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Dorothy Day’s granddaughter urges Catholics to speak out against war and injustice

Dorothy Day's granddaughter Martha Hennessy (CNS)

Catholics have a responsibility to respond to violence, poverty and wars, according to Dorothy Day’s granddaughter Martha Hennessy.

Hennessy made the plea at a morning talk on November 21 in the church basement of St Francis of Assisi in Derwood, Maryland, in the United States.

Speaking to a group of about 50 people, she also discussed her grandmother’s legacy, saying that even though Day, who is a candidate for sainthood, was quoted as saying: “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily,” she is sure her grandmother is “great with the idea” now.

She added that the Church needs Day’s example as a laywoman, mother and grandmother who lived her faith intentionally.

Hennessy, 60, is one of Day’s nine grandchildren. Seven are still living. Her mother, Tamar, Day’s only child, died in 2008.

Hennessy, who has three children and five grandchildren, said her grandmother “has played a role in every decision in my life.”

Days before her visit to the parish, Hennessy attended the US bishops’ annual autumn general assembly in Baltimore representing The Catholic Worker newspaper as one of its editors.

Just three years ago at the meeting, the bishops, by voice vote, endorsed Day’s sainthood cause, which was opened in 2000 and she was given the title of “servant of God.”

During a news briefing at this year’s meeting, Hennessy asked if the bishops would condemn the possibility of escalating war with Syria after the recent attacks in Paris.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops would approach the current situation in the Church’s tradition of ‘just war’ theory, which among other criteria asks whether the damage inflicted by the aggressor is “lasting, grave and certain” and examines whether all other means to ending the aggression “impractical or ineffective.”

Archbishop Kurtz said the bishops would be in union with the Pope’s view and also “see war is not a solution to problems.”

Hennessy reminded the bishops that two months earlier Pope Francis singled out her grandmother as one of four Americans who had made the country better in his speech to a joint meeting of the US Congress. Besides Day, he mentioned Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Trappist Father Thomas Merton. Hennessy said three of the four names he mentioned were pacifists who favored nonviolence.