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Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Reader's Retrospective: John Garrity
Julie Gunter  |  Nov. 1, 2015

John Garrity first encountered the National Catholic Reporter as a Norbertine novice at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wis. Taking the name "Frater Patrick," he was one of roughly 20 men who entered the ancient religious order in 1965.
The oldest of five children raised in Great Falls and Helena, Mont., Garrity would be shaped, in part, by the interests and choices of his parents, both American-Irish Catholics. His mother was a nurse with an interest in psychiatry, and his father spent several years as a Norbertine brother before joining the Army during World War II. Other important figures in childhood included a favorite teacher, Providence Sr. Grace Sullivan, and Spokane, Wash., Bishop Bernard Topel.

After leaving the monastery in 1966, Garrity enlisted in the Army for the medical field. He was sent to basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana, where, according to Garrity, "all went to church on Sunday by orders, and the NCR was in a big pile at the doors of the theater where Catholic Mass was held ... some of the only reading material allowed along with the Bible."

Sent to a MASH-like medical company in the 25th Infantry Division northwest of Saigon, Vietnam, Garrity served as a psychiatric specialist whose duties also involved driving ambulances, and running litters of injured and dead to and from medevac helicopters. Working under frequent rocket and mortar attacks among heavy American casualties, Garrity recalled occasions when severely wounded soldiers in triage were "piled on dead or dying soldiers ... [and left unattended] in the hope that others could be saved."

Moving in 1969 to Missoula, Mont. (where he still lives with his wife, Jean Thorstenson), Garrity earned degrees in sociology and Christian ethics from the University of Montana and the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., respectively. A self-described "American-Irish Catholic [albeit non-institutional] Unitarian Universalist non-theistic humanist" who regularly attends a United Church of Christ church and continues to look to NCR as his "moral compass," Garrity maintains that he did not leave the Catholic church, but, instead, found it necessary to move beyond an institution "that couldn't keep up with the moral complexity of my world."
This story appeared in the Dec 19, 2014-Jan 1, 2015 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: John Garrity .

Marchers in Missoula want peace
Oct 28, 2001  (Edited)
Associated Press

MISSOULA (AP) – Missoulas famous peace sign may be gone from Waterworks Hill, but a band of advocates demonstrated this weekend that the spirit that kept it there for 18 years is alive and well.
About 100 people marched through downtown Missoula Saturday calling for peaceful alternatives to the military strikes against terrorist positions in Afghanistan.

The terrorists Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., must not go unanswered, but the military attacks are not an acceptable response, speakers said.
 . . .
An Interfaith Peace Service later at University Congregational Church stressed the value of peace over war, justice over arbitrariness, and love over hate, according to organizers.
Several speakers condemned expressions of patriotism that mindlessly endorse war as vengeance for the Sept. 11 attacks.

- - - 

John Garrity, president of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Missoula and a Vietnam veteran, was one of several who said U.S. foreign policy has helped create a climate for terrorism by denying human rights and rejecting international efforts toward peace, disarmament and environmental protection.


I was raised Irish-American Catholic in Great Falls and Helena, Montana, including 1965-66 in Catholic Monastery in WI after high school.  Then returning from Army 25th Infantry Div MASH Medical Unit in 1969, I was very active in the Methodist Student Movement Wesley Foundation at the U of MT during 1969-72, where I got my BA in sociology and psychology.  I joined my Great Falls hometown UCC church while a graduate student in Sociology & Counseling at UM in 1973, then went to the Methodist/UCC affiliated seminary in Berkely CA (across the street from the UU Starr King Seminary from 1973-75.  I have an academic (not ordination) MA with a major in "Religion, Society, and Ethics", and a thesis in Social Psychology and Ethics.

I did not seek ordination (nor its MDiv degree) because I was too recently aware of the UU movement for any possible ministry then, although I have considered myself UU since I read George Marshall's Challenge of a Liberal Faith in 1972. I was also much too naturalistic & scientific a religious "Humanist" (probably the dominant self label in UUA then by fr, and lesser so, but still, today) to ever be a successful minister in the UCC.

When I graduated and returned home to Montana, I attended the Great Falls UUF for over a year while job hunting.  When I was hired by Social Security in Fergus Falls, MN, I joined the (100 year old Winnipeg, Manitoba Icelandic UU started) UUF in Underwood MN for over a year before I transferred to my job in Missoula & local UUF in 1978.  I retired from Social Security 7/2000.

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