April 21, 2006
Sister Gwen Hennessey, who gained notoriety in 2001 when she served a six-month prison sentence for civil disobedience for protesting at the Army’s School of the Americas, will share these experiences when she speaks at Morningside College on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the UPS Auditorium of the Lincoln Center, 3627 Peters Avenue.
The public is invited to the free event, which is sponsored by Morningside’s Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).
The 73-year-old Hennessey is also the live-in manager at the Clare Guest House in Sioux City. The Clare House, a transitional home for women leaving prison, is the only transitional house in Northwest Iowa and is operated by the Iowa-based Sisters of St. Francis. The house provides a supportive community and mentoring as the women look for a job, a place to live, and start reconnecting to the community.
Hennessey was 68 when she and her 88-year-old sister Dorothy served a six-month prison sentence at the minimum-security Pekin Federal Prison Camp in Illinois. The sisters were among 26 protesters convicted of trespassing during a November 2000 protest at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., where some 3,400 people crossed onto the Army base without permission. Only the protesters who had been arrested for trespassing before but not prosecuted were sentenced to prison.
The protesters claimed that the school, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, is a combat training school for Latin American military and police forces and contend its graduates have been linked to murder, torture, and other human rights abuses. Military officials say the school’s goal is to teach democratic principles to future Latin American leaders.
Hennessey’s presentation will include her experiences with the peace protest, the showing of the video “The New Patriots,” and a question and answer discussion.
Hennessey, a graduate of Briar Cliff College, holds a master’s degree from MST Mary Knoll School of Theology in New York. She took her final vows in 1956 and was assigned to a teaching career, which would include positions in Iowa and Illinois. While in Chicago, Hennessey became involved with Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC) and became active in the nuclear disarmament movement. She also attended Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago and studied liberation theology.
She helped start the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines, Iowa. She was later co-director of the Maura Clarke/Ita Ford Center in Brooklyn, New York, served a ministry with the Appalachian Office of Justice and Peace in Virginia, and served at Mount St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa.