A tribute to a jailhouse monk

3/14/18 – Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. at the Nevada nuclear test site

from Radical Discipleship

by Dean Hammer

One of the amazing gifts of the Holy Spirit amongst believers is that we are afforded the capacity to be present to fellow travelers from a distance. Each day since the Kings Bay Plowshares (KBP) disarmament action (April 4, 2018), Steve Kelly and the other six of the KBP (Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Elizabeth McAlister, Martha Hennessy, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta) gift me with their witness against omnicide on behalf of human survival. Liz McAlister has been sentenced and the others await sentencing, currently scheduled for mid-October. This reflection is meant as a tribute to the extraordinary example of Steve Kelly and the KBP community.

Steve Kelly has done ten years in prison and time underground for his witness against nuclear weapons. He will not be released when the KBP charges are “resolved.” Since the KBP witness, he has been remanded on a retainer from the West Coast judicial system. Steve will be transported there to address a warrant for a previous protest action at the Pacific Fleet Trident base. He will continue to dedicate his life to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. With his fellow jail mates, Steve is identified by his inmate number. As Kathy Kelly eloquently says, “Those eight numbers distinguish him.”

From his jail cell, Steve testified to the peace communities at the festivals of hope in New York City (09.29.19) and Brunswick, Ga. (10.20.19):

“We engage the judiciary in the courtroom as these judges historically legitimize the nuclear idols… Claiming inspiration from Isaiah 2: 4 and Martin Luther King Jr., seven ordinary people overcame their fears of risking their liberty and loss of good name to embody conversion – from materialism, militarism, and racism to a nuclear-free world.”

“I’m among the wilderness of the incarcerated two and a quarter million folks comprising the human warehouses in the empire.”

“I echo the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., to an empire in its death throes as it clings to and mouths obscene threats with its lethal arsenal. A fire that is a direct theft of trillions from the poor.”

Mark Colville, incarcerated with Steve at the Glynn County Jail, sheds light on their jail walk, “It provides the incredible daily privilege of walking with Jesus in the person of the prisoner, and of seeing the world the way He did: from the perspective of the bottom. It’s a lot like being in an unusually noisy monastery where all the monks have tattoos and share a fondness for the F-word!” . Steve’s long-standing jail-house vigil bears witness to the perversion of justice by the court system. His faith-filled sacrifice in consort with the Holy Spirit transforms durance vile into a monastery. His life illumines the community of conscience that chants the prayers for the abolition of nuclear weapons through our disarmament actions, trials, and imprisonment.

Dean Hammer participated in the Plowshares 8 and Griffiss Plowshares witnesses.