Suzanne Belote Shanley

Co-founder of Agape Community; Educator;Activist

I am the co-founder of a lay Catholic community that’s ecumenical, interfaith, and open to all. No one is unwelcome here under any circumstances and so Brayton and I co-founded this community with two missionaries from Haiti and a priest. He’s a Melkite priest in the Eastern Rite, in 1982. So now I am part of this whole sustainable operation and we teach. We do courses here. We do programs here. We have hundreds of college students come here every year for the immersions. We started this community, Agape, but [first] in Brockton, sort of in the inner city of Brockton, with the idea that we would become more residential. People would come and live with us. We started a community with this family, but then we had this dream after five years that we really needed to reduce our lifestyle even more, grow our own food, not use fossil fuels, heat by wood. We drove a car that drove on vegetable oil, we had a grease car for a while. Now we have an electric car. So we really wanted to scale down even more so this afforded the opportunity to come to this land and we got interest-free loans and we got donations. By the time we moved here in 1987, people knew us fairly well. We had been at the peace issues or doing one thing or another with peace-making for about 15 years, so people knew us and people were willing to support donations.  ...... All of our protesting came out of our faith. So before we went anywhere and witnessed against anything, we said we would pray together. We said we would have long periods of prayer together. What is God calling us to?  How is God calling us? How is God touching our hearts?  Before we would act, and then we would act nonviolently.  

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Suzanne Belote Shanley is co-founder of the Agape Community, a residential, lay Catholic Community dedicated to prayer, voluntary simplicity, and gospel-centered nonviolent witness in the world, in 1982. She has studied the topic of women and war for over 35 years, bringing to life biographies of pacifists in the women’s movement past and present, while inspiring young people to claim their nonviolent heritage. In this interview, Suzanne reflects upon the many factors that contributed to the cultivation of her activist spirit and commitment to nonviolence, sustainability, and Catholicism. Suzanne describes the unique historical contexts such as the Sexual Revolution, Vietnam War, and Nuclear Arms Race that radicalized her as an anti-war and generally pro-life advocate. In addition, Suzanne describes her journey to passionate and subversive Catholicism through relationships with her husband, activist priests, and other religious protesters. Suzanne concludes the interview by discussing the mission and functions of the Agape Community and giving her take on the current socio-political climate.

Interview
Interview Date: 
March 27, 2017
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