He was born Oct. 5, 1923, in Two Harbors, Minn., the youngest of six sons of Thomas W. Berrigan and Frida Fromhart Berrigan, a German immigrant. Thomas Berrigan was a frustrated poet and a political radical whose labor organizing activities led to his dismissal as a railroad engineer, after which the family moved to Syracuse, New York where he continued his Socialist diatribes.
He was Army combat veteran at the Battle of Bulge but sickened by the killing in World War II that he claimed was “immoral.” He never would say whether he supported Hitler or not, but only that war was immoral no matter what the grounds. After the war, with the urging of his brothers Daniel and Jerome “Jerry,” Phil returned to college in 1946. He graduated with an English degree from the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit university in Worcester, Massachusetts.
In 1950, he joined the Society of St. Joseph, better known as the Josephite Fathers, a religious society of priests and lay brothers dedicated to serving those of African descent, who were still dealing with the repercussions of slavery and daily segregation in the United States and was ordained in 1955.He went on to gain a degree in Secondary Education at Jesuit Loyola University of the South (1957) and then a Master of Arts degree at Xavier University, another Jesuit school in 1960, during which time he began to teach.
His three children, Frida (after his mother), Jerome (his brother) and Katherine survive him as do his three other brothers, Daniel, John, James and Jerome as does his ex-nun wife, Maureen Elizabeth McAlister.Both were excommunidated.