Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
1524 NW 21st, Oklahoma City, OK 73106, 405.557.0436
Our Annual Appeal
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The book of Proverbs says, "To oppress the poor is to insult God, to be kind to the needy is to honor the Lord." (14:31). Peter Maurin, one of the founders with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement, used to remind folks that the Greeks believed that the poor were ambassadors of the gods, because by their presence among us, they give those who are not poor the opportunity to do good.
Every week people call us for help, and not just one or two people. In the last year, we received over 2200 calls for assistance with groceries, and we were able to meet those needs. Typically we deliver bags of groceries consisting of beans, rice, spaghetti sauce, pasta, boxed macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, and bread. This is what we buy when we don't have donated food to give away. We get a certain amount of cereal, powdered milk, baby food, cookies, tuna, and etc. donated, which we save for families with children, but most weeks we don't have any of these items. More than half the requests we receive are from elderly or disabled people. We deliver only to people who don't have transportation.
Each year since 1999, we have received and honored more requests for help. But we are now at a point where our resources are stretched about as thin as is presently possible. In the first couple of years, we almost always included things like flour, cornbread mix, canned vegetables, canned soup, tuna, and canned meats like s+pam, but our resources generally don't permit this these days. I know it's odd to think of canned soup or flour as a luxury, but when you get more than 2,000 calls for groceries in a year, you have to think about how you respond to those requests.
And the trend is up. The week of October 19th we did 73 deliveries, and the week of October 26th there were 61 requests. In fact, the weekend of November 2nd, we had requests from more than 50 people, but all we had in house was a half dozen jars of peanut butter, a little pasta, and a case (24 count) of Ramen noodles. And there was no money in the bank account.
We really need your help.
Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, in founding the Catholic Worker movement, hoped that they would be able to help people come to an understanding of our brotherhood and sisterhood with each other, irregardless of economic class. Solidarity is the word used in the writings of Pope John Paul II to describe this social relationship, and it is in direct contradiction to the various kinds of class warfare promoted by both communists and social darwinist capitalists alike as their models for social change. In Matthew 25, we read of the Great Judgment, where those who go to heaven are welcomed with words of thanks for the times that they had fed, clothed, and given housing to Jesus. At this the crowds were confused, because most of them could not remember ever actually meeting Jesus as a physical person, much less giving him a meal. But Jesus said, "Inasmuch as you have done this to one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done it to Me."
The point of this is not to encourage some kind of pious sentimentality, but rather to remind us all of our relationship to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a moral duty to come to the assistance of those who are in need, for it is Jesus himself who comes to us in the distressing disguises of the very poor.
How can you do this?
The most blessed idea is to get personally involved with the poor. There is a family who every week bring us boxed macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta, and ramen noodles. Another family brings us 40 loaves of bread. Every week. A third family buys through the SHARE program promoted by Catholic Charities and donates that food every month and picks up stale bread from a Panera bakery and brings that. A parish group buys a share and donates that. There is another parish group which sends a check every month. These people are heroes to us and also to God, because they have gotten the point. People are not only hungry at Christmas, but rather, hunger happens all year long.
So for those receiving this who are in the Oklahoma City area, we ask for your help first of all by donating food, enclosed is a list of suggested items. We would rather have food than money, because mostly what we do with money is buy food, and we think there is an added spiritual blessing that comes from actually buying the food and giving that. School groups, parish groups, confirmation classes could have drives to collect food for us. But if you are not inclined to actually donate food, financial donations help us plug the gaps between what is donated and what is needed. Food and other in kind donations may be delivered to our house at 1524 NW 21st, or to the offices at Epiphany Parish.
We also need volunteers to help do all this delivering, and also to do other occasional things, like sweeping and cleaning and organizing the food pantry area. We know a disabled woman who lives alone, she is in a wheel chair. She had no furniture except a mattress, we found a couch for her, she could use a few other little items. And she could use some help on occasion cleaning her house, if someone would volunteer to help.
Marcus Evans and his wife Tresa, and Phillip Evans of St. Charles parish, and Kathy Smith of St. Francis Parish, are carrying on our Catholic Worker ministry of hospitality to homeless people by going out each week and feeding homeless people in downtown Oklahoma City. For this ministry we need "hospitality bags", which are lunch size paper bags packed with things useful to homeless men and women (such as travel sized toiletries, a wash cloth in a ziplock bag, a granola or power bar, book of matches, some hard candy, etc.) for this ministry. We also need food for this and we need helpers too.
This past year we've had two groups of students visit us for several days, via a poverty immersion/service mission trip, from Regis and Creighton universities. With the added "people power" such trips bring, we've been able to do things like put plastic over the windows of poor people at the beginning of winter, pick up trash in poor neighborhoods, distribute energy conservation info, and other such activities. We can organize such experiences for Oklahoma groups too, but thus far there hasn't been much local interest.
We also take the call of Pope John Paul II for Christians to be proper stewards of the environment very seriously. In April 2003, we are sponsoring a conference here in Oklahoma City entitled "Catholics and the Stewardship of Creation" and are very involved with gardening. In fact, we have received two vacant lots in the Gatewood neighborhood which we hope to turn into community gardens to raise fresh produce to give to the poor. Next spring, one thing you can do for the poor is to plant some of your own garden for the purpose of giving to the poor, and if you don't have a garden, then start one or help with our gardens for the poor.
We are promoting direct economic relationships between rural farmers and urban consumers via our Oklahoma Food project. We have been helping a farmer out by Okemah start a community supported agriculture farm and are helping other small farmers, some with only a few acres, to build their own small businesses by putting them in touch with urban consumers who are interested in their products.
We have information about frugal living, especially cooking, that we distribute to people that call us for groceries. We have a cookbook and almanac of useful information for poor people that we would like to reprint, but that is a thousand dollar project to produce 5,000 copies on newsprint. And with an empty food pantry, the idea of reprinting a cookbook for the poor is more of a faint hope than a real possibility. Oklahoma City Catholic Workers are thus involved with addressing the root causes and the symptoms of poverty, and we invite you to join with us.
Catholic Workers have always been involved with what Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin called "clarification of thought", which is studying the teachings of the church and discerning how to apply them to current issues. One way we do this is by maintaining an active internet apostolate of websites and discussion groups, in addition to having monthly meetings at our house and elsewhere. In the past year, our five websites were visited by more than 220,000 people, who downloaded more than 650,000 pages of information. Our websites are dedicated to social justice, simple, frugal, and sustainable living, energy conservation, peace, and our Oklahoma food project. More than 600 people every day visit one of our web pages, and we have been visited from 92 different countries.
People sometimes question our work for peace. It seems so political they say, what you do for the poor is so wonderful, but we don't understand the peace thing. There are others who question our defense of the lives of unborn children. As Catholic Workers, we take a firm stand in favor of a seamless ethic of life, as our mission statement "The Works of Justice and Peace" says, "protect life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death." No exceptions, for any reason, and this includes civilians caught in the crossfire and children before their birth. These people are not particularly popular, nor do they have many defenders, so like the homeless and poor we serve each week, we will speak for those who have no voice, and remind everyone that all people, including these who are unpopular or inconvenient, have an unconditional, non-negotiable right to life.
There is never enough money nor time to do everything that needs to be done, so we try to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. We invite you to share in the blessings of this apostolate by donating food, money, or volunteer time in service to the poor.
"The church's social teaching tells everyone that the Christian religion does not have a merely horizontal meaning, or a merely spiritualized meaning that overlooks the wretchedness that surrounds it. It is a looking at God, and from God at one's neighbor as a brother or sister, and an awareness that "whatever you did to one of these, you did to me."" Oscar Romero, 1977
Supplies we need for our work with the poor. Please help regularly! People are hungry 365 days a year!
Food: Beans, Rice, Spaghetti sauce, Pasta, Boxed mac & cheese, Creamy peanut butter, Pasta, Ramen noodles, Canned soup, Powdered milk, Flour, Sugar, Coffee, tea, Canned veggies, Cookies, Cereal, Baby food and formula
Other: Blankets, kitchen goods/equipment (dishes, pots, pans, cutlery), coats, sweaters, towels, hospitality bags for the homeless. (We are not taking miscellaneous clothing at this time.)
Suggestions for hospitality bags for the homeless:
Pack a paper lunch bag with: Small travel size toiletries (soap, lotion, shampoo, etc., put in a ziplock bag), granola or "power" bar, hard candy, wash cloth in a ziplock bag, matches, votive candle wrapped in aluminum foil, chap stick, individual packets of tylenol or aspirin, small pack of tissues, one pair clean socks. We also suggest including a holy card and a personal message, signed with your first name only. We also need bags with special women's needs inside (mark these as "women"). Lotion and chap stick are really needed by the poor during the winter.
Upcoming Catholic Worker activities:
+ Sunday, Nov. 24th, evening prayer & discussion, 1524 NW 21st, 6 PM
+ Wed., Friday, Saturday, December 18, 20, 21, Ember days of fasting and prayer.
+ Sunday, December 29th, evening prayer & discussion, call for location
+ Saturday, April 26, 2003, Catholics & Creation conference, Epiphany parish.
+ Every Saturday, 9 AM, bag groceries for distribution, 2120 N. McKinley.