For almost 30 years Sister Rosemary Lynch was an outspoken advocate for non-violence. She co-founded the activist group Pace e Bene and was closely tied to the Nevada Desert Experience, an ongoing protest movement against nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site.
Born in 1917 in Phoenix, Arizona, Lynch joined the Franciscan order, Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in 1932 and took her vows in 1934. For several years she worked as a teacher and then a principal in Catholic high schools in California and Montana. Throughout her time in the west, she was involved in social justice and environmental issues through the Sagebrush Alliance network. In 1960 she was chosen to represent her congregation in Rome, where she stayed for fifteen years. During this time, she was present during the four-year Second Vatican Council, which instigated a period of modernization for the Catholic Church and promoted more connection between congregations and the communities they served. With this new direction, Lynch visited her congregation’s provinces around the world, and the poverty and suffering she saw during these trips had a profound impact on her desire to promote social justice and peace.
In 1977, when she returned to the United States, she joined the staff of the Franciscan Center in Las Vegas and was immediately drawn to the issues surrounding the testing of nuclear weapons at the nearby Nevada Test Site. That year, Lynch and some friends organized the first protest at the Test Site in twenty years. In 1982 she participated in the first Lenten Desert Experience protest at the Test Site, and continued to be involved in the ongoing protest movement over the years as it became the Nevada Desert Experience. With this organization, Lynch advocated a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end nuclear testing worldwide, including at the Nevada Test Site. Lynch was also careful to note that they were protesting the violence that the Test Site represented, not the workers of the Test Site. At the very first protest in 1977, for example, one of the protester’s signs read, “NTS Workers Yes, Nuclear Bombs No.”
In 1989 Lynch was among the co-founders of Pace e Bene, a nondenominational non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace and social justice through non-violent organizing, community-building, and education. In 2005, she retired from the organization’s staff and was designated a “Pace e Bene Elder” to continue offering guidance and support throughout her retirement.
In January 2011, Lynch was struck by a car while on a walk with a friend, and passed away from injuries shortly thereafter.
Photo courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
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