John X. Linnehan: From priest to activist

by Carol Mosley

Feb. 28, 1928 – May 13, 2020

John Xavier Linnehan transitioned at 93 with his wife, Martina, at his side.

He lived a life of simplicity and social activism, putting words into action to effect social change.

John graduated from Boston College, did a brief stint in the Air Force, and entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. From 1958 through the next 15 years, he served as a pastor and Superintendent of Schools. In 1973 he married Martina as they began a life of activism together.

Active in grassroots movements for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability, they began organizing with United Farmworkers, and then resisting the military-industrial complex and nuclear arms.

In 1983, they engaged in their first act of nonviolent civil disobedience at the G.E. plant in Largo, which manufactured nuclear weapons components. Both were convicted of “criminal mischief, trespassing, andunlawful assembly” and served six months in prison. Upon release, John and Martina worked with the homeless at the Open-Door Community in Atlanta.

They were also involved various other groups, including the Nuclear Freeze Campaign, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice (FCPJ), Pax Christi Florida, Ground Zero, From Trident to Life Campaign, The Southern Life Community, the Nuclear Train Campaign, the NAACP, Witness for Peace in Nicaragua, Floridians Against the Death Penalty, Atlanta Dojo and the Smokey Mountain Peace Pagoda project.

Founding Metanoia Community in 1986, John and Martina confronted what Martin Luther King called the three social evils: racism, materialism and militarism. They participated in a 200-mile “Cancel the Countdown” peace walk from Kings Bay to Patrick Air Force Base, protesting the Trident II missile; a pilgrimage from the site of Florida’s executions in Raiford to Tallahassee to advocate for alternatives to the death penalty; a Walk for the Earth from the Everglades to Tallahassee; and a walk for economic justice to the 2004 G8 Summit in Georgia.

John became especially concerned about climate change and the effect on future generations. In 2009,

“X and M” moved to the Land owned by FCPJ in Bradford County, where they helped build two “eco” houses modeling sustainable design and energy efficiency. They devoted their final years of activism to the study, practice and teaching of sustainable living in relationship to the Earth, challenging all to social responsibility.

Scaling down in later years, John and Martina moved from the FCPJ Land to a simple apartment in Gainesville in 2018. John X would often remind everyone to “trust the process” and “embrace the mystery.” To the end, he was known for stretching the paradigms of conventional thought, whether social, political, or theological, as he challenged the status quo.

Martina was his transition coach through his last long-distance trek. His remains were interred at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, south of Gainesville. 

A Celebration of Life is planned for a future time at FCPJ. For those who wish to memorialize John X, donations can be made to the “X Fund” of the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, 10665 SW 89TH Ave., Hampton, FL 32044. Rest in Power, John X.

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