Category Archives: Community

Jonah House 50th Anniversary Gathering

On June 10, 2023, many from the Jonah House community, past and present, gathered by webinar to commemorate our 50th Anniversary. The webinar titled, Jonah House: Fifty Years of Experiment in the Beatitudes, included the following speakers from our wonderful community of peacemakers: Willa Bickham, Brendan Walsh, John Bach, John Schuchardt, Mike Middleton, Barb Kass, Ellen Grady, Greg Boertje-Obed, Michele Naar-Obed, Carol Gilbert, Susan Crane, Gary Ashbeck, Katie Lautar, Jemila Sequiera, Frida Berrigan, & Jerry Berrigan.

Fr. Terry Moran put together the below presentation showcasing Johah House’s history, with beautiful photos from Frida Berrigan, Jerry Berrigan, Ellen Grady, and others. In Terry’s words, “May your lives be rich with the spirit of Jonah House!”

Sayonara to Joe Byrne

By Joe Byrne

As some of you know by now, I’ve left Jonah House. At the beginning of April, I moved down to Pinehurst, North Carolina, to live with, and take care of, my 90-year-old mother. My mom is at the point where she needs to either move into assisted living, or live with one of her kids. She’s chosen the latter course. And my siblings and I, as well as my mom and I, decided that I was the one most available to make the move, having no family of my own. That said, I did have a community I was leaving behind in Baltimore, and many friends, so my leaving was a challenge in that regard.

I moved to Jonah House in October 2015. I joined the community anchored by the Parr-Brown family–Tucker and Emily and little Auggie, then a year-and-a-half old. Within a year, we welcomed a new member into the community, little Evie, Tucker and Emily’s second child. Also part of Jonah House at that time were the “emeritus” members living separately in the cottage: Liz McAlister, Sr. Ardeth Platte, and Sr. Carol Gilbert.

The Parr-Brown family decided to move back west after two years; Liz, Ardeth, and Carol had left Jonah House the year before. I remained behind to form a new community. Joining me in 2017 were Paul Magno, Ausar Amen, Bow Williams, and Jemilla Sequiera.

The past six-and-a-half years at Jonah House have been a very rich time for me. I was able to be part of a tradition that I had admired for almost thirty years before I finally moved to Jonah House. It was also a challenging time in that the community was going through some changes, with long-time community members (including a founder) leaving Jonah House, and remaining members trying to envision a new direction and carrying on.

In my time at Jonah House, I was able to develop strong bonds with other community members, with the folks in the neighborhood who came on Tuesdays for food assistance, with those who attended Jonah House liturgy, and with the land itself. Over the six years I got to know the twenty-two acres of St. Peter’s Cemetery, where Jonah House resides, pretty well. I got to know the trees and flowers (and many, but not all, of their names), and the animals–the flora and fauna. I personally met raccoons, foxes, and deer; as well as barn owls, red-shouldered hawks, and guinea fowl (now no more due to the foxes!). The deer population in the cemetery grew from zero to eight in the time I was at Jonah House. Too many, actually. When I saw the deer (pretty much every day) I would say “Hello deer–and I don’t mean that affectionately.” That’s because they ate or otherwise damaged so many of the things I planted!

I also need to announce that my canine companion, Pema, has also left Jonah House. She is with me in North Carolina. It’s going to take some time for Pema to get used to her new living arrangement. In St. Peter’s Cemetery, I let her roam. And since the main gate was open most of the time, this means I also let her roam the neighborhood surrounding the cemetery. I hope the neighbors were fond of Pema; then again, maybe those who halted behind her and honked their horns when Pema paraded down the middle of Bentalou Street are happy she’s moved on. But at least no one ran her over or called Animal Control.

I will miss Jonah House, where I worked, prayed, and played for six plus years. But Jonah House continues, both as intentional community, and as extended community. There will still be a Jonah House when the community celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2023. I hope to return then, and will probably return before then, at least once.

For what it’s worth, all those I leave behind have my blessing, as do those who will come after me. I conclude with the phrase used by the early Franciscan friars as a greeting (and likely as a farewell): “Pax et bonum!” That is, “peace and good to you!”

Love One Another

Jonah House Food Pantry Still Open

Baltimore, and the rest of the state of Maryland, are currently in lock-down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Jonah House Food Pantry, an “essential” enterprise, remains open, with the blessing of the city and state. We hope to remain open during the weeks of the “stay at home” order.

Our hours are 8am to 12pm on Tuesdays. To find us, search for St. Peter’s Cemetery in Google Maps (our mailing address will not help you find us).

We are not in need of volunteers at this time, but we certainly accept donations. Please use our donation page on this website to do so. Because of the pandemic, more people are in need of food (given many of the shelves are empty at the ONLY grocery store in the area), which increases our costs.

As special thanks Sarah Magno, Paul’s daughter, who raised money from her friends for our food pantry. Along with the $300 dollars raised, she also let us use her Costco membership to buy much needed supplies for the pantry. Thanks Sarah!

Pantry Project

Our pantry upgrade is well in progress. Ausar and Bow are doing the construction work on our new walk-in cooler, with the help of a crew of young men from the neighborhood.

We’ll certainly have it done by summer time, when we’ll need it. But now in the winter, we just have to open the pantry windows!

Here are pics of the work crew in action.

How Can I Keep From Singing

By Paul Magno

I woke up here in Baltimore this morning and knew it must be raining for a reason
Just a few minutes later a brief text from David Hoovler announced that Lin Romano had died this morning, at age 63 after a 16 month battle with cancer.

Hard not to cry, harder even to cry.

Lin had lived at Jonah House for about a year in the late 1980s, after her participation in the Epiphany Plowshares disarmament action at Willow Grove Naval Air Station in PA in January of 1987. After four trials she was finally convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison in Lexington KY.

For over a decade before that, she had lived and worked among the poorest people in Washington DC as a member of the Community for Creative Nonviolence.

Throughout the last three decades, she has remained “passionate about creating a just world,” through several jobs here in Baltimore, through her continued association with Jonah House, and with David, to whom she was married since 2005.

Joe Byrne and I had an opportunity to visit her last week at the Gilchrist Center, an inpatient hospice care facility in Towson, and be by her bedside for about an hour. Though her body was weak, she was aware of our presence and tried to sing along with the tunes Joe played on the dulcimer. She was able to smile and open her eyes a few times.

We wait on word from David about any memorial arrangements.

To close, I’ll paraphrase just one of those songs

Her life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
We hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation.
Above the tumult and the strife
We hear the music ringing;
She sounds an echo in our souls
How can we keep from singing?

Jonah House Pantry

Monday pick up from the Baltimore Food Bank volunteers ready to unload and pack pantry boxes for Tuesdays pantry.
Melissa and her daughter the dynamic duo always here to help on pantry days
Mom, I will sort this box for you!
Rainbow packing up and getting ready for Tuesday’s pantry
When we run out of pantry boxes we have to pack up emergency bags.
Joe on task!!!