THE SOCIAL EDGE INTERVIEW: MISSIONARY AND ACTIVIST FR. ROY BOURGEOIS
by Nicole Sault
Fr. Roy Bourgeois at Ft. Benning
Fr. Roy Bourgeois is a Maryknoll missionary who became an activist for peace after witnessing the violence committed in Latin America by graduates trained in torture and repression at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. In response he founded SOA Watch to document the atrocities, educate the public, and organize a non-violent grass roots movement to end government funding and shut down the School of the Americas.
Fr. Roy travels internationally giving talks for schools, churches, and peace groups, and his life’s work is described in the biography: Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of the Americas by James Hodge and Linda Cooper.
Nicole Sault: Some people would be surprised to know that before becoming a priest and an activist you were a high school football star, and then a Naval officer who was awarded a purple heart in Vietnam. In what ways do you draw on these earlier experiences in your current work?
Fr. Roy Bourgeois: They are very integral to my ministry now, to my activism. We are a product so often of our past experiences. I grew up in a very conservative area of the country, Louisiana, in a small town of some 3,000. We did not critique our country’s foreign policy. I grew up as basically a Sunday Catholic. We would never really read and reflect on the Scriptures. It was mostly about just the basic going to church on a Sunday, not really struggling with social justice issues, foreign policy issues, or the war in Vietnam, or the sin of racism that was so alive and active in our community. Yes, I went to a public school there where sports were important, and then off to college where I got a degree in geology, hoping to get rich in the oil fields of Venezuela.