Sanctuary Movement

 The Public Sanctuary Movement:  An Historical Basis of Hope: Oral Histories,  Eileen M. Purcell

On March 24, 1982, five congregations in Berkeley, California, and one congregation in Tucson, Arizona, publicly declared their commitment to "protect, defend and advocate for" Salvadorean and Guatemalan men, women and children fleeing their war ravaged countries of Central America. Conditions in El Salvador and Guatemala pushed people to leave their lands, their families, their professions and their plans behind, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. As thousands of refugees fled the wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, U.S. church groups were called to respond.

The "Sanctuary Movement," as it came to be known, was born, and in just a few years grew from six congregations to more than five hundred congregations across the United States.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Central America, hundreds of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees entering the United States risked apprehension and deportation by sharing their stories of war, repression, flight and search for safe haven in public. Thousands of religious and lay men and women listened to the refugees' stories and opened our churches, synagogues and temples, our homes, rectories and convents, our schools and hospitals in defiance of US immigration policy, which many of us viewed as immoral as well as illegal. We fought side by side with the refugees to change U.S. immigration and foreign policies in the United States. We journeyed to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua to stand in solidarity with the people and historical churches there.


Transcripts from the 12  interviews from the Sanctuary Oral History Project Records,  GTU 2009-3-02,  are available on line

The 12 leaders are:

  •  Rev. Gus Schultz,  Minister, University Lutheran Chapel, Berkeley,
    and Co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement
  • Norm Berryessa, a management and financial consultant, involved in sanctuary during Vietnam War2nd Anniversary
  • Rev. Marilyn Chilcote, Presbyterian Minister and one of the Founders of the Sanctuary Movement in Berkeley
  • Robert D.  Fitch, Instrumental in Organizing Sanctuary for Sailors during Vietnam War and Photo-Journalist
  • Sister Maureen Hally, RSM, Justice Coordinator for the Mercy Sisters
  • Kathleen Healy,  PVBM, Sister of the Presentation in San Francisco and Associate Pastor of St. Teresa’s Parish Community
  • Bernie Mazel, Publisher and Developer of Direct Mail Campaigns (National Sanctuary Defense Fund)
  • Rev. Bob McKenzie, Presbyterian minister
  • Fr. Bill O'Donnell, Priest, St. Joseph the Worker, and co-founder of the Public Sanctuary Movement
  • Rev. Peter Sammon, Priest, St. Teresa’s Parish Parish, Archdiocese of San Francisco
  • Arleen Schaupp, Christian Educator and Member of South Bay Sanctuary Covenant
  • Sister Bernadette Wombacher, OP, Dominican Sister of San Rafael, Co-founder of the Marin
    Interfaith Task Force on Central America

For additional information see the following finding aids on Online Archive of California:
Sanctuary Oral History Project Records
Gustav Schultz Sanctuary Collection, 1971-72, 1981-90
National Sanctuary Defense Fund Records.
East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Collection