Opening Remarks at Martin Sheen Fundraiser

by Laura Slattery, Executive Director

My name is Laura Slattery and I am the current Director of this Project, the Gubbio Project, that provides sacred sleep during the day to our brothers and sisters without homes in this neighborhood. The Gubbio Project is a sanctuary of sorts from the violence and disorientation caused by life on the streets that was started by Fr. Louie Vitale 8 years ago when he was pastor at St. Boniface.

We have asked Martin Sheen to share with us this evening on the topics of Social Justice and Sanctuary drawing on his faith journey. We thought that a fitting subject given the Gubbio Project's mission of offering radical hospitality and challenging societal, and sometimes church, notions of who belongs and who is worthy or sacred, combined with Martin Sheen's long history of social activism fueled by his deep convictions and values rooted in Catholic thought and practice. We first had the idea of inviting Martin Sheen to share some reflections with us when his recent movie, The Way, came out. We saw connections with the pilgrimage in the movie of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela to the lives of many of our guests and our own lives, of course. Finding sanctuary and kindness and ultimately transformation along the way.

I feel honored, or maybe humbled, to introduce Fr. Louie, who will then introduce his good friend and fellow activist, our guest this evening, Martin Sheen.

I've known Louie for almost 15 years now. I know many of you, including Martin, have known him much longer. What draws me to Fr. Louie (and to this Project he started) is his vision, the way he sees the world and the way he sees people. He looks at folks and sees sacredness and woundedness, doesn't matter their station in life, their wealth or lack of it. He can, and does, talk to the Nancy Pelosi's of the world the same way he talks with the homeless - attentive, caring, and not afraid to call out the BS when he hears it.

He looks at the world, and sees how we could be doing it differently - without nuclear weapons, without wars and torture, putting people before profit, seeing that it is up to us, to each one of us, to bring about the world that we want to see (he would use more religious words if you pressed him - the reality of the incarnation). He takes that insight seriously and stands up to the powers and principalities to make that a reality.

While I have known Louie for a long time, I just met Martin tonight. It is Louie's job to introduce and to interview him, but I wanted to end my remarks by reflecting on what I see as similarities between Mr. Sheen and Fr. Vitale.

Both are men that believe that one person can make a difference, and at the same time that we are nothing without community or without the Divine, the Holy. (Jump in here and correct me if I say something wrong about you). Both have been arrested (66 times for Martin, 200+ times for Louie, if Wikipedia can be trusted), arrested in the pursuit of justice for the earth, for those on the margins (be they homeless, glbtq, Palestinians, victims of torture), for an end to nuclear weapons. Both bring a refreshing humility to the work (one that is actually a requirement of nonviolence, right, because as Gandhi says - in the end if you're wrong you are the only one who has suffered because of your actions) and a passion to calling out injustice and calling forth a new way. They have chosen different professions, but they have the same call and are surely on the same path/camino. Folks, please welcome Friar Louie Vitale and Martin Sheen.