Archive for January, 2017

The Touch That People Need

January 31, 2017

The Touch That People Need

Hebrews 12:1-4; Mark 5:21-43

St. John Bosco

I have promised God that until my last breath I shall have lived for my poor young people. I study for you, I work for you, I am also ready to give my life for you. Take note and whatever i am, I have been so entirely for you. St. John Bosco

There is a story about a little boy who did not want to go into his bedroom because it was so dark. His mother assured him, “You will not be alone, God is with you.” To which the boy replied: “I know God is with me, but I need someone with skin.”

Jesus was always touched, and he was always touching. We are not Jesus but we have the touch that people need.   The letter to the Hebrews envisions the people of God as a cloud of witnesses on a journey together, all of us with our eyes fixed on Jesus.  We are all surrounding one another, not a group of independent and separate marchers. It is a part of our discipleship, “with our eyes fixed on Jesus,” to be available, to be touched  by people who are in need of someone with skin.

In the Haight the guys have a way of showing affection to those they are close to–rather than just shake hands you move in and grab the forearm.  It is an affectionate handshake, but reserved for friends.

We need to be touched, in our society with all of the social networks and fear of accusations we do not touch, and we see the results in the extreme loneliness of people, in their isolation, in their acting out.

-Br. Geoffrey Tristra writes:

“Walk out into the deep waters of the unknown – but filled with faith and trust that God will meet you there in Christ, and that he will guide you, and carry you when you fall, that he will lead you across dry land, and land you safe on Canaan’s side.”

We need to have trust in Christ to lead us into relationships without fear.  For only in that great communion of saints on earth can we find healing and move into the Communion of Saints in the future. The reign of God is now! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damen sims, sfw

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Those Who Bring Hope

January 28, 2017


Those Who Bring Hope

Zeph. 2:3, 12-13; Ps. 146; I Cor. 1:26-31; Mt. 5:1-12

The beatitudes are promises that Jesus has made to humanity.  They are words of hope.

Franklin Roosevelt said in 1932: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and in those words he called people to challenge the Great Depression, to move from fear to facing reality.  There is so much fear in our society, fear of different races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, and that fear keeps us from coming together in our humanity. That fear keeps us from talking to one another.

For example I see over and over on my Facebook page people telling others who voted differently to remove their names from their pages–that is a form of fear, a form of fear that divides. Fear is overcome when we share openly, honestly, and in that sharing meet half way.

David Stein-Rast says: “Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”  People all the time asked me “How can you maintain your hope, how can you stay happy seeing so much pain and suffering?” For me it is my gratefulness that makes me happy. My gratefulness that I am given the opportunity to provide for people when they do not have enough, and  gratefulness for the gift of life. We need to look for the non-material items in our lives to find gratefulness, and in so doing share of our material items.  Sean is 17 years old, he travels, he sleeps out in the Park, he pan handles, and has nothing materially, but he is happy, content, and I herd a person asked him one day: “How can you be so happy?” Sean looked at the man oddly, and said: “I am alive, I have friends, I have what I need, I can travel, and I can bring hope to other people,  what more do I need?”

Like Jesus and Sean we need to look at the Beatitudes and bring hope to people around us. We need to search the Scriptures and craft new messages of hope:

“Blessed are the anxious and the depressed: The God who feeds the birds of the air will care for their every need;  Blessed are those who destroy the lives of others, they do not know what they do and they will be forgiven; Blessed are those who are on both sides of the abortion issue–for God loves you, gives you both life, does not condemn either side; Blessed are the children traumatized by war: they will play on the streets once again; Blessed are those defeated by economic injustice they will find plenty on God’s holy mountain.


“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice.”…………………………………………………………………..

“There Christ is with the poor, the suffering, even in the cup we share together, in the bread we eat.”


May our hearts be turned away from despair to dreams of hope. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 04164


Extending Love

January 27, 2017



We remember Terry Darnell Edwards who was executed in Texas yesterday:

Dear Friends,

We wanted to send out a recap of our witness at the Inauguration Resistance and the Women’s March in D.C. You may view more photos at the following links:

Inauguration protest

Women’s March on Washington

We direct you again to WAT’s statement opposing Trump’s agenda on torture and detention, and to the new video that Justin made to break down what needs to happen to close Guantanamo, now that Trump is president. Our friends, the Peace Poets created a new spoken word video to challenge and encourage us in these difficult times – view it here.

Lastly, we have included an ask from our partners the Coalition of Concerned Mothers – please sign their petition here and read about their work below.


WAT Witnesses at Trump’s Inauguration, Attends Women’s March


O crisis, intensify!  The morning is about to break forth.


Even though the bands tighten and seem unbreakable,
They will shatter.

Those who persist will attain their goal;
Those who keep knocking shall gain entry.

O crisis, intensify!
The morning is about to break forth.

–from the poem O Prison Darkness by Abdulaziz in Poems from Guantanamo

We reflected on this poetry as thirty WAT members circled up at First Trinity’s Church Hostel on January 20 before we went into the pre-dawn darkness at 6:30 am to demonstrate at the Inauguration.  We processed to a nearby security checkpoint close to the Mall.  We had a long row of folks in orange jumpsuits and black hoods; a robust team of guides, given the darkness; a security team, given the potential for hostile Trump supporters; as well as a choreographer, a medic, and people assigned to media and leafletting.  We were ready.

We joined a huge crowd of Palestinian human rights supporters and antiwar protesters at D St. and First St. NW.  Our banner holders silently faced the police amid a raucous sea of chanting.  As dawn broke, we extracted ourselves from the crush and moved a half block away.  There we faced the line of people waiting to enter the inauguration.  Back at the intersection, riot police moved in, but we stayed safely out of the fray.

Our hooded detainees holding anti-torture banners provided a dramatic tableau that drew hundreds upon hundreds of people snapping photos or recording videos.  The steady flow of humanity, which included Trump supporters and protesters, was, for the most part, respectful and peaceful.  Whenever a person seemed hostile, a member of the security team was right there beside the WAT member being confronted in order to provide a united, nonviolent front.  We received some derisive comments that echoed words we’ve heard from Trump concerning torture and Gitmo.  We understood the challenge that faces us as we go forward from this day.

We stayed at our post until 10:00 am, having committed to occupy that space while other protest groups went to another check point where Black Lives Matter had completely blocked entrance to the inauguration.  We later heard from one BLM member who told us how wonderful it had been to look up from their protest and see all the white faces surrounding and supporting them.

Many of our activists stayed another night, so we could attend the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21st.  This time we carried our own personal messaging as women and as men supporting women.  All 25 of us stepped off together, but we split into smaller groups, intentionally and unintentionally, as the day progressed and we moved through an incredible sea of humankind.  One group actually heard and saw some speeches on a jumbotron.  Many of us, however, had no idea there were any speeches, but we found the crowd itself to be fabulous.  A couple of first timers kept asking when we were going to get to the march, and we told them they were in it! The throng was so big that the march had to self-assemble on at least 5 parallel streets.  The big hits of the day were the creative signs and the sense of love and community that enveloped us all.


But how shall we educate men to goodness, to a sense of one another, to a love of the truth? And more urgently, how shall we do this in a bad time?—Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

Coalition of Concerned Mothers Banner a Big Hit at the Women’s March:

Sign Their Petition to Demand Reporting of All Deaths in Police Custody 

The Coalition of Concerned Mothers is a dynamic group of women who are trying to make sure no other mothers suffer what they have: the killing of their children by police or by senseless community gun violence.  During this January’s fast, WAT met with members of the Coalition, as we have in years past. Hearing the stories of how their children were killed and their struggles for justice, was heartbreaking, but strengthened our resolve to support their efforts to stop the senseless killing.

Please sign their petition demanding the Department of Justice begin enforcing laws requiring the reporting of all deaths in police custody:

According to President Marion Gray Hopkins and Vice-President Cynthia deShola Dawkins, “Because of the Death in Custody Reporting Act and Arrest Related Death Act the Department of Justice has the legal responsibility to require law enforcement agencies to report any and all deaths of people while in custody. To date, although this law has been in place for several years, the financial penalties on law enforcement agencies for not complying have not been enforced.”

We need this information. The victims of police brutality are not just hashtags. They are brothers, daughters, mothers and fathers, many of whom we never hear about. Police brutality, especially against people of color, is systemic and in order to address this national crisis legislatively our elected officials need these reports. We hope this will help you to take action.

Thank you for your continued support. Please keep sharing your local events and news stories with us.

Witness Against Torture on Social Media

We will be using #CloseGitmo and #guantanamo

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.

Post any pictures of your local activities to our flickr account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work and Fast for Justice.

We are asking our supporters to donate $45 to Witness Against Torture to symbolize the 45 men remaining in Guantanamo.

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. We need your financial support. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit.If you are able, click here to donate.

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video The Moment We Blush








Extending Love

January 26, 2017


Extending Love

Saints Timothy and Titus

“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I Timothy 1:15

Salvation is a growing process. Salvation is a growing process of loving our neighbor, for only in caring for our neighbor can we become fully human and experience God face to face.

People have asked me  lately if I am pro-life. The reality is I am pro-life–my whole ministry has been about being pro-life:

Pro-life in meeting people where they are and seeing all as equal regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, religious expression, and age;

Pro-life in providing for the health care, provision of food, clothing, and housing for all, as an equal right for all;

Pro-life in sharing of our own goods until all have;

Pro-life in believing that people have a choice in how their bodies are used;

Pro-life in believing that non-violence is the practice of Jesus and to which we are all called to practice. There have been two times in my own life when I wanted to kill someone. Many years ago I was prostituting in Los Angles, and I was picked up by a man who said he wanted to “help” me, and than he held me down and raped me, and as I got to my feet I grabbed the knife I carry and seized him and held it to his throat–and than I came to my senses; and the second time was when my son’s murderer was dying and it went through my mind as he asked for my forgiveness and for me to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to tell him “to fuck off”;  both times I backed off, and in so doing found peace.  I also found out my own capability for violence and vengeance. All of us have that capability, and to support the death penalty allows us to express that capability justifying it in the name of the State.

Join me Friday, January 27, 2017 at Noon at 350 MC Allister, at the Earl Warren Supreme Court Building when we will walk in Vigil Against the Death Penalty.   Join me in being pro-life in these days when we are have around us a culture of death. Join me in remembering the following who are scheduled for execution over the next month:

26 TX Terry Darnell Edwards
31 MO Mark Christeson
2 TX John Ramirez
7 TX Tilon Lashon Carter
15 OH Ronald R. Phillips

Join me in “working out our salvation” in whatever your tradition as we Vigil for Life.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty



A Way of Love and Freedom

January 22, 2017

“As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers making a cast in the lake with their net.  He called them, and they left their nets at once and followed him.”

Yesterday after noon as the various marches ended, and people headed to the restaurants and home, I watched as they walked past people sleeping on the street, as they ignored individuals asking them for money. It was as if the people on the street were invisible. And the thought that ran through my mind was that if each of the forty thousand people who marched would feed one person on the street no one would have been hungry.

When Jesus proclaims: “Repent for the reign of God is at hand,” he summons people to be the reign of God in the present moment–to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit those in prison, to visit the sick and comfort the dying. He was not talking of some future, perfect place, but calling us to make the Word  active in the present time, in the here and now.

In the days ahead, rather than wringing our hands, let us be about the work of bringing the reign of God to fulfillment in the present.  Our streets are full of people without housing, food, and friends–find one person and be that friend, feed that person, provide housing for that person.  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Temenos Catholic Worker

Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc.

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty

The Cross and Resurrection

January 21, 2017


St. Agnes  Mark 3:20-21

Judge John Hathaway, Juvenile Court Judge, writing to a social worker who works with children writes:
“I’ve been reading and thinking and praying a lot lately about joy and peace on the one hand and suffering on the other.  I long for the joy and peace Christ promised.  Too often I’m more about depression.  I’m trying to figure out the connection or distance between suffering and depression.  Depression is biological, and we can and must treat it.  I’ll struggle with it my whole life.  Suffering is something you and I I’m afraid will always experience, because we’ve had a taste of the kingdom and we know how much better things should be and ultimately will be.  We ache for the children and families we’ve served for so long – we suffer because we so want better for them and helping them achieve it is so hard.  This is our vocation.  If it really is, don’t we have to suffer in some way in the process just as Jesus suffered?  His work came at such a cost – how can ours in his name not cost something?  Suffering and joy.  Cross and resurrection”
We live in a broken world. We have seen in these last days how much pain people are in, how much fear they hold.  We are expressing that fear, anger, and pain at ourselves and others.
I am am working with a young man facing the death sentence, people’s anger have been turned on me, because I talk of seeing goodness in him. I am criticized because I do not talk of housing people, or of getting them off the streets. You see I talk of being their pastor, walking with people, without judgement or expectation. Success for me is in the dedication to my chosen path, not in numbers.  And so on.  It is painful, very painful to to have threats and comments made.
Dorothy Day said: “The greatest challenge is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each of us.”
Arlie Russell Hochschild talks in her book Strangers in Their Own Land,
about the economic and sociological reasons for the rise of President Trump. At the heart of her thesis is that we all have the same basic needs, it is just that we have become unwilling to talk to one another, with our differences, and work together–we have separated into tribes.
To do so we need a revolution of the heart, one in which we look at ourselves, our differences, and put them aside to care about one another. In which our hearts see the other with eyes of love and care.
Dr. N.T. Wright in his book The Day the Revolution Began talks about how the crucifixion signaled a transformation of life, a transformation in which Christ loved us and in that love calls us to love one another in all areas of life. The crucifixion is a life changing event for all of life in the here and now.
These days I am simply listening, praying, letting people email me, face book me, or however in this crazy age of social media, and going into my own heart. I am doing my work– my activism, my marches, and protests– are my daily work of feeding people, taking them to the hospital, listening, and caring for them. I am seeking to allow God revolutionize my own heart more and more.  For like Judge Hathaway tells us suffering and resurrection go together, and it is a slow process, not completed in our own life times, but one of eternity.Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
Temenos Catholic Worker
Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc
Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Being Crushed by the Crowds

January 19, 2017

Being Crushed by the Crowds

Mark 3: 7-12, “Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready so he would not be crushed by the crowds.”

The crowd’s are crushing, you don’t have to think, you simply go along, it’s easy,  crowd’s  are destructive, crowd’s kill emotionally and physically.

Arlie Russell Hochschild, writes in her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, how we Americans are so divided because we stay in our own “tribes,”–rich white with rich white, queer with queer, black with black, brown with brown, liberal with liberal, conservative with conservative. That failure to mix, share, and respect has lead to much division and hate.

The past few days I have been making arrangements for my memorial service, and the disposition of my body when I die. It is simply a practical step, that must be done. And as I have been preparing these plans I have reviewed the past year.  As I have walked with a person going through a murder trial, I have found people pulling away–because I say simply I see the broken face of Christ in him.  I see his goodness.  It does not mean I am giving support to the most evil of evils, but within him their is goodness, and he is God’s child. It is like the man who killed my son, as I gave him the Sacrament of  Reconciliation as he was dying, my heart saw him as the child of God.  I loved him in those moments with all my heart, but I did not like him, and I forgave him.  All of us are broken human beings and it is in admitting that, and seeing in the presence of Christ a new beginning do we grow.  I am against the death penalty because first of all in human hands it is imperfect, innocent people are executed, secondly it does not give a chance for the person who committed the crime to find reconciliation and to grow, and vengeance only causes more violence.

We need to step away from the crowd and look at ourselves, and in so doing look at our own brokenness, and  see ourselves in each other, and  walk with compassion with each other. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Join me tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. to Vigil Against the Death Penalty at 350 McAllister Street–if you are nice I might even buy you breakfast.

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw


Temenos Catholic Worker

Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Hope Springs Eternal

January 18, 2017



In Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl describes hope as the key to survival amid the horrors of a concentration camp.  Hope is not sentimental optimism, but in the words of Marianne Kara “Hope is a discipline.” When we hope, we face reality because God is found in what is real.  We know that things may not turn out as we want, but we strive valiantly regardless.  God is faithful, and there is meaning in all circumstances.  When we hope we live generously and gratefully in the present because we know deep down that all will be be well–not perfect, but well. With every word or deed steeped in hope, the future opens up to reveal a present beyond our imagining.


This week we are remembering that forty years ago the death penalty was reinstated.  We are celebrating the Week of  Prayer for Christian Unity, and last week Dylan Roof was sentenced to death in South Carolina.

The news reports talks of the coldness in Dylan’s eyes, of his flat tone, he is portrayed as ruthless,  but if you look close enough you can see in those eyes a scared kid, raised on hate, not hearing much of love and diversity, and driven by a force of evil, which overcame him.  Dylan is a broken human being, and rather than send him to death, he should receive life without parole, and in the years in prison be given a chance to see his wrong, to come to an inner peace, and through that peace to become the child of God that deep down he is.

Pope Francis says: “Capitol punishment is cruel, inhumane, and an offense to the dignity of life.  There is no crime in the world that deserves the death penalty.”

This Friday, rather than watch the inauguration at 9:00 a.m. come join us at 350 McAllister Street, in San Francisco, CA at the Earl Warren Building as we Vigil Against the Death Penalty.

Sr. Margaret Magee speaks to us in these words:

“Our Franciscan char-ism and spirituality calls us to be Chris-tic peacemakers, instruments of peace. Francis of Assisi was truly a man of peace and reconciliation. Francis lived, embodied, and witnessed the person of Jesus Christ by breaking down barriers and seeing all people and all creation as sister and brother. In doing so, Francis became visibly marked by the wounds of Divine Love, the stigmata.  May we be the visible instruments of God’s presence opening doors to reconciliation, creating new relationships and new ways of building up the Kingdom of God.

Let us hear those words, let us try to live those words out in our lives.

Come Join Us! Let us remember the Fortieth Anniversary of the Reinstatement of the Death Penalty! Let us remember The Week of Christian Unity! Let us remember Dylan and all those on death row! Let us remember the victims! Let us seek new ways of building up the reign of God! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw


Witness Against Torture

January 4, 2017


Dear Friends,


Witness Against Torture is once again gathering in Washington D.C to Fast for Justice. The first car loads of people have arrived. The first actions are being crafted and our last meal has been consumed.  Every year, we come from around the country to reflect and take action. We center our work together by remembering the Muslim men that remain in Guantanamo. Most of them have never been charged with any crime. For the next 8 days, our lives are intertwined together in this basement hostel, where we will create a resistance community, we will build a shared analysis, and we will fast.


We will fast in solidarity with the 59 Muslim men that remain in Guantanamo.


We will fast to resist white supremacy, racism, islamophobia, and fear of our neighbor.


We will fast to denounce state violence.


We will fast to remain human in a culture that dehumanizes our communities.


We know that human rights face a new danger: Donald Trump. His racist and islamophobic rhetoric threatens us all. He has said he wants to torture. He has vowed to keep Guantanamo open. Just yesterday, Donald Trump reminded the world he will not release anyone.



This year, we are fasting and building together to strengthen our resistance for the years to come. We  invite you to join us in this work.  We are fasting until January 11th. We are engaging in creative direct action. You can come to DC or you can participate from home. Just send us an email and let us know your plans:


If you want to receive the daily fasting updates, please let us know by emailing


Schedule for January 8th to the 12th:

Click here to see Full Fast Schedule


Join us next week for these larger events in DC:


Breathing Fire: A Teach-In on Teargas in Prison


Sunday, January 8th, 6 to 8pm:


Location: First Trinity Lutheran Church
501 4th St NW, (entrance on 4th Street)
Washington DC 20001 (4th and E Sts. NW)
(Judiciary Square Metro)

This Teach-In will include:
1. What is tear gas? Who makes it? Who uses it? Why is it banned?
2. Who does teargas impact? Activity with testimonies of being gassed in prison, in protest and around the world?
3. Facing Teargas in Prison: The letters from the inside, the petition of 13K, what we are gonna do at the Department of Justice the next day
4. Prison Militarization: what does that even mean?


Words From the Grassroots: Strengthening Our Resistance to State Violence


Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Location  801 22nd Street NW
Gallery 102, Smith Hall of Art
Washington, DC 20052


Join the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture, and the Tea Project for a night of tea, art, poetry, music, and words by artists, activists, and leaders in the movements to end state violence from indefinite detention at Guantánamo, police murders, and institutionalized Islamophobia. Speakers will share stories of hope and lessons from the front lines of their work, while speaking to the ways we need to change our resistance to confront the incoming Trump administration.

January 11th Rally:


No More Guantanamo. No Torture Presidency.  No Indefinite Detention

Join Witness Against Torture and our coalition partners on January 11th in Washington, D.C. for our annual

Rally to Close Guantanamo!


Location: White House Ellipse
12 noon: Music
12:30: Rally
1:30: March to Department of Justice


Witness Against Torture on Social Media

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.

Post any pictures of your local activities to our flickr account and we will help spread the word.


Donate to support our work

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. We need your financial support. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit.If you are able, please donate here:


Witness Against Torture:Fast for Justice

January 3, 2017

Witness Against Torture: Fast for Justice

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 to Thursday, January 12, 2017
Ohio to Washington, DC

Go to Washington, DC to witness against torture and call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and an end to Islamophobia or you can write your representatives from home and pray for those in the Capitol.

We will participate in a liquid fast (as able) and join in direct actions, vigils and educational sessions around the topics of anti-militarism, nonviolence, anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and more.

Contact: if you are coming to Washington D.C. for housing or to let her know you are fasting.


In reading  Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems we are overwhelmed by the inhumanity of our soldiers in their treatment of the detainees. It goes against every value that we have been raised to believe as American values of fair treatment of all.

To maintain our humanity we must protest torture and the imprisonment of people without fair hearings in  our names.  To maintain our humanity we must protest the killing of people in our names through the death penalty.

So let us join our brothers and sisters in Washington D.C. in spirit, and if possible with our presence. We can write letters or emails to our congressional leaders, and to the president, and the president elect, and let our voices be heard. We can fast during this time. Drink liquids, eat simpler, but let us pray, and look within ourselves and move out in protest to bring life to the those at Guantanamo and to eliminate the death penalty.  Let us walk the seamless thread of life. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty