Details from NCR:
Tom Cornell, whose actions and writings through more than six decades brought Christian nonviolence and war resistance to the forefront of Catholic life, died peacefully Aug. 1, his two grown children at his bedside and wife, Monica, nearby, at the Peter Maurin Farm in Marlboro, New York. He was 88.
Like Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Cornell valued a mix of traditional Catholicism with radical activism and dated his involvement with the movement to 1953. It was then, as an unsettled college student, he stumbled across the then newly published book, The Long Loneliness, Day’s autobiography. He quickly became enamored with Day and her mission.
Cornell attended a Friday night discernment at the New York Catholic Worker house and heard Day speak. “She had me,” Cornell would tell friends, said longtime friend Michael Baxter, a theologian who teaches Catholic studies at Regis University in Denver.
That would be the beginning of a seven-decade Catholic Worker association and the beginning of a decades-long friendship with Day, the spiritual mentor. Cornell eventually became managing editor of the movement’s penny-an-edition newspaper, The Catholic Worker, from 1962 to 1964, and was still just beginning to sink his feet into peace activism.
“In the spirit of the Catholic Worker … he embraced a life of hospitality, voluntary poverty, care for the earth, and peacemaking.”
Cornell organized what some believe was the first public demonstration against U.S. involvement in Vietnam in July 1963. It was a demonstration outside the apartment of the U.N. Observer from Vietnam. At first just two people marched: Cornell and fellow protester Christopher Kearns. They walked up and down the sidewalk, holding a placard that said: “The Catholic Worker protests U.S. support of Diem tyranny.” Cornell called around to many peace organizations in New York City, and invited people to join them on the last day of the protest. After nine days, 250 people showed up.
Cornell was part of the first group to burn draft cards in 1965, for which he eventually served six months at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut….
… Following Dorothy Day’s death in 1980, Cornell began to lobby for her canonization, eventually serving on the executive committee of the Dorothy Day Guild, founded in 2005 in the New York Archdiocese, to advance her canonization cause.
Cornell studied to become a deacon in the New York Archdiocese and was ordained in 1988.
“He embraced the logic of Gospel nonviolence at a time when that was considered quasi-heretical,” said Robert Ellsberg, editor-in-chief and publisher of Orbis Books. “In the spirit of the Catholic Worker … he embraced a life of hospitality, voluntary poverty, care for the earth, and peacemaking.” Ellsberg said that Cornell lived “a modest, and yet deeply consequential life.” Ellsberg, Forest and Cornell edited A Penny a Copy: Readings from the Catholic Worker in 1995.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
Well done, good and faithful servant.