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
A Cure for Kosovo?
Resisting a Bitter Harvest
Putting Pen to Paper
The Classic Con
I have to confess a deep and abiding respect for the old-fashioned flimflam man, the confidence man, that knave and schemer who can bilk you out of billions (or just your retirement fund) and have you thanking him as he tips his hat in exit.
Take Stanley Huntington of Farmington, New Mexico, for example. He pulled the classic con. Huntington’s smooth, sincere sales pitch offered citizens a chance to help the government and preserve the environment at the same time. He was selling "California red super-worms"—genetically developed for the digesting of nuclear waste. For only $500, you get four pounds of super-worms to raise at home until you double or triple your total worm population and your initial investment when you resell your super-reds to the local nuclear waste burial facility. According to Huntington (and his completely false but very official-looking contract with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant), the government will pay top dollar for these "rad-reds." You’ll make millions!
Who says Americans have lost our creative edge! We may not think much of the fine arts, or even the avant-garde, but we still shell out for the con arts.
Languages and People Disappeared
Rough hands gripped mine. I stared down, uncomfortable, at the yellow and silver Formica table. "Tat nupal," the voices began, "tey tinemi tic ne ylhuicatl." In a run-down tract house in the weedy suburbs of Washington, D.C., five Salvadoran refugees began their evening blessing over our meal. "Our Creator in heaven," they pray in Nahuat, one of the indigenous languages of El Salvador. As a poet in a time when languages are being lost at a rate equivalent to the rain forest, I clung to the edges of the words, the narrowness of their sound, their rhythm like wind in high trees, never expecting to hear them again.
John Sayles’ newest film, Men With Guns, not only includes dialogue in Nahuat, but in Tzotzil, Maya, and Kuna, as well as Spanish and English. "Language is one of the main gaps between people," Sayles says about his characters. "If everyone was speaking English, the story wouldn’t make as much sense." (The subtitles, by the way, are clear and excellent.)
In his understated way, Sayles’ movie mission is about making sense. He does so not in a rational, superficial, or always socially recognizable way, but on a very human and spiritual level, digging at the question of how to shore up faith and uncover meaning in daily life.
Sayles characteristically uses a guide, an outsider, someone who leads the viewer through self-discovery in the story. In The Brother From Another Planet (1984), the guide is a black mute extraterrestrial who beams down in Harlem; in Matewan (1987), a union organizer; in The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), a young girl. In Men With Guns, our "escort" is Humberto Fuentes (Argentinean actor Federico Luppi), a wealthy doctor approaching retirement who has never paid any attention to the political realities of his unspecified country. He considers his greatest achievement to be his participation in an international health program in which he trained students to work as doctors in the poorest villages.
Of Love's Risen Body
Tibet or Not Tibet
The Art of Loving
We can call Mother Teresa saintly without also calling her a prophet.
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates
When most people hear "Silicon Valley," words such as clean, pure, technologically developed, and high personal income usually come to mind.
What Sustains over the Long Haul
The Good Housekeeping Award
One Monk, One Yak
Northern cardinal chips away
at the blue light
The Gospel Passion
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part....
Two Faces of Bosnia
It's 4:20 p.m. I'm standing over the Olympic soccer stadium in Sarajevo. From one goal post to the other are graves-headstones of various sizes and shapes, most unmarked.
Calm Before the Storm?
In Bosnia, there are no easy answers. Any question naively put forth by outsiders prompts a history lesson that usually begins at the time of Constantine if directed at a Croat, the 1389 Battle of Kosovo if toward a Serb, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire if speaking with a Muslim. For Americans who can't remember what they watched on television last night, this can be a bit disconcerting. However, while history does not predetermine a country's direction, it does highlight possible futures.
In the aftermath of genocide in Bosnia, the fundamental question is, Did this have to happen? The answer is no. Here at the end of the 20th century we have participated in a global dramatization of the adage, "All that evil needs to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing."
Contrary to the propaganda of the U.S. media, the former Yugoslavia is not genetically encoded for violence; nor did the collapse of communism preordain civil war. The mass graves that NATO forces are opening in Srebrenica, Jajce, and Tuzla are not only filled with sons, fathers, daughters, and friends, but with the coldly pragmatic, morally vacuous remnants of empires' attempts to save themselves.
Serbian President Milosevi´c, a very intelligent Communist hardliner, had no future in the age of democracy, so he initiated a violent land grab, particularly for Bosnia's military-industrial factories. Croatian President Tudjman had a small-minded Nixonesque craving for power. After Croatia's relatively successful secession from Yugoslavia, he took advantage of the chaos created by the Serb aggression to indulge his greed and extend the Croatian borders.
I dream now of potatoes—
white, russet, red.
Sentinel potatoes, like Argus,
with eyes everywhere;
watching the dead underground
in the cemetery,
in the stadium,
in the streetcar turnaround.
Death's Dance Broken
Dianna Ortiz's Vigil for Truth.