Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Padre Larry Rosebaugh, Presente!

Let's take a moment to pray for the soul of this fine priest who was a friend of the poor and a peacemaker. Fr. Larry was a member of the Milwaukee 14 anti-Vietnam War action and was on staff at the Casa Maria Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee. He worked in Recife with Dom Helder Camara and the poor, and he participated in the movement to close the School of the Americas. He recently published a memoir through EPICA, To Wisdom Through Failure: A Journey of Compassion, Resistance and Hope.

Former Belleville priest gunned down in Guatemala City
By George Pawlaczyk
May 19, 2009

BELLEVILLE -- The Rev. Lawrence Rosebaugh, a 74-year-old priest who studied at a seminary in Belleville but spent most of his life living among the poor in Central and South America, was shot to death Monday during a robbery in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

"As a priest he was not the collar type of priest," said his close friend, Sam Hladyshewsky of Shiloh, who attended the former St. Henry's Preparatory seminary in Belleville with Rosebaugh during the late 1950s.

"When you looked at him, you'd think he was the poorest of the poor. And those are the ones he served," said Hladyshewsky, a former priest.

According to a written statement from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, of which Rosebaugh had long been a member, the priest was murdered during an attempted carjacking. The statement said the funeral will be today in Guatemala City.

"He lived on the street most of the time because he ministered to the homeless," said the Rev. Allen Maes, an Oblate priest at the shrine.

However, The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Rosebaugh was killed during a robbery in which a gunman also wounded a Congolese priest. A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City said she could not legally provide any information about Rosebaugh's death.

Rosebaugh, whose late mother, Mildred Rosebaugh, lived for years in the apartment community at the Shrine, often returned to the metro-east and was looking forward to retiring here within a few years. He published his autobiography, "To Wisdom Through Failure," in 2006.

In April, Rosebaugh, who signed his letters "Lorenzo," sent emails to Hladyshewsky, telling his friend about his work at a Guatemala hospital ministering to AIDS victims and helping street people. He also spoke of working with the sisters of Mother Teresa and of providing a liturgy at a vigil for two boys, ages 13 and 16, murdered by gangs in one of the poorest sections of Guatemala City.

In another recent message, Rosebaugh wrote, "This Holy Week I had three good days of retreat by myself in a great quiet place with beautiful trees and nature, only to view the devastated living conditions of the poorest just across the way. To have that reality so close made for an even better Holy Week for me."

In 1977, Rosebaugh was mentioned in an article in the June 20 issue of Time magazine, after he and a religious worker were arrested in the streets of Recife, Brazil by local police while handing out vegetables to the poor. They were held for four days on charges later dropped that may have been filed simply to remove the poor from the area in advance of a visit by President Jimmy Carter, according to newspaper stories at the time. Rosebaugh and his companion later met with Carter's wife Rosalyn, who commented to a Time correspondent, "I have listened to their experience and I sympathize with them."

Rosebaugh, four fellow priests and nine laymen gained national attention in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War when they broke into a Selective Service office in Milwaukee and removed 10,000 service records, which they burned publicly with what they called "homemade napalm."

Through that act, Rosebaugh and his fellow protesters became known as the "Milwaukee 14." They were eventually convicted of the break-in and served about a year each in jail.

In the 2002 book "From Warriors to Resisters: U.S. Veterans on Terrorism" edited by Margaret Knapke, Rosebaugh and others continued their anti-war activities at Fort Benning, Ga. in the late 1980s. There they went at night to a pine forest near where hundreds of Salvadoran soldiers lived in barracks while being trained by U.S. advisors. Using a recording of Salvadoran Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero's last sermon against the war in his country, given the day before his assassination, Rosebaugh, another priest and a woman used a "boom box" to broadcast Romero's message to the Salvadora troops.

The narrator of the incident, the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, later wrote that all three were arrested and, "...sent to prison for 18 months. But the truth could not be silenced and we spoke from prison."



  1. A man who lived the Gospel deeply and fully...

    I have to wonder if it truly was a robbery.

  2. At the moment no one has any suspicions that it was anything else. According to Fr. Larry's order, the car he was driving was held up on a rural highway between Chisec and Ixcan, where he had worked for the last decade. The gunmen killed Fr. Larry and wounded a Congolese priest, Fr. Jean Claude Nowama. Three other priests in the vehicle, Fr. Ruben Elizondo, Fr. Erado Capustra and Fr. Rodrigo Macaous, were uninjured. The robbers took 1,000 quetzales ($125), a cell phone and some religious ornaments.

    Guatemala is experiencing a huge crime wave and about 17 people a day die in violent crimes there. The only difference is that this time the victim was someone we know.