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Inventory of the Sanctuary Oral History Project Records
GTU 2009-3-02  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Index
  • Other Finding Aids

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Sanctuary Oral History Project records
    Dates: 1971-2007
    Bulk Dates: (predominant 1997-1998)
    Collection number: GTU 2009-3-02
    Creator: Purcell, Eileen
    Collection Size: 5.8 linear feet (6 boxes, 2 folders in map drawer) 12 transcripts, 20 images
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union. Library.
    Berkeley, CA 94709
    Abstract: An oral history of the sanctuary movement based on interviews with religious and lay leaders in the Bay Area conducted by Eileen Purcell during 1997-1998. The interviews cover the beginning of the sanctuary movement during the Vietnam Conflict (1971-1972) and the much more extensive movement assisting Central American refugees in the United States (1982-1987). Associated records document the movement's activities and concerns year by year.
    Physical location: 1/H/3, posters in map drawer 4
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English Spanish


    Collection is open for research. Portion of Bernie Maezel interview on tape is restricted.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist.

    Preferred Citation

    Sanctuary Oral History Project records, GTU 2009-3-02. Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by Eileen Purcell on March 24, 2009, and September 21, 2010.

    Biography / Administrative History

    Eileen Purcell planned a comprehensive oral history of the Sanctuary movement that would include refugees as well as religious and lay leaders in the Bay Area, the US, and Central America. The project was sponsored by the SHARE Foundation and the National Sanctuary Defense Fund / the Monsenor Romero Foundation. After the initial interviews, the project was put on hold when Purcell was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, from which she later recovered.
    The sanctuary movement began during the Vietnam War when churches offered "the availability of shelter and sustenance to military personnel who are conscientiously unable to continue their participation in the armed forces or in combat duties."
    Later, a much larger movement began in the early 1980's in response to refugees from Central America. Faced with civil war, military aggression and terror, citizens began to travel north to Mexico and then to the United States. US policy did not recognize Central Americans, or El Salvadorans, as qualifying for refugee status. Those who were caught were deported and returned to their countries. Becoming aware of the situation, churches responded to the needs of the refugees by offering sanctuary.
    On March 24, 1982, five congregations in Berkeley and one in Phoenix, Arizona, publicly committed to "protect, defend and advocate for" men, women and children fleeing from Guatemala and El Salvador. Churches throughout the country joined in this movement. After protection was no longer necessary for Central American refugees, the movement continued, focusing on issues with immigrants from throughout the world
    Before the illness, Purcell interviewed 12 leaders during 1997 and 1998. These included:
    • Rev. Gus Schultz, Lutheran minister and one of the founders of the original Sanctuary movement during the Vietnam War and co-founder of the Public Sanctuary Movement in the 1980's.
    • Norm Berryessa, a management and financial consultant, involved in sanctuary during Vietnam War
    • Marilyn Chilcote, Presbyterian minister, who became director of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant
    • Bob Fitch, United Church of Christ minister and photojournalist
    • Maureen Hally, RSM
    • Kathleen Healy, PUBM, who facilitated the process for Presentation sisters and church to declare public sanctuary
    • Bernie Mazel, instrumental in raising millions of dollars for National Sanctuary Defense Fund (NDSF) through direct mail
    • Rev. Bob McKenzie, Presbyterian minister
    • Fr. Bill O'Donnell, Catholic pastor and co-founder of the Public Sanctuary Movement
    • Rev. Peter Sammon, pastor at St. Teresa's, the first public sanctuary in San Francisco
    • Arleen Schaupp, a leader in the Sanctuary movement in the South Bay
    • Sr. Bernadette Wombacher OP, Dominican sister, who facilitated the process for her congregation to declare public sanctuary
    Interviews of several refugees were conducted but the recordings were lost during Purcell's illness.
    Purcell grew up in San Francisco. She received a BA in History from Stanford University (1976), completed a year in both the Social Work and African American Studies MA programs at Boston Univesity, and earned an MSW from San Jose State (1979). She attended the Summer Institute, Columbia University Oral History Research Office, in 1998.
    In the 1980's, she became a United Farm Worker volunteer and shortly after, one of the original organizers of the National Sanctuary Movement. She traveled extensively in El Salvador and to refugee camps in Honduras and conducted fact finding trips with religious and congressional leaders. She served as a fulltime organizer for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and later became the executive director of the SHARE Foundation in Washington, DC. As of 2009, she is the Senior International Representative for Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection documents the Sanctuary Movement. The collection contains recorded interviews in audio cassette and transcript form of 12 religious and lay leaders mostly from the Bay Area with associated documents. Also included are posters that comemmorate religious martyrs of Central America. Additionally, the collection contains documents of various organizations that took part in assisting the Sanctuary Movement and the repatriation process of the late 1980s, delegations led by Church leaders and SHARE, as well as documented accounts of the attacks on individuals and the Church in El Salvador.


    The collection is organized in the original order: transcripts and documents to support the interviews, audio cassettes, posters and associated records. Series 1, Oral History; Series 2, Interviews; Series 3, Posters; and Series 4, Associated Records, which contains the following: Subseries A, Purcell's Documents; Subseries B, Organizations; Subseries C, Attacks and Offensives; Subseries D, Delegations; Subseries E, Repatriation; Subseries F, Literature; Subseries G, Washington; Subseries H, Guatemala.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Sanctuary movement.
    Church work with refugees--United States.
    Refugees, Political--Central America.
    Christianity and justice--United States.
    Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Moral and ethical aspects.
    Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Religious aspects.
    Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Desertions--United States.

    Mazel, Bernard (1917- )
    Berryessa, Norman
    Chilcote, Marilyn (1944- )
    Fitch, Robert (1939- )
    Hally, Maureen (1938- )
    Healy, Kathleen (1926-)
    McKenzie, Robert (1930- )
    Sammon, Peter (1923- )
    O'Donnell, Bill
    Purcell, Eileen
    Schaupp, Arleen (1934- )
    Wombacher, Bernadette (1925- )
    Schultz, Gustav H., (1935-2007)

    Other Finding Aids

    Gustav Schultz Sanctuary Collection, GTU 90-5-01; National Sanctuary Defense Fund Collection, GTU 98-9-04; East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Collection, GTU 89-11-01.