|June 22, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA|
Retired, and now with a renewed purpose
Earlier this year during Holy Week, Rev. Brian Joyce finally got himself arrested, and the priest couldn't have been more pleased.
Organized by the Ecumenical Peace Institute and the Livermore Conversion Project, the event was held to denounce the continuing high cost of military spending and other related actions "that destroy life rather than create or protect it."
"My tax dollars are paying for this," Father Joyce said. "I hate to see that."
For more than 50 years as a priest Father Joyce has served the Church at both the diocesan and parish levels. He has been an associate pastor, diocesan director of adult education, diocesan chancellor and pastor of two parishes, St. Monica in Moraga, for nearly 10 years and lastly at Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill for more than 26 years.
Long before he retired last year, Father Joyce said he felt that he had been called to do more despite his health issues. He is living with both the aftereffects of a mild stroke and the onset of Parkinson's Disease. Although he has trouble talking and writing, the priest is determined to do as much as he can.
The retired priest sees his later-in-life activism as another way to serve the people of God. "I think that is what Jesus did," he said.
Father Joyce wasn't the only priest of a certain maturity at the Good Friday action. His friend, Rev. Louis Vitale, OFM, a former provincial of his religious community, is well known for his many years as an advocate of social justice. Over a span of about 50 years the Franciscan friar has been arrested and put in jail more times than even he can remember in his pursuit of peace and justice.
Father Vitale has walked picket lines with farm workers and marched for civil rights legislation and against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Recently he has been in conversation with people involved in the Occupy movement — a movement bringing together people who want to see economic and social change.
"It's good to hear that people are concerned about how other people are treated," Father Vitale said.
Father Vitale, who recently celebrated his 83rd birthday, said that the late Father Bill O'Donnell, a longtime activist who also was arrested and jailed numerous times as he fought for justice in American society, was an inspiration. "Father Bill wouldn't go to a protest if he couldn't get arrested," quipped Father Vitale.
Fathers Joyce and Vitale will likely cross paths again this year at events marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of World War II in August. Neither age nor ailments will deter them from trying to make a change in the world, which both men pointed out, is part of their ministry as Catholics and as priests.
"Jesus said it all — thou shall not kill," Father Vitale said.
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