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Prisoners & Probationers of Conscience

Sister Kathleen Desautels helps to organize the crowds for the procession.

Throughout the history of SOA Watch’s yearly vigils at the SOA/WHINSEC at Ft. Benning, Ga., various participants have chosen to take direct action by breaking federal law and trespassing onto the military base. After prayerful consideration and discernment, several Sisters of Providence have chosen to cross the line in this manner in protest of the school and have faced legal repercussions for their actions including house arrest, mandatory community service, probation and jail time.

Sister Kathleen Desautels

Sister Kathleen Desautels crossed the line in November 2001. She was found guilty on federal trespassing charges and served a six-month sentence at the Federal Prison Camp-Greenville (Ill.). Released in March 2003, Sister Kathleen remains committed to her mission and to working to close the SOA/WHINSEC.

“If loving peace and doing civil resistance to bring attention to this Gospel call is a crime, I’m glad to be called guilty,” she says. “Being a prisoner of conscience or being a probationer of conscience is being part of a growing community of peacemakers willing to do a non-violent act of civil disobedience. I prefer to think of it as faithful obedience to the Gospel call for love, mercy and justice.”

Read the original March 10, 2003, press release: “Sister of Providence released from prison.”

Sister Adele Beacham places her cross in the gates of Fort Benning.

Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert

Along with 93 other protestors, three Sisters of Providence were arrested on federal trespassing charges on November 17 2002 for crossing an arbitrary line at Fort Benning, Ga. Sisters Adele Beacham, Rita Clare Gerardot and Joann Quinkert each were sentenced to 12 months probation. Sister Adele also was sentenced to house arrest and 250 hours of community service; Sisters Rita Clare and Joann received 500 hours of community service each.

At the time of their arrest, Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara (then General Superior of the Sisters of Providence) said, “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. 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.”

Read the original press releases:

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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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