CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, PENNSYLVANIA – At approximately 11 pm last night, the warden of State Correctional Institution-Cambridge Springs alerted the family of Sister Bear that she had been murdered inside the prison. Details about the perpetrating inmate have not yet been released, but it is expected that she will be placed in solitary confinement before being transferred to a maximum-security prison where she will presumably receive an extension of her sentence.
Sister Bear, born in 1974, was only 41 at the time of her murder. Her parents and older brother survive her.
Growing up in Solebury Township in Bucks County, PA, Bear lived with her parents and older brother in an old wooden house where Bear learned much about tidiness, cleanliness, and other life skills, such as saving money. She cited her parents’ educational influence on her in an interview conducted by Waging Nonviolence in 2011. Early in life, Bear learned to stand up to bullies. She was also known for reading books about ecology at a precociously young age. In her teens, she began an anti-pollution movement. As part of her campaign, she organized a park cleanup, petitioned her school and local businesses to compost their garbage and send their plastics, paper, and glass to recycling plants, and raised awareness of environmental issues overall. She was awarded a Key to the City for her contribution to the Township, and continued to call Solesbury home even as her sphere of influence grew and she spent more time away than in town.
Bear attended Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit in Pittsburgh, PA, where she converted to Catholicism and decided to become a nun. Sister Bear, as she was soon known to all, took her vows but refused to remain passive in a nunnery. Instead, she joined Plowshares, a mostly Christian pacifist and anti-nuclear movement. Their actions have included breaking into nuclear facilities and spray-painting Bible verses on buildings as well as throwing blood on and praying outside of weapons factories.
In 2012, Bear was involved in an organized non-violent protest in which she and several other activists managed to climb, undetected, to the top of the headquarters of a major weapons manufacturer in Virginia. She and the others had previously drained the blood of a dear friend and fellow activist who had died of complications arising from an amputation he had after serving in Afghanistan. He had requested they use his blood in their next act, and so they poured it down the windows of the office building and stayed on the roof all night, singing hymns, praying, and finally sleeping as the sun came up. When they were awakened by guards in the morning, they were immediately arrested and soon stood trial.
Sister Bear spoke on the stand only of her belief in a greener earth, her trust in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and her passion for human life alongside a sustainable environment. She refused to answer questions, simply repeating her prepared statements regarding the sanctity of the earth and its inhabitants until she was informed that she was being held in contempt of court, and was immediately sentenced to four years in a minimum-security prison in her home state.
Although access to the inmates was denied, the guards at the Cambridge Springs facilities all reported that Sister Bear was mostly beloved by her fellow inmates. One guard speculated that the murder may have occurred due to a dispute over who would sing in the coming weekend’s services.
Sister Bear’s body will be released to her family, but no details of the funeral are known at this time.