Three Sisters of Providence receive sentences for trespassing during SOA protest
Three Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., were sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ga., after pleading not guilty with stipulation to federal trespassing charges.
Sister Adele Beacham, 76, was sentenced to 12 months probation and house arrest and 250 hours of community service. She will be confined to the motherhouse grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, except for trips to receive medical treatment.
“The process has worked itself through. What has happened, the people I have met and the groups that supported me are truly gifts,” she said.
Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, 76, was sentenced to 12 months probation and 500 hours of community service, part of which will be continuing her prison ministry with federal Death Row inmate David Paul Hammer.
“I feel elated at the fact that what I proposed to the judge as an alternative sentence of community service was accepted,” she said. She also plans to volunteer in the maternal health clinic at Union Hospital in Terre Haute.
Sister Joann Quinkert, 71, was sentenced to 12 months probation and 500 hours of community service. She will do her community service work in the Chicago area.
“I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to speak for the voiceless and to work to rectify policies of our country,” she said.
The three sisters were arrested for crossing an arbitrary line at Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 17, 2002, during a non-violent protest against the School of the Americas (SOA), now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).
“Our support and concern for them has been strong throughout this legal process. We pray that more people will take notice of our government’s commitment to continue training Latin American military personnel who later use terrorist tactics in their own countries. Courageous acts such as those offered by our sisters and the thousands who marched with them will help raise awareness about one of our government’s foreign relations programs,” said Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, general superior of the Sisters of Providence.
Sister of Providence Kathleen Desautels is serving a six-month sentence in a federal prison for a similar action in 2001. She will be released March 7.
The trial started Monday in Columbus, Ga., with U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth presiding. A total of 96 people were arrested during the November protest, 85 of whom were adults. Those facing trial were divided into groups of six. Three other women religious made their appearance Tuesday with the three Sisters of Providence.