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
Osama bin Laden: The Death of the 'Madman with a Sword'
Video: Afghan Youth Ask, 'Are There No Other Options Than Killing?'
Baptizing for Life
Addiction is not an individual disease; it's a family sickness.
Lessons From Behind Bars
In 2010, Hope House DC received a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. to support participation in the National Endowment for the Arts' Big Read project. Hope House placed about 100 copies of Earnest J. Gaines' classic A Lesson Before Dying in two prisons that have high concentrations of District of Columbia inmates.
In the Wake of Japan Disaster, Must We Accept Nuclear Power?
For Black Farmers, Fight For Civil Rights Continues
On March 7, 1965, 600 civil rights marchers attempted to walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of equal voting rights for blacks and whites.
Peace Through (Nonviolent) Strength
Erica Chenoweth directs Wesleyan University's program on terrorism and insurgency research, which she established in 2008. Her work will be featured in the upcoming May issue of Sojourners magazine. Erica is doing innovative research on the strategic effectiveness of civil resistance and nonviolent revolution. Recently, she wrote a post at Monkey Cage on why traditional "peace and security" academic programs should include nonviolence and civil resistance tactics as part of their programs. "It is time for security studies to take nonviolent conflict seriously," writes Chenoweth, "and to incorporate such episodes and their dynamics into the canonical literature."
Matthew Kelty and the Beauty of a Good Death
Why Does a Yemeni Woman Have Pictures of Gandhi, King, and Mandela?
Wendell Berry Won't Quit Trying to Save the Mountains
Rachel's Wail for a Murdered Teen
Last week the body of a young woman was found near my house. She was 17 years old. She'd been murdered. The garbage men reported finding her in a supercan in the alley.
Remembering the Little Bishop Who Roared
Guantanamo: When Will It Get Foreclosed?
Please keep in your prayers those who are fasting and praying at the U.S. capitol between January 11 to 21, keeping vigil for the closing of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo. As an opening to their prayer vigil Wednesday, they engaged in a little prophetic street theater in front of the Justice Department.
In August 2007, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo, saying, "As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists."
In January 2009, one of President Obama's first official acts was to sign an executive order promising to close Guantanamo within one year. "This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard," he said.
Who Killed Donte Manning?
When I moved to the riot-dismembered neighborhood of Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C., in 1986, I had no idea I would still be here more than 20 years later. I anticipated a rather bohemian life of Christian itinerancy—owning little property and moving where the spirit led. Instead, I was provided with a 100-year-old house (with much of the original wiring) and the gift of stability.
It is from this house that, on some mornings, I glimpse little neighborhood boys on their way to school. Donte Manning was undoubtedly one of those boys—laughing with the school crossing guard, running with his friends, scraping handfuls of snow off parked cars for snowballs. He was just a little boy.
In the mysterious mechanics of God's universe, Donte's murder on Holy Thursday in 2005 set off a spiritual alarm deep inside me. I followed the scraps of his story in The Washington Post. I read the police reports and spoke with neighbors. Over time, his story became linked with my own—and with our own story as Americans.
Donte Manning was in the third grade when he was shot in the face around the corner from my house. Pop, pop, pop. It was Holy Thursday—a little before 10 p.m. The next morning I was leaving Washington, D.C., for a trip to El Salvador. Pop, pop, pop. Six shots on a street filled with kids enjoying a warm night before the Easter holiday.
Out of the Mouths of Asses...
It's often good to have a donkey with you when you pray. They provide a natural antidote to excessive piety. Take my recent retreat day at the Jonah House Catholic Worker community in Baltimore. Since 1992, the members of Jonah House have served as caretakers for a 20-acre Catholic cemetery that had been abandoned since the 1980s. Bit by bit the community is reclaiming the graveyard from the underbrush and overgrowth. It’s bordered by the Emanuel Tire Co. reclamation plant, a Section-8 housing complex, and the Maryland National Guard.
On All Saints Day I visited Jonah House to quietly pray the litany of the saints while surrounded by that "great cloud of witnesses"—both living and dead. It was a stunning autumn morning. Sunlight filtered through the red oaks. However, while walking the quarter-mile track around the graves and headstones, I was unceremoniously shoved from behind—hard.
This was my introduction to Vinnie the 3-year-old donkey. Despite the name, Vinnie actually is female. (The president of the St. Peter's Cemetery Foundation demanded that the next animal adopted into the community be named after him. What can you do?) And she's very strong. After I completed a few more circuits of the prayer walk—with Vinnie doing heavy prodding and me jabbing back hard between "amens"—we reached a rapprochement. I walked with a handful of grass in my left hand and Vinnie sauntered easily beside me, nibbling as we went. I felt like St. Francis. A victorious achievement in sacred cross-species communion.
This Veterans Day, Honor the Consciences of Our Veterans
More Books on Nonviolence
Words on the Living Word
Celebrate the Peace Parade
Books on nonviolence, in theory and in practice.
Loving the World
"For God so loved the world ..." Lately John 3:16 won't leave me alone. It hovers above my shoulder as I read The Washington Post. Really, God? You love this world?