As he says, it took a rock to the head to get him to take a radical step toward peace.
Father Eddie Fronske has been parish priest at St. Francis church on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation for 27 years. At the suggestion of a third party, I went to chat with him today in Whiteriver, Ariz.
The short story is this: In 1998 a fellow attendee at a wake smacked him with the rock and gave him a concussion. After some time off, Father Eddie - whose first assignment as Franciscan priest was to hang out with Cesar Chavez and the California farm workers in the 1960s - decided that seeking peace was the only way to combat violence. Soon he saw an opportunity, and led a contingent of Apaches to Mexico to apologize for past misdeeds. It had been more than a century ago the Apaches had begun raiding Pima villages in Mexico virtually on a whim. It was those past deeds the Apaches reconciled, apologizing in person at Catholic parishes among the Pimas.
Did it help? Hard to judge, but Father Eddie believes it did. The story he wrote about it gained world renown among Christians. "The blessing is if people read about that, it gets people thinking," he says.
The Apaches suffer from high unemployment, drug and alcohol problems, and a murder rate that has been measured at nine times the national rate. He's no savior here, in fact he's faced recent death threats, but he does what he can to help.