captured one of the goats that I had been feeding tomatoes to earlier and later escaped over the coral fence when I stop feeding him. I also spent some time talking with Sister Ardeth, she is one of the warmest and easiest people I've ever met to be around.

One last visit for us to Jonah House's "composting toilet"—you don't want to miss this famous farm house attraction—and we all headed for the BVS mini-buses, waving wildly our goodbyes to the Sisters as we drove out of the cemetery gates.

I have much more to say on Jonah House and Sister Ardeth, but right now I have to make a plane in Baltimore heading for Rochester, NY.

Check back for more "A Journey with the Brethren."