Elizabeth McAlister was a founding member of Jonah House, a Catholic resistance community in Baltimore. She now lives in New York City. 

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From the Archives: February 1986

by Elizabeth McAlister 12-19-2018
A Call to Our Hearts

IMAGINE the refugee woman as the figure who replaces the hero in our consciousness. She is the archetype of our vulnerability fleshed out in the hostage, the homeless, the poor, the prisoner, the victim of human-made and natural disasters. Her image calls us to acknowledge that we are all vulnerable. No one is secure. It tells us that the more we cling to our securities, the more we become playthings of illusion. ...

The Witness of Radical Welcome

by Elizabeth McAlister 04-25-2018
The Long Loneliness in Baltimore: Stories Along the Way, by Brendan Walsh, artwork by Willa Bickham. Apprentice House.

IN 1967, I TRAVELED with activist friends from New York to Baltimore to support four people there who poured blood on the 1A files that compelled young men into the military and the massacre in Vietnam. The “Baltimore 4,” as they became known, committed the first of some 100 actions focused on draft boards, the source of cannon fodder in the ever-escalating wars in Indochina. It was during one of these trips that I met Willa Bickham and her husband, Brendan Walsh. Our friendship has been rich, varied, invaluable.

In The Long Loneliness in Baltimore, Walsh and Bickham tell of their nearing 50 years serving the people of Baltimore as the Viva House Catholic Worker. It is a story that needs telling, especially now in this country that is profoundly ruptured by economic and racial conflict.

Try as the politicians and the press might, it is impossible to disengage economics from race. Bickham and Walsh know this intimately, living in the midst of an impoverished black neighborhood. They have experienced drugs, murders, robberies, and destruction right outside their front doors. The alley that runs beside their home, thanks to their creativity, is marked with memorials to men and boys shot and killed there. Repeatedly, after almost every major killing, Walsh has told the press what has become crystal clear to him: that in Baltimore City (as in too many cities), selling drugs is the only job that exists for all-too-many people of color.

In the garden outside Viva House is the Hope Stone. In Bickham’s script, it quotes Martin Luther King Jr.: “We will hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” That is the invitation to all who come to Viva House for whatever reason, to meet whatever need. Each is sure to receive respectful and caring human interaction, food, fellowship, help with bills, a place to escape the cold or heat or rain, a place of justice and peace.

From the Archives: March 1986

by Elizabeth McAlister 01-31-2014
Exodus and Community

(Anan Kaewkhammul / Shutterstock)

AN ASTONISHING aspect of the miracle that was the Exodus is the recorded “600,000 men on foot, not counting their dependents” (Exodus 12:37). A whole people uprooted themselves and moved into the unknown. This was displacement on a massive scale. Their readiness to move from the security of slavery, from the only reality they had known for four-and-a half generations, was more awesome than the willingness of Pharaoh to let them leave.

What organizer today would not grasp at the key to a process that would move enslaved people in the Egypts of today? ... But this is still the beginning. The 40 years of wandering in the wilderness may have been a punishment for their constant complaining.

Regaining a Moral Compass

by Elizabeth McAlister 04-01-2007
The ongoing truth of King's vision.

Is Marriage Obsolete?

by Elizabeth McAlister 03-01-1996
Sex, fidelity, and freedom.

A Garden in Cracked Soil

by Elizabeth McAlister 04-01-1987

Women: Witnesses to the Resurrection.

Exodus and Community

by Elizabeth McAlister 03-01-1986

By seasons, feasts, and scriptures, the churches seek to lead us through our history to nurture our consciousness on the bread of remembering.

God's Gift of Displacement

by Elizabeth McAlister 02-01-1986

Like Peter, we are called to relinquish control and seek solidarity with the marginalized.

A Community Of Sanity

by Elizabeth McAlister 05-01-1983

A friend, actually the first of many, once asked me a question: "Why do we choose civil disobedience over the more acceptable forms of protest?" The question seemed incorrect.

The Concern Is For Human Life

by Elizabeth McAlister 11-01-1980

Phil and I have two children: Frida, age 6, and Jerome, age 5. They are one year and two weeks apart.

Strengthen All Feeble Arms, Steady All Tottering Knees

An interview with Liz McAllister, Dan Berrigan and Phil Berrigan.