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October 10, 1971

Sister Elizabeth McAlister delivered the sermon at Sunday services in the Chapel. Sister McAllister was one of the Harrisburg Seven who were indicted earlier in 1971 as co-conspirators in plots to destroy draft files, kidnap Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and bomb the heating systems of U.S. government buildings. In her sermon, The Miscellany News reported, she “likened the accusations against Jesus to those against anyone who seeks to free the oppressed, illustratiing that there was basically a case of ‘power meeting power’ in the forms of Jesus and Pilate who stood for difference ideals and principles.” The writer observed that, while “Sister McAlister drew the comparison between Jesus and present-day activism, the overall tone of the serman was more religious than political.”

In a defense led by former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Sister Elizabeth and the group’s leader Rev. Philip Berrigan were the only defendants convicted in the conspiracy, and these convictions, on minor charges, were overturned on appeal in 1973. Elizabeth McAlister left her order and subsequently married Philip Berrigan, with whom she founded Jonah House, a faith-based pacifist community in Baltimore in 1973. She spoke again at Vassar in April 1978.

The Years