Denny Duffell is a deacon living in NE Seattle and a Pax Christi USA local group leader. A Matter of Spirit (AMOS), the journal of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, asked him a few questions about his commitment to nonviolence.
AMOS: What encounters have led you to a nonviolent lifestyle?
DENNY DUFFELL: I was short and scrappy as a kid, but a fight on asphalt, when I threw another kid to the ground and knocked him out, instantly replaced my anger with a dread that I had hurt someone seriously—and it changed my life. I still remember that day.
I matured as a student in the late ’60s, influenced by the civil rights struggle and the anti-war movement. I was raised Catholic, and my reflections on Jesus’ life and teachings led me to reject war, war-making and preparing for war. I sought and received Conscientious Objector status. Instead of serving as a soldier in Vietnam, I spent four years as a Jesuit Volunteer, embracing practical poverty, living in community and working to make a difference in the lives of the poor.
Soon afterwards I met and was deeply moved by Cesar Chavez and his nonviolent struggle for justice, with its strong spiritual roots. I began to read seriously the writings of King, Merton and Dorothy Day.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s my wife and I lived with the Seattle Catholic Worker community and helped campaign against the Trident nuclear submarine base at Bangor. My “day job” was at an inner city parish, first staffing a food bank and eventually learning neighborhood organizing. Of course, Archbishop Hunthausen was a terrific inspiration; his picture is still on my wall.
Circumstances moved us from our parish and community, but the changes led to my current ministries at St. Bridget Church and Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where I minister as a chaplain. This is a precious gift to my life, and the families have taught me much. One cannot work there without being moved to compassion. This work has taught me that building peace and holding the broken heart are very similar…