It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of our longtime friend, Fr. Jerry Zawada, OFM – nuclear resister, peace and justice activist, Franciscan Friar. Jerry joined the Heavenly Cloud of Witnesses on July 25, at the age 80.
Jerry served his early years as a Franciscan priest in the Philippines, and later worked with the homeless, war refugees, and survivors of torture in Chicago, Milwaukee, Mexico, Las Vegas, Tucson and elsewhere. Jerry was imprisoned for two years in the late 1980s for repeated trespass at nuclear missile silos in the Midwest; served three six-month prison sentences (2001, 2003, 2005) for trespass at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, and two months in prison in 2007 after crossing the line to protest torture training at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Jerry was also arrested several times at Creech AFB in Nevada, protesting against U.S. drone policy, and at Vandenberg AFB in California, protesting against U.S. nuclear missile testing. In addition, a few years ago, his advocacy for and celebration of Mass with Catholic women priests earned a disciplinary letter from the Vatican.
Jerry did not stop standing up and speaking out for a peaceful, just, and nuclear-free world, even when in recent years he physically slowed down and was not quite sure how far his legs would carry him. His life will remain an example to many: Those who knew and loved him, and those who never had an opportunity to meet him, but know of his legacy. Thank you, Jerry, for your faithful witness. You will be dearly missed. (Photo by The Nuclear Resister)