Cleveland Catholic Worker House Christmas gathering, circa 2014. We had driven in from Bluffton to see our old friends. Jonathan, Liz and I (“Bluffton” sweatshirt) are in the lower left. The Catholic Worker Movement is one of the most dynamic grassroots forces across the country in helping those on the margins in our cities.
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Liz as a Catholic Worker
We have been quite involved with the Catholic Worker Movement. This was a movement started by Dorothy Day in the mid part of last century and revolves around helping those on the margins in some of the most dramatic ways.
There are a series of Catholic Worker Houses all over the country. They are set up to not only take in the homeless, but are designed so the residence and volunteer staff live together “in deeply significant community.”
And that’s just one dimension.
The following will give you an even better feel for how multi-faceted, and effective, Catholic Workers are.
In 2004, our family felt spiritually called to move from asort of idyllic small town life in Bluffton, Ohio, to a hardscrabble part of Cleveland, Ohio. And we moved right into the midst of the Catholic Workers there.
At the time, the main Catholic Worker House, or Hub, if you will, was a converted convent behind St. Patrick’s Church. Some 12 homeless people lived with eight Catholic Worker volunteers there. Some of the homeless people had been there for years and the sense of community these people developed was absolutely palpable.
The Catholic Workers also had what they referred to as a: “Storefront.” This was a nightly drop-inn place that served coffee, food, had volunteer doctors, nurses… also for the homeless, and other low income people in the neighborhood.
Our family spent many a night volunteering there.
We had moved to the upstairs of a house nearby on 38th St. Over the years, one by one, extended Catholic Workers had moved into various houses on this one particular block of 38th St. And they were actively working to make this block, and the neighborhood in general, a better place. And they were doing that, in spades.
They, for instance, turned an old, cracked asphalt parking lot into an “urban farm.” They grew plants, flowers, vegetables… and had chickens. What’s more, they invited the adult neighbors, and neighborhood kids, to work at the farm. It was a tremendous experience for everyone.
But it didn’t stop here.
Some of these Catholic Workers, besides regularly volunteering at the Storefront, would give neighbors micro-loans and micro-gifts of money. They helped organize summer “Movies in the Park.” Some helped coach Rec. Center teams for latchkey kids.
Liz and I, for instance, coached soccer and baseball teams there. And our kids regularly helped out at the urban farm.
Other Catholic Workers got involved with advocacy groups to keep affordable housing, or advocacy groups lobbying for more affordable healthcare services, and such.
The key to changing this city block, to changing some of the surrounding neighborhood, revolved around these Catholic Workers moving from safer, and comfortable, suburban and small town environs – to this much more edgy place to, not only live in solidarity with the poor, but help them.