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Loretto Peace Express: First stop, White House

Special to the National Catholic Reporter

The Loretto Peace Express, the Amtrak-chartered rail coach that brought 72 Loretto Sisters, co-members, friends and students from Loretto high schools in St. Louis, Denver and El Paso to Washington, July 1, arrived three hours late.

But on July 3, the passengers were right on time to get police attention outside the White House. With Loretto Sr. Mary Ann Cunningham in her wheelchair leading the way, seven Peace Express passengers crossed the civil disobedience line. They and 20 others protesting nuclear weapons were arrested.

For the Lorettines, the Peace Express -- a private coach attached to the Chicago Limited -- was the culmination of planning that began New Year’s Eve 1999 at the Nevada Test Site New Millennium Peace Action. Then, Loretto Community president, Sr. Mary Ann Coyle, and Loretto Srs. Cunningham and Anna Koop dreamed up a way to involve the sisters in the July 1-Aug. 6 People’s Campaign for Nonviolence.

Coyle said what the Lorettines wanted, when it was time to call, “All aboard!” on their train trip for disarmament and racial and economic justice, was a wide diversity of people. They gathered a group, ranging in age from 9 to 70, which included Native Americans, Mexicans and African-Americans.

During the journey, Loretto Sr. Pat Kenoyer, a 20-year Loretto Disarmament Committee activist and former United Nations nongovernmental organization representative, helped organize training sessions on nonviolence.

Loretto Express passengers included elderly people from Holland and Italy who talked about their World War II experiences and how difficult it was later to forgive the Germans. “What a beautiful experience for the young people,” said Kenoyer.

Cunningham added, “The Peace Express truly was one way to educate people -- especially the younger generation -- to nonviolence.”

Her civil disobedience at the White House was another.

National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 2000