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Three Sisters of Providence arrested in Georgia for participation in non-violent protest at Army base

Three Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., were arrested Sunday in Columbus, Ga., for their participation in a non-violent protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert were among 96 protestors who were arrested. They were taken into custody after passing a designated barrier on the military reservation. Last year, Sister Kathleen Desautels was arrested for a similar action and was sentenced to six months in prison on federal trespassing charges.

The three sisters who were arrested Sunday were led away from the military base in hand cuffs and later shackled and forced to spend the night in the Muscogee County Jail. They were arraigned Monday in U.S. Federal Court in Columbus. They appeared before U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth, who is the same judge who sentenced Sister Kathleen to prison.

Sisters Adele, Rita Clare and Joann pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $5,000 each, 10 percent allowable. A trial date was set for Jan. 27, 2003.

“We, the General Council of the Sisters of Providence, respect the choice of conscience of our sisters and support them with our love and our prayer,” said General Superior Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara. “It is only through courageous acts such as theirs that others can be made aware of what the military arm of our government is doing in our names. Our sisters were handcuffed and later shackled. This certainly seems like an excessive use of force against women religious who have dedicated their lives to doing God’s work and to striving for peace in our society.”

The Sisters of Providence have participated in the annual non-violent protest for several years. About 20 members of the Congregation made the trip to Georgia this year. Several Sisters of Providence have traveled to Nicaragua, Colombia, Haiti and Guatemala where they have learned about the attacks by the military on people in those countries.

The facility at Fort Benning trains Latin American military in “anti-insurgency” tactics. For decades, numerous SOA graduates have been linked directly by the United Nations and human rights groups to the torture and massacre of their own people when they return home. The training school is supported by United States tax dollars.

The annual national protest at Fort Benning is organized by SOA Watch. SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, under whatever name it is called, through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and non-violent protest, as well as media and legislative work. More information can be found on the organization’s web site at www.soaw.org.

Biographical information

Sister Adele Beacham

  • Personal: Formerly Sister Joseph Therese. Native of Toronto, Canada. Entered the Congregation July 22, 1946, from Holy Angels Parish in Dayton, Ohio. Age 76. Bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Master’s degree in reading from Cardinal Stritch College. Master’s degree in theological studies from St. Meinrad.
  • Current ministry: Ministry of Care volunteer, volunteer with Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
  • Teaching ministries: St. Anthony School, Indianapolis (1949-1950); St. Andrew School, Chicago (1950-1953); St. Sylvester School, Chicago (1954-1960); St. John the Baptist School, Fort Wayne, Ind., (1961-1964, principal from 1964-1969); Holy Cross School, Indianapolis (principal, 1972-1979);
  • Other ministries: Supervisor of schools, Archdiocese of Indianapolis (1969-1972); religion educator, parish minister, St. Anne Parish, St. Elizabeth Parish, New Castle, Ind. (1979-1980); pastoral associate, St. Anne Parish, New Castle (1980-1982); pastoral associate, St. Martin de Porres Parish, Syracuse, Ind. (1982-1987); Congregation’s director of development, Saint Mary-of-the-the-Woods (1987-1990); pastoral associate, St. Anthony Parish, Evansville, Ind. (1990-1993); director of religious education, Sacred Heart Parish, Terre Haute, Ind. (1993-1998); wellness ministry staff and Congregation ministries’ volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2001-2002).

Sister Rita Clare Gerardot

  • Personal: Native of New Haven, Ind. Entered the Congregation July 21, 1944, from St. Louis Parish in New Haven. Age 76. Bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.
  • Current ministry: Director of Wellness Center, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods; prison minister, U.S. Federal Penitentiary south of Terre Haute (Death Row).
  • Teaching ministries: St. Catherine School, Indianapolis (1947-1951); St. John School, Vincennes, Ind. (1952-1953); St. Columbkille School, Chicago (1953-1955); St. Angela School, Chicago (1955-1956); Sacred Heart School, Whiting (teacher and principal, 1956-1959); St. Francis Xavier School, Wilmette, Ill. (teacher and principal, 1959-1965); St. John the Baptist School, Fort Wayne (1965-1967 and 1977-1979); St. Luke School, Indianapolis (principal, 1967-1973); St. Simon School, Indianapolis (1973-1977).
  • Other ministries: Pastoral minister, St. Martin de Porres Parish, Syracuse, Ind. (1981); parish minister with elderly and poor, Cathedral Parish, Indianapolis (1981-1989); receptionist/administrative assistant, Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove, Ill. (1989-1992); Health Care Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1992-1996).

Sister Joann Quinkert

  • Personal: Formerly Sister Joan Margaret. Native of New Albany, Ind. Entered the Congregation Jan. 6, 1949, from Holy Trinity Parish in New Albany. Age 71. Bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.
  • Current ministry: Volunteer service in Chicago.
  • Teaching ministries: St. Jude School, Fort Wayne (1951-1956); St. Paul School, Sellersburg, Ind. (1956-1957); St. Ann School, Fayetteville, N.C. (1957-1959, teacher and principal 1959-1964); St. Patrick School, Fayetteville (teacher and principal, 1964-1965); St. Simon School, Washington (teacher and principal 1965-1968); St. Patrick School, Fort Wayne (1970); St. Philip Neri School, Indianapolis (principal 1970-1976).
  • Other ministries: Director of juniors sisters, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1968-1970); pastoral associate, St. Mary Parish, New Albany (1976-1980); hospital chaplain, Mercy Hospsital, Des Moines, Iowa (1981-1982); outreach worker, Ministry Resource Center Inc., East Bernstadt, Ky. (1982-1983); pastoral associate, OLPH Church, Williamsburg, Ky. (1983-1984); director of adult education, Friendship Center, Williamsburg, Ky. (1984-1989); pastoral associate, Holy Cross Church, Burkesville, Ky. (1989-1991); rural pastoral ministry, Edmundite Southern Missions, Selma, Ala. (1991-1992); director of Catholic Social Ministry, Edmundite Southern Missions, Selma (1992-2001).

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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