Saint Joseph’s to host speaker on nonviolence

Rev. John Dear will be speaking about nonviolence March 17 at Saint Joseph's College. 

STANDISH — A Catholic priest, author and activist speaking at Saint Joseph’s College on Saturday hopes to “encourage people in Maine to build up the peace and justice movement” in a workshop focusing on nonviolence.

The March 17 event, “Living a Nonviolent Life Workshop,” will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the college’s Baggot Street Cafe. Registration is free to members of the college community and is on a sliding scale for members of the public between $30 and $50. Pre-registration is required through Unity of Greater Portland.

“We’re going to look at this culture of violence, and how we’re all so violent – and how we can become people of non-violence,” said Rev. John Dear, the priest and former Jesuit leading the workshop who has spent decades writing about and protesting for nonviolence around the world.

The event is sponsored by the school’s Center for Faith and Spirituality, Pax Christi Maine and Unity of Greater Portland.

Dear said that the workshop will focus on three areas: how people can be non-violent to themselves, “we’re all good at beating ourselves up,” how they can practice “meticulous interpersonal nonviolence with others,” and how people can “be part of the global, grassroots movement for non-violence.”

“You have to do all three simultaneously,” Dear emphasized. He said he hopes this discussion provides an opportunity for attendees to think about “how can Maine become more non-violent.”

Dear’s own advocacy has brought him around the world protesting war, climate change, nuclear poverty, the death penalty and other issues. He said he has published more than 35 books, which he jokingly admitted was “over the top, I realize,” and has been arrested more than 75 times in decades of protesting.

Dear lives in New Mexico and organizes an annual protest at Los Alamos National Lab where scientists first developed the nuclear bomb. He said he is a priest at a diocese in California but is traveling constantly.

“It’s a crazy way to spend someone’s life, but the world is crazy,” he said about his efforts. “You have to engage the world.”

Dear, who repeatedly referenced the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi in an interview with the Lakes Region Weekly, said he is currently on tour for his newest book related to climate change, “They Will Inherit the Earth,” and is helping to organize a September nonviolence March in Washington, D.C.

Once a member of the Jesuits, Dear says that he and the order parted ways after “they got sick and tired of me getting arrested and working for peace and justice.”

He said he has since worked on nonviolence language for Pope Francis, calling his path within the church and through life an “incredible journey.”

A press release from Saint Joseph’s said that Dear’s workshop is part of the college’s participation this week in “the heightened national conversation on violence” that also includes the national school walkouts that took place Wednesday.

“Saint Joseph’s College is deeply committed to non-violence in every aspect of life including social, ethnic, economic, intellectual, and interpersonal,” said college President Dr. James Dlugos. “This week, Fr. John Dear’s workshop on ‘Living a Non-Violent Life’ and our community’s participation in Wednesday’s #Enough! National School Walkout event are two visible manifestations of what we aspire to each and every day.”

Dear said Tuesday ahead of the nationally-coordinated event that the walkouts are “very hopeful signs” and that “nonviolence happens in the streets and that’s what the kids have done.”

“Young people, they’re hungry for a way out,” Dear said. “Look at the Parkland, Florida kids — that’s the way change happens.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Rev. John Dear will be speaking about nonviolence March 17 at Saint Joseph’s College.