Who is Dorothy Day?
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Since starting our little Catholic Worker house, many people have asked our headline questions. Dorothy Day was born November 8, 1897 and died on November 29, 1980. During World War I, she adopted the "Bohemian" lifestyle, and ran with the radical literary circle that included Eugene O'Neil. She was active with a number of political causes, and was first arrested in 1917 in front of the White House, demonstrating for women's suffrage. She had no religion at that time in her life, and in 1919 had an abortion. Several years later, she had a child out of wedlock and during the pregnancy, completed her conversion to Catholicism. She was a single mother, who supported her family as a free lance journalist.
In 1932, while living in New York City, she met Peter Maurin. He is not as well known as Dorothy Day, but his role in the founding of the Catholic Worker movement was immense. Peter was a peasant from southern France, where his family had been farmers in the Languedoc district for 1500 years. During the Depression, he came to the US and met Dorothy in NYC. Peter saw the need for radical action to meet the challenges of the immense worldwide poverty of his era. He called people to remember the tradition of the Church -- the works of mercy, personal involvement with the poor, and the importance of justice for all. Dorothy and Peter
proposed a three point program: Houses of Hospitality (shelters and soup kitchens), clarification of thought (via discussions and publishing a newspaper), and farming communities, all based in the social teaching of the Church. Together, they started a newspaper, the Catholic Worker, and shortly thereafter, a soup kitchen and the first "House of Hospitality". Today, there are more than 130 Catholic Worker houses throughout the world, each one autonomous, but all inspired by Dorothy and Peter's original vision of working to build a society where it was easier to be good. Before he died, Cardinal O'Connor of New York began the process to canonize her as a saint.
The ministries of Catholic Workers vary from city to city, but all houses typically do some form of the works of mercy and also work for justice and peace. Here in Oklahoma City, we have a food pantry that delivers emergency groceries to people who don't have transportation to get to a regular food bank. Our patrons are typically older people living alone and young mothers with children.
We also provide hospitality bags, food, and water to homeless people, have a clothing closet, correspond with prisoners, & publish a newspaper. We scrounge the occasional refrigerator or washing machine or stove or bed for somebody. We help people fill out government forms, and interpret letters from
government agencies, and pay for the occasional medical prescription or utility bill. (We don't do much of the latter, because we don't have regular funds for this.) We do look for people who are falling through the cracks, and try to organize rescues. We accept referrals (mostly from St. Vincent de Paul, parishes, and Community Action), and people find us on their own. We have a "Cookbook and Almanac of Useful Information for Poor People," called "Better Times", which is a 36 page tabloid publication given away free with emergency food baskets. It was first published here in OKC in 1997, and reprinted in a 2nd edition in Kansas City in 1998. It is currently out of print, we hope to have it back in print this year. The best short review of this publication came from an older woman who read it: "Bob, this is like having a long visit with my grandmother." It has hundreds of recipes, plus articles on shopping smart, personal development, good neighborhoods, personal responsibility, kitchen techniques, household management, and the message of Christ is worked into the text throughout the work.
Dorothy Day's life ministry was about doing practical things to help the poor and build a more just and humane society, which is to say, the culture of life and the civilization of love, where it is easier for people to be good. As Dorothy Day used to say, quoting St. Catherine of Sienna, "All the way to heaven is heaven."
Our wish list
Hospitality and Food Pantry Needs
1-2 pound bags of rice, dried beans, and pasta
Boxed macaroni and cheese
canned vegetables and fruits, tomato sauce (small cans)
Corn muffin and Pancake mix, 5 pound bags of flower, 4-5 pound bags of sugar
Coffee, tea, chocolate, Cereal, powdered milk
Canned meats (we never have enough)
Canned soups and chili
Hamburger, tuna, and chicken helper
Brown paper grocery bags, plastic grocery bags
Kitchen stuff (pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, small working appliances)
Bed sheets, bedspreads, blankets, tarps, tents, rolls of plastic, duct tape
Small "travel size" soaps, toothpaste, shampoo, skin lotion, tooth brushes
Individually packaged aspirin, acetominophen, ibuprofin, feminine needs
Wash cloths and towels
Individually packaged hard candies
Granola bars, packaged peanut butter & cheese crackers
Holy cards and rosaries
Brown paper bags (lunch size) and ziplock baggies
SOCIAL JUSTICE ALERT
The Daily Oklahoman has reported that the St. Anthony Hospital Foundation is partnering with federal mortgage lender Fannie Mae to study "redevelopment" of Midtown -- NW 4th to 13th, between Classen and Broadway. They envision a lot of new and renovated housing. But this area is also home to some of the OKC's few remaining very low rent rooming houses and "single room occupancy" hotels. In most areas, "redevelopment" is a code word for driving the poor people out. St. Anthony's is a Catholic hospital. We don't know their plans for the poor people who live in the area, but we do know that Church doctrine demands that their needs and situations not be ovelooked. Add this to your prayer list.
"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard." Proverbs 21:13
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