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Monday, September 24, 2018

09-19 Montana Catholic Vol. 24, No. 9

A Journey of Hope

Twenty-three-year-old Julie Welch and 167 others were killed in Oklahoma City by a bomb planted by Timothy McVeigh. Julie’s father, Bud Welch, longed to see Timothy McVeigh dead. Months later he came to the realization that it was hatred and revenge that made him want to see him dead, and that was the very reason why the bomb was planted in the first place.
Manny Babbitt, a decorated Vietnam veteran, suffered from mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder. One evening he broke into the home of an elderly woman who surprised him in the act. He beat the woman and ran. The woman later died of a heart attack.
Manny’s brother, Bill Babbitt, turned Manny in, expecting psychological help, but none was provided. Instead Manny was convicted of murder and executed in the death chambers of San Quentin in May 1999. His court-appointed attorney was later found incompetent and disbarred.
Bud Welch and Bill Babbitt now travel the country as part of “A Journey of Hope” to tell their stories and promote alternatives to the death penalty.
From Oct. 2 to 11, both men and 16 other Journey members will be in Montana to share their stories of the horror they experienced, their desire for revenge, and the journey they made to compassion, forgiveness and healing. The group is made up of murder victims’ family members, family members of those executed and family members of those currently on death row. They are also joined by several former death row inmates who have been exonerated of their crimes. This event is sponsored in part by the Montana Catholic Conference and the Montana Abolition Coalition.
This group will split into small groups and visit over 20 communities for speaking engagements in churches, schools, libraries and other venues. Some communities will host multiple events.
The whirlwind tour will be in Helena, East Helena, Bozeman, Ennis, Livingston, Dillon, Butte, Anaconda, Deer Lodge, Hamilton, Missoula, St. Ignatius, Charlo, Eureka, Lolo, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Arlee, Havre, Great Falls, Harlowton, Townsend and Miles City. We tried to make it as convenient as possible for many of us to attend the events.
The death penalty is one of those emotional issues that is difficult for us to talk about. Fortunately not many of us have been directly affected by violent crime, and we don’t know what we would do if it was our child, our spouse or our sibling. These people know. They are real people, with real stories.
Marietta Jaeger Lane is one of the founding members of the Journey of Hope. Her daughter Suzie was 6 years old when she was abducted from the family tent near Three Forks. It was a year before the family had any idea what had happened to her.
Marietta tells how she could have “strangled him (the perpetrator) with her own bare hands,” then she describes how she was gradually called to move from “fury to forgiveness.” It was not an easy journey for her to make.
This event is a great opportunity to listen to her and others who have been most directly affected. Their stories are compelling and inspiring. If you can take the time to meet these remarkable people, and listen to their stories, I guarantee that you will never forget them.
Some dates, times and locations are still in flux as this article is being written. Watch your bulletins for announcements or more specifics, check our MCC website (montanacc.org) for the latest updates, or call Katie at 442-5761.
Moe Wosepka is the executive director of the Montana Catholic Conference.