Our 2005-2006 Annual Appeal
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
For six years, I have listened to the messages recorded on our help line. Over the last couple of months that has been delegated to other members of the community, but as I sit down to write our annual appeal, I always reflect on the messages that I have heard. Some of them are familiar, they call often. Others are new. Some give a long explanation as to why they need help, others seem to have difficulty simply giving us their name and address.
Our ministry is to be there for these people. Over here is an elderly man who lives alone and calls us most months for help. Over there is a young mother with several kids and no job, and a problem that has stopped her food stamps. There are homeless people we see on the streets, and the occasional help with a utility bill, medical prescription, or rental assistance, and people who live in public housing developments..
Last year at Christmas, a woman named Elsie gave me a card with 2 quarters taped inside, as we delivered groceries to her. It was a true Widow's Mite, and rather than depositing those quarters in our bank account to buy groceries, I kept them, and I occasionally look at them. She passed away this last year, and each month as we deliver groceries, I miss her presence, her smile, and her blessing upon us and our work. I know however that she is still praying for us, and that is a great comfort to me.
As Catholic Workers, we are called to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the dying, and visit those imprisoned. But our charism does not stop there. We also must ask: why are these people hungry? Why are they naked? What are the structures of sin that perpetuate poverty and oppression? It may be true that the poor will always be with us, but it does not necessarily follow that there will be so many of them. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin told us that we were to build new structures amid the collapsing ruins of the old, and thus besides helping the poor we also work for justice and peace in this world.
The last year has not been an easy one for this world, nor for the people we serve. The problems I have written about so many times continue to get worse, the downward spiral of the culture of death continues to accelerate, and the poor are impacted first and hardest and are the least able to recover. We have tried to do what we can, with what we have, where we are, but we are always cognizant of the fact that it is never quite enough.
We were blessed in this past year with more resources than we have ever had before. This was good, because this blessing was met with an outpouring of need greater than ever before. Our partnership with St. Charles Borromeo parish, which allows us to access the resources of the Regional Food Bank, came just in time, because without that partnership, hundreds of families would have been turned away hungry, because we would not have had food for them.
This fall, with the dedication of the Dorothy Day Center, that partnership takes an even greater dimension of support. I am very grateful for the vision of Marcus and Tresa Evans, who are members of our community and parishioners at St. Charles. For several years we have bagged our groceries outside, summer, winter, spring, and fall. During the depth of the winter, that was usually a challenge, but that experience I believe helped our volunteers to come to a greater understanding of the solidarity that is an essential aspect of the ministry of the Catholic Worker movement. On November 6th, at 3 pm, that Center will be dedicated to the glory of God and the service of the poor. We invite you to come and be with us for this momentous occasion in the life and journey of this Catholic Worker House.
Another great blessing this past year has been the growing partnership with First Nazarene Church, and the addition of Rev. Lance Schmitz and his wife Ashley to our community. That church called Lance to be their "minister of compassion and justice", and what a concept that is for any church community, of any denomination. Surely, that is a calling of all Christians, but even so it is somewhat remarkable for a church to understand the importance of this enough to give it that dignity. And then there's Lance's friend Ryan, who has written a computer program to sort our growing list of requests for food into some kind of a logical delivery order, and which can include maps for hard to find streets on the delivery lists. I can't count how many hours I have spent over the last six years compiling those delivery lists by hand, looking at addresses, peering at maps, trying to figure out how to make up efficient delivery lists. Here comes this young man, who takes his talent and experience and knowledge and puts it to work for the sake of the gospel of compassion and love.
Our other partnerships continue. Epiphany parish continues to support this work strongly, with donations of time and financial resources and food. We receive material support and referrals from St. Vincent de Paul conferences, the youth program at St. Francis brings volunteers to delivery day, and many individuals whose names are known only to God help out with anonymous gifts and much prayer support.
As a Catholic Worker House, we are entirely dependent upon voluntary donations for the support of what we do. We are personalists, and believe that the personal relationship between giver and receiver is of primary importance. The means that we choose to achieve our goals are as important as the goals themselves. In a time when the darkness seems so strong and overpowering, we continue to light candles, one at a time.
We are grateful for the support we have received these past six years. Thousands of people have been helped by the generosity of our benefactors and the hard work of our volunteers and community members. We invite all to join in this partnership community of love, solidarity, and hope. As the Apostle Paul advised the Romans, during an earlier time in which the darkness indeed seemed so strong, "Do not be conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good." Your gift of prayer support, voluntary time, or money will help us to continue to do what we can, with what we have, where we are.
In the coming year, I pray that Almighty God will bless each one of us with solidarity, joy, abundance, and peace. Please pray for the poor during these difficult times.
Bob Waldrop, on behalf of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker community
http://www.justpeace.org | http://www.justpeace.org/fall2005cw