Mary Donnelly has died and she left behind a life worth living.
Photo of Daniel Berrigan by Mary Donnelly. (Block Island Times)
Mary Donnelly of Block Island died this week. She lived well into her nineties.
There are so many on the island - it is an hour ferry ride from the Rhode Island mainland - that knew her far better than me.
But I could not let her passing go without a remembrance.
One of my great pleasures for the past ten years or so is that my family gathers together at the end of each summer for a week on Block Island.
The week will often include the pleasure of Mary Donnelly, an island nurse and head of the Mary D fund.
One summer not that many years ago Candy had invited Mary D over to our rented house for after-dinner coffee and conversation.
“Oh, I loved Danny,” said Mary.
She was referring to Daniel Berrigan, the Catholic priest and peace activist.
He was one of the the Catonsville Nine, a group that included Daniel’s brother Philip. They destroyed draft records at the Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968 to protest the War in Vietnam.
Berrigan was a not-very-successful fugitive from the FBI when he was arrested on Block Island at a guest house of William Stringfellow and his partner Anthony Towne.
Towne was a poet and Stringfellow was a theologian and lawyer.
“So we would have Danny and all his friends over for dinners all the time,” Mary would say, clasping her hands together with a bit of a giggle. “And, of course, our friends Ben and Jerry would bring the dessert.”
Mary would laugh as she recalled the FBI arriving on the island to arrest Daniel, dressed in what the agents thought fisherman would be wearing.
“Everyone knew exactly who they were,” Mary told us.
From the Block Island Times:
When Donnelly and others held small peace rallies against the Iran and Iraq wars, Berrigan would sometimes stand with them. He did a poetry reading to raise funds for The Mary D. Fund.
When asked what she felt when she heard that Berrigan had died, Donnelly said, “He hasn’t died as far as I’m concerned. He’s always been a presence. I’ve had so many good things happen in my life, and one of them was Daniel.”
One of my good things was meeting Mary D.
Donations to the Mary D Fund: P.O. Box 534, Block Island, 02807, Rhode Island.