Words from Fr. Frank Cordaro

Jan 2002

Biographical Information for Fr. Frank Cordaro

Fr. Frank Cordaro, Catholic Worker Community
P. O. Box 4551
Des Moines IA 50306
ph: (515) 243-0765
Des Moines Catholic Worker web page: http://www.no-nukes.org/dmcw
e-mail: frankcordaro@earthlink.net

Educational Background:

Fr. Cordaro is 51 years old. He was born and raised in Des Moines, IA. He graduated from Dowling High School in Des Moines, IA, in 1969. He got his B.A in Physical Education & Health from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA, in 1973; Masters of Divinity from Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, IA, in 1976; and two years of continued seminary formation at St. Johnís in Collegeville, MN, in 1983 -85. Co-founded Des Moines Catholic Worker: 1976-1983

Fr. Cordaro dropped out of the seminary at Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque, IA, in the summer of 1976 and helped co-found the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community. He spent seven years with the Des Moines Catholic Worker helping to run three houses of hospitality for homeless women and families. While at the Catholic Worker, Fr. Cordaro participated in many public protests and acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. He was arrested numerous times and spent a total of ten months in jails and prisons. His protest efforts covered a wide range of issues including nuclear weapons, the arms race, US foreign policies, nuclear power and issues surrounding poverty in the USA.

St. Johnís Seminary & Ordination: 1983-1985 In the Fall of 1983, Fr. Cordaro re-entered the seminary process. He was sent to St. Johnís Seminary in Collegeville, MN, for two years to complete his seminary studies. While at St. Johnís, Fr. Cordaro continued his work on social justice issues, leading campus protests and witnesses against the presence of ROTC on St. Johnís campus, lead delegations of students to Washington D.C. during Spring Break to work with the homeless at the Community For Creative Nonviolence and protested at the Pentagon with the Jonah House resistance community from Baltimore. While at St. Johnís, Fr. Frank was arrested twice at Honeywell Headquarters in Minneapolis and at a farm protest in Marshall MN.

Fr. Cordaro was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Des Moines, IA, by Bishop Dingman in June 1985. Pastor St. Annes & Holy Family: 1985-1992 Fr. Cordaroís first assignment was to a Team Ministry in Harrison County IA and pastor to St. Anneís Parish in Logan, IA and Holy Family Parish in Mondamin, IA. Fr. Cordaro spent the next seven years in Harrison County. While there, he continued to be committed to the Catholic Worker and to resistance work. He was arrested over 15 times in non-violent acts of civil disobedience for a wide range of issues, including nuclear weapons, the arms race, US foreign policies, nuclear power, the farm crisis and abortion. He served three different six-month prison terms while in Harrison County for "crossing the line" at the Strategic Air Command, now the Strategic Nuclear Command, at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, NE. Associate Pastor St. Pat in C.B.: 1992-1995. Upon his release from Federal Prison Camp in November 1992, Fr. Cordaro was assigned to St. Patrickís Parish in Council Bluffs, IA, as an associate pastor. While in Council Bluffs, Fr. Cordaro served as an adjunct teacher for the Buena Vista College Center in Council Bluffs. In May of 1994, Fr. Cordaro "crossed the line" at the Strategic Nuclear Command at Offutt Air Force Base and received another six month prison sentence. Pastor Holy Trinity of SE Warren Co: 1995-1998 In June of 1995, Fr. Cordaro was appointed the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish of SE Warren County, serving the Catholic communities in Milo, Rosemount and Lacona, IA, about 45 miles SE of Des Moines. Resistance and social justice concerns continued to drive him. In his three years in SE Warren Co., Fr. Cordaro was arrested at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., in New York City and during Governor Branstad's January 1997 State of the State Address at the Iowa State Capitol protesting the Governorís attempt to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa Gods of Metal Plowshares: 1998 - 1999 Fr. Cordaro left his pastorate in April of 1998 to participate in the May 17th Gods of Metal Plowshares witness at the annual Military Open House at Andrews Air Force Base in southern MD. Fr. Cordaro and four others took hammers and blood to a B-52 Bomber in a modest effort to disarm this weapon of mass destruction. All five plowshares activist were found guilty of destruction of government property in a two-day trial in Greenbelt MD, Fr. Cordaro was given a six month sentence and was released from the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton SD March 19, 1998. One Year Leave of Absence -1999-2000.

Upon his release, Fr Cordaro was placed on a one year leave of absence from active priestly ministry. He could not promise his Bishop not to be a "law breaker". He moved into the Des Moines Catholic Worker community. After the one year leave of absence, he renegotiated with his Bishop to return to priestly ministry. He promised not to publicly advocate for womenís ordination and other reforms in the Church, and to dialogue with the Bishop on a case by case basis regarding his law-breaking activities. 2001 to present, Fr. Cordaro has been assigned to part time, temporary pastoral assignments in the Des Moines Diocese, filling in where needed and continues to live and work at the Des Moines Catholic Worker. He also continues in his resistance work, and has been arrested several times at the IA Air National Guard Headquarters in Des Moines, and most recently returning to Offutt Air Force Base and StratCom Headquarters in Omaha, crossing the line on Aug 9, 2001. Fr. Cordaro suffered a heart attack in September of 2001. He was also indicted for breaking his ban and bar letters from Offutt AFB. His trial was postponed until March 6, 2002, to give him time to recover from his heart attack. He expects to return to prison for another six-month sentence in March. Activist Priest Fr. Cordaro sees himself as a second generation "Berrigan-type" priest, seeing in Fr. Dan Berrigan, SJ and Phil Berrigan, two good role models for what is possible in the ordained priesthood. Fr. Cordaro gives talks to high school, universities and community groups in the region. Some of his favorite topics are; "Jesus the Nonviolent Resister", "A Call for a Resistance Church" and "Why More Christians Should Be In Jail".

38 Months of Jail Time: Fr. Cordaro has spent a total of 38 months in jails and prisons in the USA. He can speak from first-hand experience about the Federal judicial system and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.