Rose Marie Berger

Senior Associate Editor, Sojourners magazine
Photo: Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Rose, a native of the West Coast, lives in Washington, D.C. She has been on Sojourners staff since 1986.

For more than 25 years, Rose has rooted herself with Sojourners magazine and ministry. She is author of Drawn By God: A History of the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries from 1967 to 1991 (with Janet Gottschalk, 2012) and Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood.

A native of the West Coast, Rose has lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. since the mid-1980s. In the course of a 30 plus-year career in faith-based activism, advocacy journalism, and pastoral leadership, she has proven to be a skilled organizer, exceptional writer, visionary pastoral leader, and innovative teacher of biblical literacy.

With Sojourners, Rose has worked as an organizer on peace and environmental issues, internship program director, liturgist, community pastor, poetry editor, and, currently, as a Senior Associate Editor of Sojourners magazine, where she writes a regular column on spirituality and justice. She is responsible for the Living the Word section, poetry, Bible studies, and interviews – and oversees the production of study guides, discussion guides, and the online bible study Preaching the Word. She is also a religion reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a Huffington Post commentator. Her work has appeared in Religion News Service, Radical Grace, The Merton Seasonal, U.S. Catholic, and elsewhere.

Rose has a veteran history in social justice activism, including: organizing inter-religious witness against the Keystone XL pipeline; educating and training groups in nonviolence; leading retreats in spirituality and justice; writing on topics as diverse as the “Spiritual Vision of Van Gogh, O'Keeffe, and Warhol,” the war in the Balkans, interviews with black activists Vincent Harding and Yvonne Delk, the Love Canal's Lois Gibbs, and Mexican archbishop Ruiz, cultural commentary on the Catholic church and the peace movement, reviews of movies, books, and music.

A founding member of a small creative writing group, Rose Berger has taught writing and poetry workshops for children and adults. She’s completed her MFA in poetry through the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. Her poetry has been published in Sojourners, The Other Side, Radix and D.C. Poets Against the War.

Rose grew up in the Central Valley of California, located in the rich flood plains of the Sacramento and American rivers. Raised in radical Catholic communities heavily influenced by Franciscans and the Catholic Worker movement, she served for nine years on the pastoral team for Sojourners Community Church; five as its co-pastor. She directed Sojourners internship program from 1990-1999. She is currently Senior Associate Editor and Poetry Editor for Sojourners magazine.

She has traveled throughout the United States, and also in Israel/Palestine, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and El Salvador visiting primarily with faith communities working for peace in situations of conflict.

Rose’s articles include:

She co-owns a house with Sojourners Senior Associate Editor Julie Polter in the Southern Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and shares it with Rose’s retriever “Juba.”

Posts By This Author

When You See Something ... Act!

by Rose Marie Berger 04-25-2018
Active-bystander intervention is what 'love your neighbor' looks like in public.

ROBERT HARVEY had a problem. The church he pastors was vandalized after the election: “Trump Nation. Whites only” was scrawled across its sign. His congregants, nearly 85 percent of whom are immigrants from West Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, were shaken.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 1,094 bias-related incidents across the country in the month after the election. The greatest number of these types of events are against women in public spaces who are also immigrants, Muslim, or African American. These are assumed to be a “small fraction of hate-related incidents,” as the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported.

Harvey, rector of Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Md., decided to take action. First, he reached out to the local community and other religious congregations. Second, he signed up for a nonviolence and “active bystander intervention” training.

To understand how to be an “active bystander,” one must first understand the “passive bystander” effect. Research shows that when someone needs help and they are in a crowd, bystanders are less likely to act. The more bystanders there are to an event, the more each one thinks someone else will help.

Bosnian Butcher Radovan Karadžić Says Genocide Conviction Based on Jokes

by Rose Marie Berger 04-23-2018

Image via Yves Herman/Reuters

"America, keep your peace. You don't know how precious it is and how terrible is war."

Bond Denied for 7 Catholic Protesters Who Prayed on Nuclear Submarine Base in Georgia

Photo courtesy Heidi L. Thompson

Just steps away from a decommissioned submarine buried in the ground near the main gate at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, anti-nuclear peace activists held a vigil Saturday morning to protest the U.S. nuclear arsenal and to show support for seven Catholic peace activists arrested early Thursday morning for unauthorized entry onto the base.

Life Inside a Tomb

by Rose Marie Berger 03-23-2018
Jesus rose in three days but some forms of resurrection seem to take longer.

IT IS HARD to tell time from inside a tomb. We cannot know how many minutes or hours Jesus’ resurrection took. Traditionally, he was in the tomb for three days. But how long does it really take for someone to rise—or be raised—from the dead?

Some resurrections start at a mundane moment. Dorothy Day, for example, was sitting at the kitchen table in a crowded apartment in New York’s East Village (writing a never-to-be published novel) when the French Catholic theologian Peter Maurin knocked on the door. “It was a long time before I really knew what Peter was talking about that first day,” wrote Day, who went on to found the Catholic Worker movement with Maurin. “But he did make three points I thought I understood: founding a newspaper for clarification of thought, starting houses of hospitality, and organizing farming communes. I did not really think then of the latter two as having anything to do with me, but I did know about newspapers.”

Some resurrections come through brutal suffering. Twenty-four-year-old Recy Taylor was left for dead in 1944 on a dark road near Abbeville, Ala., by the six white men who kidnapped and raped her as she walked home from a prayer meeting at Rock Hill Holiness Church. “A few days later, a telephone rang at the NAACP branch office in Montgomery,” wrote historian Danielle L. McGuire in At the Dark End of the Street. The president of the local branch promised to send his “best investigator” to speak with Recy Taylor. The investigator’s name was Rosa Parks. As part of Park’s organizing work on Taylor’s case, she formed what would become the Montgomery Improvement Association, the leaders responsible for instigating the bus boycott a decade later, an opening salvo of the civil rights movement.

An Outline for a Service Acknowledging War Crimes

by Rose Marie Berger 02-27-2018
A poem.

“Has the United States ever apologized?
Or are we too big to apologize?”

—Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson

The Chaplains Handbook has no confiteor or rite,
neither Book of Common Prayer nor missalette,
for scrutinies that beg forgiveness from the torn

and desecrated dead. We come contrite
for reports of helicopter gunships,
bodies observed in a ditch, the undress

of a girl who covered only her eyes:
Noncombatant gang rape, with bayonet.

The Way of the Gun

by Rose Marie Berger 01-26-2018
The gun involved in Donte Manning's death belonged to a cop.

THIRTEEN YEARS ago, on Holy Thursday, 9-year-old Donte Manning was shot around the corner from my house in Washington, D.C.

He died of his injuries four weeks later, on the Feast of Paschasius Radbertus, a ninth-century Benedictine theologian who wrote on intimacy between the body of Christ crucified and the real presence in the Eucharist. Donte’s death impacted me deeply. (I wrote a book about his murder.)

Caught in the crossfire between neighborhood rivals, Donte Manning was the real body sacrificed on the altar of this imperial city where teenage boys shoot each other over $200 Air Jordans and the Pentagon exports more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces, just in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The Pentagon lost track of more than half of them.)

As theologian Ched Myers reminds, “Against the presence of Power is pitted the power of Presence: God with us.”

Donte Manning’s murder was never solved. It remains a cold case. Mitch Credle, the investigating detective, retired from the D.C. Metropolitan Police. In October, he decided it was time to talk about his one unsolved murder. He was interviewed by local news reporter Paul Wagner.

The Pope Makes a (Very) Long Distance Call

by Rose Marie Berger 11-29-2017
What does it mean to call "Love" the force that moves the universe?

Pope Francis reaches to the margins. He’s washed the feet of prisoners and homeless families. Like his Assisi namesake, he’s hugged contemporary “lepers” and made common cause with garbage collectors. But I was still surprised when the pope made a 20-minute video call to the International Space Station in orbit 200 miles above the Earth.

Pope Francis wasn’t the first pontiff to make that long-distance call—his predecessor did that in 2011. But tracking stars and gazing into the heavens have been part of Judeo-Christian tradition since God asked whether Job could “bind the cluster of the Pleiades or loose the belt of Orion” (38:31) some 3,500 years ago. Despite that unfortunate Galileo kerfuffle in the 1600s over the “heresy” of believing that the Earth revolved around the sun, the Vatican has operated state-of the art telescopes since 1582.

As an enthralled 5-year-old, I made a scrapbook about the Apollo 11 spaceflight that placed the first humans on the moon. As an 18-year-old, I marveled at the elegance of physics formulas that served equally well for measuring distances in cells and solar systems. At 54, I laughed out loud when I recognized Fibonacci’s sequence in the passionflower we planted in the back alley. “The universe as a whole, in all its manifold relationships, shows forth the inexhaustible riches of God,” wrote Pope Francis.

 

Nonviolent Fight Club: Why U.S. Catholics Are Still Debating Nonviolence

by Rose Marie Berger 10-20-2017

Image via 30th MED/Flickr

The work of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, born from the April 2016 Rome meeting, recognizes that most of the people with political power are not the victims of social violence. CNI is bringing the voice of grassroots Catholics in the majority of the world, who are the primary victims of social violence and war, into the ring.

Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

by Rose Marie Berger 09-21-2017
It's hard to hear with the devil tweeting in your ear.

The coastal fog lifts to the height of soft bluffs and a man appears on the beach. The tide is low. I watch him hold a specially crafted staff in his right hand that he uses to poke, prod, and drag lines in the sand. He totters along like a modern Rumi, hand scribing an elegant poem on the strand. Perhaps in sand script it says: “Small birds destroyed an army, so you’d know they gained their strength from God.”

For the past six years, Denny Dyke has kept his morning ritual, creating intimately carved, hundred-feet-wide sand labyrinths—sacred circles, holy walkways, salt-soaked mandalas—on the Oregon coast. He draws for an hour, outlining 4,000-year-old designs and adding his own, creating ephemeral art.

I met Denny near Bandon, Ore., at a time I was desperate for spiritual rest. It has been an exhausting year. A year since the demon of white supremacy recaptured the White House. A year of rapacious capitalist thugs masquerading as legislators, callous political buffoonery inciting legislative chaos, greasy fingers tweeting too near the nuclear button, acts of hate rising like sea levels.

Why Don’t We Have a 2-Check System on Our Nuclear Weapons?

by Rose Marie Berger 09-18-2017

Image via Shutterstock.com

"It always requires two people, two separate actions, to launch, steal, sabotage, or tinker with an atomic warhead," Peter Zimmerman, nuclear physicist and State Department consultant wrote for USA Today. "This is the inviolable two-person rule intended to prevent misuse of a nuclear weapon."

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