On June 1, Friar Louie Vitale’s friends, colleagues, and family members crowded into the National Shrine of Saint Francis in San Francisco’s North Beach District to celebrate his life and work as he entered his 80th year – and to welcome him home from a six months prison sentence netted for peacemaking at the School of the Americas in Georgia.
Click here to see photos from the event!
Welcomed by former county supervisor Angela Alioto (the Alioto and Vitale families have know each other for decades) Louie’s community came together to share their heartfelt love and support for him and to affirm the importance of the kind of nonviolent resistance Louie’s action last November at Ft. Benning represented.
The event began in the late afternoon with Louie celebrating mass in a replica of a tiny chapel that Saint Francis of Assisi renovated at the beginning of his spiritual journey. The birthday party that followed included music by singer-songwriter Francisco Herrera and by the St. Boniface Gospel Choir, from the church that Louie pastored for thirteen years.
The event was highlighted by an opening ritual by Veronica Pelicaric and a series of moving toasts by Daniel Ellsberg, Sr. Mary Litell, Laura Slattery, Dolores Priem, Friar Josef, and Louie’s sister, Marie Fielding. Anne Symens-Bucher belted out “Hello Louie!” to the tune of “Hello Dolly!” (“Hello Louie/Well Hello Louie/It’s so nice to have you back where you belong”). Then Louie was interviewed in a “fireside chat” by Ken Butigan.
Just before birthday cake was shared by all, activist and author Fr. John Dear, S.J. led the community in a blessing of Louie as he prepares for the next phase of his peacemaking journey.
Louie is deeply grateful for the 150 birthday cards he received from the Pace e Bene family and which we presented to him that evening. We thank you for all your support for this wonderful celebration!