Today, I am starting on another Ultimate Blogging Challenge, something that I have participated in since 2014. I don’t remember how I found this challenge, but I am glad that I did. It has helped me to grow as a writer and as a photographer and as a human being. The challenge is held quarterly and many people participate in it each time or almost each time. I have made new friends as a result of this challenge. These writers encourage me to grow as a writer and a blogger and as a human being. So, for me, the blogging challenge is about growth.
For today’s blog post, I would like to celebrate someone whose very life and being encouraged me to grow as a human being, starting long before I had ever heard of the concept of blogging. Sister Ardeth Platte was a Dominican sister, a retired teacher and principal, and a determined anti nuclear weapons activist. She and her best friend, Sister Carol Gilbert, risked their lives and their freedom to share the message that we can do better for the future of our planet than to stockpile large numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, such as Trident submarines.
I first met Sister Ardeth in April of 2004, when I was sentenced to ninety days at the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut, for crossing the Fort Benning fence. When I was getting ready to go there, I was told that she was waiting for me, which thoroughly amazed me because she was quite well known for the Plowshares action that she, Sister Carol, and Sister Jackie Hudson did in 2002. They attracted a lot of attention to the fact that there were nuclear missile silos in Colorado. I felt amazed and humbled that this wonderful, courageous, and well known religious sister was eager to see me.
And she was. From the moment I met Sister Ardeth, I felt enveloped by love and by a faith that was so pure and so filled with love that, sometimes, I would just look at her with amazement. She treated the prison like a community, and she put a great deal of effort into making sure that everyone had their needs met. She helped new people make their beds, which had to be made a very specific way. She made sure that new people had enough personal care items to satisfy their needs before they could go to the commissary. When I was moved to a room that was called “the snoring room,” she made sure that I was equipped with earplugs. She wanted me to sleep well, and she said that she could hear the snoring through the walls.
Sister Ardeth’s mission to serve her community was a lifelong mission. She served as a teacher and as a principal in her home state of Michigan. After retirement, she served her community as a member of the city council. After she decided to dedicate her life to a nuclear free future, she and her friend Sister Carol moved to Jonah House in Baltimore, where they lived for a long time, serving the poor of the community in their food pantry and tending to the cemetery on the grounds of Jonah House. She was in and out of prisons and jails as the result of her activism. In prison, she served her community. She shared her faith with her actions of love. Her very being was a testimony of faith.
She was released from prison in December 2005 and she returned to her beloved Jonah House. The passing years saw Sister Ardeth serving the poor of her community, leading tour groups around the grounds of Jonah House, speaking to college students and others about the need for a future free of nuclear weapons, and so much more. She continued to protest on issues of peace and justice. Her protests and, indeed, her very life, were statements of faith and love of God and of her fellow human being.
In her later years, she moved to the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, where she tended the garden and gave much produce to anyone in the neighboring community who wanted the life sustaining food. The food was healthy and full of the love that Sister Ardeth poured into everything that she touched.
One of the things that Sister Ardeth touched was me. She was always full of love and encouragement for me. In her last email to me, written just four days ago, she said, “Sending you Birthday Greetings dear Alice! You have been in thoughts and prayers on this day and many other days. We hope you are very well, and that this virus has not been near you and family. I’m sending you our updates via e-mail. Did I tell you how much we love your writings? It is your gift. I’m not up to date at all regarding the School of Assassins. The tone about it is lower now that the gatherings have switched to the border. Also Roy is aging and cannot do what he used to do. Of course we are all aging, right? So know that you are being celebrated on your birthday in Washington DC. I’m sending you another update too – our six months during the pandemic. Love, Ardeth (and Carol too)”
Sister Ardeth passed quietly in her sleep yesterday. She was 84 years old. She leaves behind a legacy of love for all humans. And that includes me. I am better for having known her. She has taught me much, and she will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sister Ardeth Platte, presente.