SOA Watch defendants sent to prison

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

The annual protest outside the gates of Fort Benning in Georgia has been going on since 1990. (CNS/Catholic Explorer)

A federal judge this morning found six people guilty of trespassing for entering the Fort Benning Army Base in Columbus, Ga., during the annual School of the Americas Watch vigil and demonstration Nov. 23.

The six are:

— The Rev. Luis Barrious, 56, chairman of the Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in New York.

–Theresa Cusimano, 40, director of Colorado Campus Compact at Regis University in Denver.

— Kristien Holm, 21, a student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

–Ursuline Sister Diane Pinchot, 63, professor of art at Ursuline College in Cleveland; she also teaches ceramics to homeless women.

— Al Simmons, 64, a preschool teacher in Richmond, Va.

— Louis Wolf, 68, staff member of Rock Creek Free Press newspaper in Bethesda, Md.

Judge G. Mallon Faircloth had sentenced everyone but Cusimano and Wolf as of mid-afternoon. The others received two-month sentences in federal prison. Rev. Barrios and Holm also were fined $250.

The trial has become an annual ritual in the west Georgia city. It also has been a way for School of Americas Watch, founded by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, to focus attention on the institute’s training methods, which activists believe include practices that can be used to violate human rights.

U.S. Army officials deny the charge, saying the school, known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation since 2001,  promotes democracy and preserves freedom while serving to professionalize the military in neighboring countries.

The school has been the focus of an annual protest/vigil by a largely Catholic movement since the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America in San Salvador.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon Cusimano was sentenced to two months in prison and fined $500 while Wolf was sentenced to six months of house arrest and a $1,000 fine.

Parishes help unemployed members

What are parishes doing to help their newly unemployed members in a recession? Our Sunday Visitor has a roundup of several examples of parish activity, from a “Job Transition Network” that operates at one Minnesota parish to a New York parish that has been running a “Employment Assistance and Resource Network” since 1989.