Teresa Grady, matriarch of Catholic peace activist family, dies

by Patrick O'Neill

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Teresa Grady, the matriarch of one of the nation's best-known Catholic peace activist families, died Sunday at her home in Ithaca, N.Y. Grady, 88, who suffered from dementia, had recently been in declining health.

With her late husband, John Grady, the couple's activist roots stretched back to the Young Christian Workers, Catholic Worker,* civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movements. Teresa and John, who died in 2002, were contemporaries of the Berrigan brothers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, John and the late Philip Berrigan together played major leadership roles in what became known as the draft board raids in opposition to the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, three of the Grady children (John, Ellen and Clare) were arrested and sent to prison for being involved in the anti-nuclear weapons "Plowshares movement," another brainchild of Berrigan. John was also a co-defendent in the Camden 28 trial, a 1971 raid on a Camden, N.J., draft board office by members of the "Catholic Left" movement.*

Recently, Teresa’s eldest child, Mary Anne Grady Flores, 59, was jailed at the Onondaga County Correctional Facility in upstate New York stemming from an anti-drone protest at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, an Air Force base located in Syracuse, N.Y.* On March 7, after close to two months in jail, Grady Flores was released on $5,000 cash bond pending the New York State Court of Appeals decision on whether it will consider her case.

On Feb. 26, prison officials granted Grady Flores a visit to her mother, who had begun hospice care in her home. In her account of the visit, Grady Flores wrote: "I walked, shackled, wrists-to-waist and ankles, to be at mom's side, leaning over her to kiss her big smiling face. I told her over and over that I loved her, my tears wetting her soft cheeks. I asked if she was in any pain. 'No, I'm not in pain. I'm OK.' She kept smiling and fell asleep. What a precious, blessed moment."

Teresa’s death was announced in a posted statement from her daughter, Ellen Grady DeMott, on social media: "My mom died this morning very peacefully. So, so grateful for her life and love and example!"

In an interview with NCR, Grady DeMott said her mother's life and work were informed by her study of the social teachings of the church, which she always wanted to share with others.

"Her deep faith informed everything she did, how she lived in the world," Grady DeMott said. "Peace and justice were central to her life. Loving and caring for the poor was always part of her work. It was essential to her to share with her children and others what she had learned."

Teresa Jane Shaughnessy Grady was born Nov. 11, 1927 in Pontiac, Ill., the youngest of eight children. She and John Grady married on Feb. 11, 1956. Grady is survived by five children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Grady's wake will be from 3-8 p.m. on April 11 at the Quaker Meeting House in Ithaca, N.Y. The funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. April 12 at Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca.

[Patrick O’Neill is a longtime NCR contributor.] 

* This article was updated April 21 to add more information.

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