Louis Vitale, OFM (June 1, 1932 – September 6, 2023) was an American Franciscan friar, peace activist, and co-founder of Nevada Desert Experience. A stalwart in the peace movement, Vitale was arrested over 400 times in the name of peace and nonviolence. He cited Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. as his inspirations.
Early Life and Education
Born on June 1, 1932, in San Gabriel, California, Louis Vitale grew up in a family that ran a lucrative processed fish business. He graduated from Loyola University, now known as Loyola Marymount University, in 1954. After his graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as an intercept officer in charge of radio communications.
In 1960, at the age of 28, he took his vows to become a Franciscan friar. He later earned a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in September 1972. From 1979 to 1988, he served as the provincial superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Barbara. He was also the pastor at St. Boniface Catholic Church in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, California, for 12 years.
Pace e Bene
In 1989, Vitale co-founded Pace e Bene, a nonviolence service. The name translates to “Peace and all good.” Other co-founders included Sr. Rosemary Lynch, Alain Richard, Peter Ediger, and Julia Occhiogrosso, all of whom were experienced peace activists. The organization focuses on educational programs that emphasize nonviolent living and spirituality. In 2005, Pace e Bene published a book, Engage, detailing their programs aimed at personal and social change through the power of nonviolence.
Nevada Desert Experience
In 1981, Vitale received a letter from Rome, urging Franciscans to do something creative in 1982 to honor the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis. This led him to co-found Nevada Desert Experience in 1984, along with Anne Bucher, Michael Affleck, Duncan MacMurdy, Ed Dunn, and Terry Symens. The organization actively protested against the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons testing near Las Vegas, Nevada, and other nuclear-related activities.
Arrests and Protests
Vitale was arrested hundreds of times during his lifetime for participating in peace protests. Some notable instances include:
- Arrest at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, protesting against U.S. interrogation methods.
- Arrest at Vandenberg Air Force Base, protesting against ICBM Testing.
- Arrest at Creech Air Force Base, protesting against UAV Drone attacks in Pakistan.
- Serving six months in federal prison for protesting at Ft Benning against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Louis Vitale passed away on September 6, 2023, in Oakland, California, at the age of 91. His life remains an enduring testament to the power of nonviolent protest and activism.
-  Nevada Desert Experience
-  Inspirational Figures
-  Early Life and U.S. Air Force
-  Number of Arrests
-  Education and Pastoral Work
-  Place of Birth
-  Family Business
-  Pace e Bene and Other Activism
-  Engage Book
-  Nonviolence Education
-  Spiritual Emphasis
-  Study Groups
-  Letter from Rome
-  Co-founders of Nevada Desert Experience
-  Shundahai Network
-  Yucca Mountain Protests
-  Arrest at Fort Huachuca
-  Martin Sheen and Nevada Test Site
-  Creech Air Force Base
-  Protests in Pakistan
-  Ft Benning Prison Time
-  Vandenberg Missile Test
-  Gaza Freedom March
-  Ft Benning Trespass
-  Creech Conviction
-  Drone Convention
-  Death
This article aims to provide an overview of the remarkable life of Louis Vitale, a man who dedicated his life to peace, nonviolence, and the betterment of society.