Saturday, September 5, 2009

Duluth teacher-turned-missionary, Father Larry Rosebaugh, killed in Guatemala

Shot and killed by robbers last May while traveling with four other priests

The Rev. Larry Rosebaugh never considered himself a good teacher. But a former student, Carlotta Collette doesn’t agree.

She credits the Roman Catholic priest who taught at Cathedral High School in the mid-1960s with her personal development.

“I was receptive to things like civil rights, the anti-war movement, poverty,” Collette said in a phone interview from Portland, Ore., where she is a city councilor. “He just gave me access to express that.”

In mid-May, Rosebaugh was murdered by masked gunmen while traveling with four other priests in northern Guatemala. One other man was injured in the robbery, which netted the killers about $125, a cell phone and some religious ornaments, according to news reports. Rosebaugh, from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate order, had been a missionary in Guatemala for 10 years.

News of his death is trickling in to Northlanders, or former area residents such as Collette, who considered Rosebaugh a mentor.

“[Rosebaugh] was that combination of a very humble, quiet, kind of shy person, but also a very strong and powerful person,” Collette said.

“He had just this incredible moral core. It wasn’t something he wore on his sleeve. He was quiet about it.”

Seamas Cain introduced himself to Rosebaugh after he discovered that they both had been at the Selma Freedom March in Alabama in 1965. They became friends, and Cain said he was invited to live at the OMI residence, a big house in the Central Hillside where only two priests were living.

“I thought he was a wonderful teacher,” said Cain, a performance artist who lives in Cloquet. “He taught like Socrates. He would ask questions. You had to eventually come up with your own answers. He would make challenges; he didn’t spell it out for you. He was not domineering or telling you what to think.”

Gary Moland was a casual acquaintance of Rosebaugh’s, and said they didn’t always agree politically.

“But it does not take away one bit from the warm memories I have of him always being 100 percent alive and seeing the goodness in life and the fun that was to be had,” Moland said.

After leaving Duluth, Rosebaugh moved to his native Wisconsin, and was part of the Milwaukee 14, a group of protesters who stormed the draft board office and burned draft cards in 1968. They were each sentenced to 20 months in prison. Collette, who remained close to the priest, was one of the people on his correspondence list.

In 1977, Rosebaugh was jailed for four days while living in Brazil, where he had been living among the poor. On the day he was released, then-first lady Rosalynn Carter was in Brazil. Rosebaugh gave her a letter detailing his imprisonment. His actions landed on the front page of the New York Times, and other newspapers around the world.

“I carried that [clipping] around and had it on my bulletin board for years,” Collette said. Duluth News Tribune

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