Theresa Bonpane

Theresa Bonpane is a lifelong activist and peace advocate fighting for human rights and addressing the root causes of war and oppression. She served as a Maryknoll sister in Chile and became politically active while working with marginalized communities, realizing that the poor needed systemic change, not just charity. Alongside her husband, Blase Bonpane, her two children, and six grandchildren, she has been a leading voice in the peace movement and has spent decades working to promote peace, nonviolence, and diplomacy.

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Sister Rebel

Theresa Bonpane

Publication Date: August 29, 2023

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781939096081


Theresa Bonpane’s memoir Sister Rebel is an inspiring and powerful read for anyone interested in the world of activism and social justice. The book charts Bonpane’s journey from a young Irish-American woman, to a Maryknoll sister working in Chile, to a dedicated peace activist and director of the Office of the Americas. Along the way, she shares her experiences working alongside notable figures such as Howard Zinn and Martin Sheen, and how they helped shape her beliefs and actions in the fight for peace and justice. Through her personal anecdotes and reflections, Bonpane offers an insightful and thought-provoking look at the inner workings of the peace movement and the challenges faced by activists on the frontlines. This memoir is not only a testament to the power of one person’s commitment to change, but also a call to action for readers to join the fight for a better world.


“From a Catholic convent to national prominence and controversy, Theresa Bonpane shares her deeply personal and inspiring journey of a lifelong, uncompromising peace and social justice icon, wife and mother who never separated one from the other and greatly celebrated both in the balance.”
Martin Sheen

“A gripping account of dedicated service, struggle and personal turmoil, and inspiring accomplishment. It’s a truly marvelous story. Once I opened the book, I couldn’t put it down.”
Noam Chomsky, author of Manufacturing Consent

“The original language of ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ was ‘you’re in the right place . . . if you’re a peacemaker.’ Theresa Bonpane has always chosen to stand in the right place. Her faith moved from her head and found its way to her feet. This is what we are all called to choose. Sister Rebel is exhilarating and honest, and is a pure invitation to stand at the margins with integrity. Her defiant and tender love invites us all to be where our feet are.”
Gregory J. Boyle, SJ, founder of Homeboy Industries

Sister Rebel is a brutally honest view of life inside a convent and life inside a justice movement. Through her triumphs, struggles, and pain in these very different places, Theresa Bonpane never loses her agency or courage. She stays honest and focused on the cause despite the dramatic changes in her living conditions, her finances, her relationships, her roles, and her perceptions of the world. Ms. Bonpane shares the common and unfortunate phenomenon of an organization working for systemic change in the community while failing to create that equity within their own organization. She understands firsthand that there are times to stay and times to move on. Sister Rebel is a riveting book about a courageous, honest organizer who is not afraid of the unknown. Power struggles and personal attacks don’t slow her down. She models how to tell the truth even to beloved leaders, and how to persist with what is right.”
Rev. Janet McKeithen, cofounder of the Committee for Racial Justice

Sister Rebel is a rare account of how the inner life drives the outer one. Theresa Bonpane’s story proves justice is love in action. Young Theresa Killeen worried that God’s will for her meant surrendering ordinary life to vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, following the submissive example Mother Mary offered to Catholic girls: ‘Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.’ But as a nun, Theresa slowly realized religious life wasn’t authentic for her, so she took ‘the leap’ that required tremendous courage from one taught it would only land in hellfire. In fact, she created communities of peace and justice with every new step, starting a halfway house for the ex-religious; teaching in LA schools; working among immigrants and the unhoused. When she married Blase Bonpane, a priest who’d left religious vows to commit more freely to organizing for peace and justice, they raised their children while working with the United Farm Workers, and, when they returned to LA, they endured death threats and official opprobrium to ignite a peace movement that has global reach. This book gives me hope for the future of the planet.”
Mimi Kennedy, actress, author, and activist

“Many people witness history, few people make history. Theresa Bonpane, together with her late husband and lifelong comrades, were leaders in some of the most important issues of our times. Her willingness to share her inner life as a nun, activist, mother, and friend through honesty, vulnerability, and humor pull you into her life as it unfolds page by page. It is rare that we get to experience the inner story of someone as brave, persistent, and tenacious as Teresa. Perhaps the title of the book should be brave and even more brave! The leadership of the Bonpanes was an inspiration to me as a child growing up around their family and the movement to support the people of Central America, and it continued to shape my life as I drew on it in my own journey to become a faith leader grounded in the values of justice they embodied. Sister Rebel—Amen! Amen!”
Rabbi Susan Goldberg, activist and founder of Nefesh

Sister Rebel is an American classic, a powerful and beautifully written memoir of the extraordinary life and times of former Maryknoll sister Theresa Killeen Bonpane. From her humble beginnings as a young woman from Troy, New York, to a Catholic Maryknoll sister dedicated to the poor and destitute of Central America, to a powerful and inspiring leader in America’s peace and justice movement. This is an important book that should be read by every American.”
Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July

“Theresa Bonpane’s new book, Sister Rebel, is a must-read for anyone who’s been involved in the peace & justice/anti-war movement. Her life has been such an incredible journey. Theresa was the codirector of the Office of the Americas for over twenty-five years with her late husband, Blase Bonpane. I worked with them for many years and always referred to them as the ‘heart and soul’ of the movement. Her story is one that most anyone will want to read, whether they are in the movement or not.”
Frank Dorrel, publisher of Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism by Joel Andreas