CAMDEN, N.J. — Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua Church here and several members of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry recently returned from the annual vigil and protest to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA), officially known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
The SOA, located at Ft. Benning, Ga., is the U.S. Defense Department’s principal Spanish-language training facility for Latin American military and law-enforcement personnel.
Organizers for justice in the Americas have been gathering at the gates of Ft. Benning since 1990 for the Vigil and Nonviolent Direct Action to Close the School of the Americas. This year’s event, Nov. 16-18, attracted more than 25,000 protesters.
This was the eighth year that Jud has participated, and for the third consecutive year he traveled with members of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry, including Joanne Lannan, Yvelisse Taveras and Kelly Zientek, shown in photo.
The Franciscan family was well represented, according to Jud, with friars from many different provinces, Franciscan sisters and Secular Franciscans. Many college students wore T-shirts with a photo of St. Barbara Province friar Louis Vitale, emblazoned with the words “Prisoner of Conscience.”
For Thanksgiving, the Camden parish distributed 326 turkeys to families in need. The turkeys were donated to the church from a variety of sources including the Notre Dame Club of South Jersey, St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, and local parishes and schools.
Saint Anthony’s is also grateful to St. Mary’s for a recent donation of chairs. St. Mary’s Pastor Kevin Downey, OFM, delivered the chairs after St. Mary’s got new ones for the recent opening of its Carnevale Center.
The parish will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 9.