Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and poet. She has been on Sojourners staff since 1986, and worked for social justice movements for 40 years. Rose has rooted herself with Sojourners magazine and ministry. She has written hundreds of articles for Sojourners and other publications and is a sought after preacher and public speaker. After living in Washington, D.C., for 35 years, she moved to Oak View, Calif., in 2022.
Rose’s work in Christian nonviolence has taken her to conflict zones around the world. She is active in the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, and served as co-editor for Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World, the fruit of a multiyear, global, participatory process to deepen Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence. Her poetry has appeared in the books Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting a Bioregional Faith and Practice and Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together. She is author of Bending the Arch: Poems (2019), 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. She has also been a religion reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a Huffington Post commentator. Her work has appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Publishers Weekly, Religion News Service, Radical Grace-Oneing, The Merton Seasonal, U.S. Catholic, and elsewhere. She serves on the board of The International Thomas Merton Society.
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 editor of Sojourners magazine, where she writes a regular column on spirituality and justice. She is responsible for the Living the Word biblical reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary, poetry, Bible studies, and interviews – and oversees the production of study guides and the online Bible study Preaching the Word.
Rose has a veteran history in social justice activism, including: leading the first international, inter-religious peace witness into Kyiv, Ukraine, following the outbreak of war in 2022, 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.
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 a senior editor and poetry editor for Sojourners magazine. She has traveled throughout the United States, and also in Ukraine, 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 was born when atmospheric CO2 was at 319.08 ppm and now lives with her wife Heidi Thompson in Oak View, Calif., in the Ventura River watershed on traditional Chumash lands. Learn more at rosemarieberger.com.
Rose’s articles include:
- Pursuing the Secret of Joy: What is joy when it's not promiscuously tied to happiness, Hallmark, or hedonism?
- Why Our Faith Delegation went to Ukraine?: Our public message was simple: “We have come to Kyiv in solidarity to pray for a just peace.”
- Nonviolence in Najaf?: Will we recognize an Islamic peace movement when we see it?
- Of Love's Risen Body: The poetry of Denise Levertov, 1923-1997
- Glimpses of God Outside the Temple: The spiritual vision of Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe, and Andy Warhol.
- Damnation Will Not Be Televised: Almost everything I know about hell I learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Christian nonviolence, peace, war
- Catholic Nonviolence Initiative
- Climate change, creation care, watershed discipleship
- Bible study, liturgical year
- Spirituality and social justice
- Any topic covered in Sojourners magazine
- Preference for virtual events, but willing to discuss in-person events on case-by-case basis
Posts By This Author
In Colorado, ranchers and environmentalists are collaborating in a common causeprotecting water rights and sustainable land use.
Bread Not Bombs
International relief organizations in Kabul are employing 3,500 women bakers to ensure that more than a quarter of a million Afghan school children are fed during the school year.
First he took off his hat and coat; then his sweater and shirt.
Down on Double Deuces
The Christian Coalition of Georgia, along with Peace State Methodist and Baptist churches, are in a pitched battle to close down the state's video poker machines.
Catholic Scandal, Ecumenical Solution
While much recent media hype has focused on the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in the rest of American Christendom. This truly is a crisis that crosses all borders.
For example, research by Richard Blackmon at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12 percent of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38 percent acknowledged other inappropriate sexualized contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8 percent of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague or pastor; 17 percent of laywomen said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them.
Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. And solutions must be broader and deeper than those carried out by Catholic cardinals. The whole church has a responsibility to offer decisive leadership in the area of sexual misconduct—whether it is child abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual harassment.
Recently, churches have shown unprecedented unity on issues of poverty and welfare reform. Now it is necessary to call for a broad-based ecumenical council addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in the church. Its goal would be transparency and openness in developing stringent, forward-looking guidelines, consistent with denominational distinctions, for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within Christian churches and church-related institutions. Such a council could include not only denominational representatives but also a majority presence from external organizations such as child protection agencies, law enforcement, psychiatric services, victims' agencies, and legal and legislative representatives.
Here are answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions about traveling on the Jesus Road.
1. Who else will be going with us?
Well, some guy from the IRS signed up. A couple of machinists (one's even non-union). There are some middle-aged women who knew how to buy low and sell high, kicking in a little cash for the trip. A girl in the sex trade business who might bring a couple of her friends who are exotic dancers. A few 20-something anarchists who want to yank the hinge pin out of the whole damn Pax America project. A soccer mom. One guy who identifies himself as a "pretty much reformed" sex offender. A Gulf war vet. A minister or two who will hook up after their evening church meetings are done. We'll most likely pick up more folks as we go along.
2. What do I need to bring?
It's pretty much a come-as-you-are arrangement. Good walking shoes. Maybe a water bottle. We're not sure how far we're going so it's best to pack light. We can get what we need along the way.
3. What will we talk about?
What things make you happy. Who you love. Who you hate. Why cities are so tall. What to do when so many people come to the picnic that you run out of food. How to be a good person. What to do when your friends leave you high and dry. How to fight for what's right without using your fists. Who God is. How to deal with a bad boss. How to tell the difference between a phony bill of goods and the genuine article. How to mourn. How to get rid of money so it doesn't weigh you down. How to pray. How to forgive. Why people are poor. How to die. How to live.
A Toast to Freedom
Fierce Legion of Friends: A History of Human Rights Campaigns and Campaigners by Linda Rabben
The Fragmentation of the Church and Its Unity in Peacemaking, edited by Jeffrey Gros and John D. Rempel
Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking by Arthur G. Gish
Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance by Beverly Bell
There are basically three kinds of power: domination, collaboration, and satyagraha (truth force). Domination is political power that proceeds from the barrel of a gun. Collaboration promotes "united we stand, divided we fall." Truth force, or spiritual power, preaches "the truth will set you free." All three kinds of power make up the shifting riverbed of the history of social movements and campaigns.
Linda Rabben's Fierce Legion of Friends tracks the strategies of modern social campaigns, an interest that started with her work for Amnesty International in Brazil. Reading through case histories, she discovered the rich and often tragic stories of people who crusaded for freedom in every generation.
Who were the lesser-known people who pushed forward the British, American, and Brazilian anti-slavery movements? How did the famous ceramicist Josiah Wedgwood come to develop a line of Jubilee pottery to fund the abolitionist cause? What prompted lawyer Wendell Phillips to link slave rights with workers' rights? Who marched in support of Chicago's Haymarket prisoners? How did Mark Twain end up fighting against forced labor in the Belgian Congo? Rabben takes the reader through an extraordinary living history honoring organizers, letter writers, and petition signers who collaborated to transform societies for the better.
Do You Voodoo?
Clergy, labor, and civil rights groups protested with employees outside a Miami nursing home after the management filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board...
Rose of the Year
It's the perfect Jackson & Perkins rose for fresh-cut arrangements—velvety bright true red petals on the outside, hardy and disease-resistant on the inside.
The Original "Gospel Tract" Flying Disc
The good news that's meant to be tossed! "Slip It and Flip It!" That's right!
Kids and Sex
Teen pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates have declined in the United States since 1991. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy lists 10 rules for effective sex education programs.
Just Do It.
Friedensdorf, the international peace village in Germany, brought 8-year-old Mohammad Rahim and 30 other children from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Dusseldorf, Germany, last December for medical treatment.
Israel's Defense Forces: "No More"
More than 320 members of the Israeli Defense Forces have signed a pledge refusing "to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people" through "missions of occupation and oppression..."
Little Mud Hut. Caritas International is building 425 adobe homes for Afghan refugees. Construction materials are mainly local clay and water.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southern California has launched a billboard public awareness campaign promoting good will between Muslims and their neighbors.
Good Drug Smugglers?
The French agency Doctors Without Borders and the South African AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign are smuggling cheaper generic versions of three anti-retroviral AIDS drugs...
The Monks of Malt
Since 1455, the Benedictine monks of the Kloster Andechs monastery, situated in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, have dedicated themselves to brewing a superior beer.
Glocalization (say what?)
McDonald's 29,000 restaurants in 120 countries make it the largest fast food franchise in the $112 billion-a-year industry.
Fun With Facts
The waste produced by one chicken in its lifetime can supply enough electricity to run a 100-watt bulb for five hours.