What is your life’s purpose?
To make the fruits and gifts of the Spirit a “creed” for all: Love, compassion, joy, courage, endurance, justice, peace, reverence, awe, wisdom, kindness, generosity, common good and internationalism.
How are you living your purpose?
In 1983, my wife Theresa and I formed a non-profit educational corporation, Office of the Americas, dedicated to furthering the cause of international justice and peace through broad-based educational programs. We have become a recognized source of documentation and analysis of current international events, with a focus on the foreign policy of the United States. Through its public education program, Office of the Americas works to reach constituencies of students, religious and human rights organizations, and all others concerned about issues of international justice and peace.
Our goal is to end the longstanding culture of militarism. We sent continual delegations of US citizens to see the wars in Central America. They returned to write op-ed pieces, speak in their churches and meeting places, and demand United Nations Peace Accords.
In 1985 and 1986, we led the U.S. contingent of the International March for Peace in Central America, which included some 400 people from 30 countries. This March contributed to the exposure of the Iran/Contra scandal and to peace accords directed by the United Nations.
In 1990 and 1991, we went to Baghdad as a citizens’ peace delegation and have worked for peace in the Middle East for the last 27 years.
How did you find your purpose?
I found my purpose by hearing of the work of the Maryknoll Fathers, when I was at Loyola High School in Los Angeles (a Jesuit School). Maryknoll is the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. It has been sending priests, brothers, and sisters to Asia, Africa, and Latin America since 1911.
I decided to join Maryknoll. I found them to be ecumenical, lighthearted and truly at the service of the poor. For me, it was an opportunity for international service. My parents were very opposed to my idea so I agreed to finish college before entering the seminary.
While at USC, I was a member of the Platoon Leaders Class of the United States Marine Corps Reserve (summer training at Quantico, VA). After my discharge from the USMCR, I joined Maryknoll in September of 1950. I was ordained as a Maryknoll Father in 1958.
While serving as a Maryknoll Father in Guatemala, I was responsible for a movement of university students. On their free time, these dedicated young people worked among the indigenous people of Guatemala teaching literacy and peasant organization. These unarmed groups were called “Guerrillas of Peace” by the people who they served. Unfortunately, the Guatemalan military considered this nonviolent moment to be “subversive.” Our Student Center was destroyed and students had to flee for their lives. Several of us priests and sisters were expelled from Guatemala.
Once back in the United States, I received a gag order from the Church telling me not to report on what I saw in Guatemala. The order was unacceptable to me and I accepted an invitation from The Washington Post to report on my experience. I determined to leave the clerical state and received a request to join the faculty of California State University Los Angeles.
While teaching there, I met Theresa Killeen who had recently left the Maryknoll Sisters in Chile, where she was a high school principal. We were married on January 1, 1970. She is a master organizer, without whom there would be no Office of the Americas.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
“An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. Purpose is vitally important for a meaningful life.
Ask yourself, “How can I be the change that I want to see in the world?” Then deal with your willingness to risk. Many people choose to do boring work without meaning in order to stay afloat monetarily. This is understandable. However, how about saying what you would really like to be doing to be the change you wish to see in the world?
This is where risk comes in, so don’t be a loner. Look for like-minded people who have the same interests as you and have the same worry about income. You may begin with volunteer work in your chosen area and, with some good fortune, you may even be able to generate an income for your family by becoming a full-time worker in your area of choice.
What resources do you recommend?
Please bear with my “self-serving” but I recommend the books I have written (see links below). They are all related to ending war. The war system can end life on this planet rapidly. Nuclear war and climate change are immediate threats to all of us.
I also recommend the work of:
Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans with Code Pink
Kathy Kelly with Voices for Creative Nonviolence
David Swanson of Let’s Try Democracy
Colonel Ann Wright, who received the 2017 annual peace prize from the US Peace Memorial Foundation. Her book is Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
The Nicene Heresy – Christendom and War: Reverence and Critique
Blase Bonpane Comments on The 2nd Encyclical of Pope Francis
Imagine No Religion: The Autobiography of Blase Bonpane
Civilization is Possible
Common Sense for the Twenty-First Century
Guerrillas of Peace on the Air
Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. is director of the Office of the Americas. He has served on the faculties of UCLA and California State University Northridge. His articles have been published internationally as a contributor to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
Blase previously served as a Maryknoll Missioner in Guatemala during the revolutionary conflict of the 1960s. As a result of his work in peasant organizations, he was expelled from that country in 1967. On his return to the United States, Blase and his family lived at the headquarters of United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, where Blase was Editor of UFW publications.
Blase is host of the weekly radio program World Focus on Pacifica Radio (KPFK, Los Angeles). Blase previously hosted the program World Focus on Time/Warner TV Educational and Public Access Channels.
The Blase Bonpane Collection has been established by the Department of Special Collections at the U.C.L.A. Research Library (Collection 1590). This is a compilation of his published and unpublished writings together with recordings of his lectures, radio, and television programs.
He was named “the most underrated humanist of the decade” by the Los Angeles Weekly. In 2006, Blase Bonpane was awarded the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.