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The Great March

Posted on February 21, 2021, by Loretto Community

Marchers carry a banner as they cross a pedestrian bridge. The banner reads "The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament."
Photo: Jeff Share

In 1986, Sister Mary Beth “Buffy” Boesen walked from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. This was the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament that kicked off in California on March 1, and, after crossing the Mojave Desert, 12,000-foot Loveland Pass in Colorado, plains, cities and towns, ended in Washington, D.C., on November 15 of that year.

Buffy, who saw this march as “full-time work for global nuclear disarmament,” penned letters to the Community, which were shared widely. In October 1986, she wrote that in Ohio, “The reality of the arms race and all the money going to defense hit us hard in Youngstown, as it did in Nebraska and Iowa. So much money is being put into arms that the farmers and locked-out steel workers are suffering beyond my worst imaginings.”

For Holy Week, in “the experience of a lifetime,” Buffy and others visited the Nevada Test Site where a nuclear test had been conducted the previous week. Some of the protestors were “involved in an act of civil disobedience in an effort to halt the testing.”

Nearing the end of the march, Buffy wrote to the Community, “I do believe, that we (you and I) have been successful on this Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. There are millions of people who are no longer as afraid to speak out against nuclear madness. We have been a strong grass roots movement. When we accept the fact that we are the government, we will make a significant difference.”

During the Great March, Buffy, Anna Koop SL and Mary Ann Cunningham SL put together The Heartland Peace Pilgrimage with the support of 26 communities of religious women and 30 peace groups. One hundred and fifty religious sisters and friends from 21 cities walked to meet the marchers when they reached Omaha, Neb. Six hundred peace demonstrators joined together and many, including Loretto Community members, were arrested at the Strategic Air Force Base.

“I remember the young Air Force women waiting to take us into custody listening to our prayers with tears running down their cheeks,” said Mary Ann.

The Great Peace March inspired one the following year in which 230 U.S. citizens, including Buffy, marched in the former Soviet Union from Leningrad to Moscow with 200 Soviet citizens.

With thanks to Mary Beth “Buffy” Boesen SL and Karen Navarro CoL

Mary Luke, Committed Protester

Mary Luke Tobin SL stands next to Father Daniel Berrigan SJ with his arm companionably around her shoulder.
Mary Luke Tobin SL with antiwar activist Father Dan Berrigan, SJ.
Photo: Loretto Archives

Mary Luke Tobin SL was leader of the Loretto Community from 1958 to 1970. She is pictured here with well-known anti-war activist the Rev. Daniel Berrigan. Mary Luke took part in nonviolent actions at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Martin-Marietta in Colorado. She stood her ground at Nevada’s nuclear test site, the U.S. Capitol and the nuclear weapons complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. She was arrested at the Air Force Academy and at the Capitol. In 1981, she traveled with Pam Solo CoL to Amsterdam to attend the International Public Hearing on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament.

With thanks to Karen Navarro CoL

Read the Loretto Magazine Winter 2021 issue in full here.

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