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Berrigan Brothers

by Morgen MacIntosh Hodgetts 2/5/2014 9:18:00 AM

Special Collections and Archives recently posted updated Finding Aids for the Berrigan-McAlister Collection and the Jerome C. Berrigan Papers, and a new Finding Aid for the Daniel Berrigan Papers on our website.  December 2013 marked the end of a fourteen month reprocessing project for these collections.  The prominence of Catholic Left leaders Phil Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan, and Liz McAlister coupled with DePaul’s commitment to the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) Consortium inspired the reprocessing project.  The revised arrangement and descriptions for these collections will enhance access to these premiere collections for scholars and students and searchable versions of the finding aids will be added to the CRRA portal in the coming months.

These collections document the lives of three brothers (Jerry, Dan, and Phil Berrigan) who were inspired and motivated to create change in their local communities and the world by protesting wars, weapons, and injustice faced by victims of war.  The Berrigans were part of a community of activists skilled in civil disobedience and non-violent protests that evolved from the public’s response to social and political issues of the 1950s and 1960s, namely the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War.  Notably, the brothers did not quit their activism at the end of the Vietnam War but continued to demonstrate their concerns about nuclear weapons and U.S. military involvement in foreign conflicts with the creation of the Plowshares Movement in 1980.  Raised and educated as Catholics, the brothers’ faith-based views inform a shared commitment to peace and social justice.  The individual talents and personal journeys of each brother are documented in their papers but just as their lives were intertwined so are these archival collections.  Researchers are encouraged to discover connections that exist in the letters written by Dan and Jerry to Phil during his imprisonment for Plowshares actions in the late 1990s and letters written by Dan to Jerry as he traveled around the country giving retreats and lectures.  
2.	Daniel Berrigan to [Philip Berrigan], December 8, 1997, Berrigan-McAlister Collection, Box 11, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
5.	Liz McAlister to Frida and Jerry Berrigan, February 23, 1977, Berrigan-McAlister Collection, Box 15, Special Collections and Archives, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.  The majority of the material in the Berrigan-McAlister Collection, the Daniel Berrigan Papers, and the Jerome C. Berrigan Papers dates from the 1980s through the 2000s.  Sources documenting the Berrigans’ protest activities from the 1960s and 1970s are primarily held in the Daniel and Philip Berrigan Collection at Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.  However, there are a few documents, posters, and writings from this period in DePaul’s collections.  Some of the gems that were discovered during the recent reprocessing project are letters written in 1977 by Phil’s wife, Liz McAlister, to their two eldest children while she was serving a prison sentence for a peace action.  In a series of letters written between February 5 and March 18, 1977, Liz writes what she refers to as an Alphabet Communication to their two small children, Frida and Jerry.  Each letter features a letter of the alphabet, and contains drawings and clippings of words that start with each alphabet letter.  In each letter there is a short loving message from Liz to her children.  Other letters written by Liz to the children describe the importance of Lent and Easter, include lessons about Christ’s teachings, and reveal Liz’s commitment to working for a bomb-free world for her children.

Over the years since the original acquisition of the Berrigan-McAlister Collection in 2001, friends and colleagues of the Berrigans such as Charles Glackin, Fr. John McNamee, Elmer Maas, and Murray Polner have generously donated letters, photographs, and research files that help provide context and additional documentation of the Berrigan family’s lifelong dedication to peace and justice.

For more information, contact Special Collections and Archives: 773-325-7864 or

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