THE VIEW FROM NW 21st STREET

It has been 3 years since we have published an edition of our newspaper, and lots has happened. The question has always been - buy food or get the newspaper published. Food wins and the newspaper has lost. We do a lot of internet publishing, because that is so inexpensive. Every day over 600 people from all over the world visit our websites, downloading nearly 2,000 pages of information every day. That's nearly 220,000 visitors every year, and 730,000 pages of information. Internet publishing seems to us to be a cost-effective way of preaching the Word in the modern public square of cyberspace.

Marcus and Tresa Evans have added two children to their family over the past 3 years. It is a joy to watch the kids growing. Daughter Emily often comes and helps her Dad with the grocery distributions. They go out, as a family, and take meals to homeless people. What a tremendous example this is for their children!

Lance and Ashley Schmitz are new community members. Lance is clergy with the Nazarene Church, and seems to be becoming their OKC "social justice conscience". The Nazarene church grew out of the Wesleyan tradition, and John Wesley preached a strong message of social justice and personal involvement with the poor. Lately they have been bringing a crowd of students to help with the grocery distributions, and given the fact that we are doing nearly 200 deliveries every month, this is a big help.

Becky Hardin of St. Francis Parish keeps fighting the battle to keep our food pantry house in some sort of reasonable order, as well as bringing teams of students from St. Francis Parish and McGuinness High School to help with our deliveries. She works with the soup kitchens of the Downtown Baptist Church and we are often able to give her large cans and other foods that she can take there.

Art and Maryann Mertens are continuing their weekend vigils for peace at various Catholic parishes in the area. They have an article in this edition which talks about some of their experiences. They have both retired from "working for a living", but they seem to me to be "working full time for the Gospel".

Perhaps the biggest change has been our new collaboration with St. Charles Parish which allows us to receive food from the Regional Food Bank. St. Charles is building a Social Ministry Building, and the food bank approved a collaboration between our Catholic Worker house and their social ministry. We do not have a place that meets the food bank's service standards to store food, so St. Charles' effort is a true blessing to us. We still need and welcome individual donations of food, we think the personalist involvement is important, but now we don't have to spend all of our resources buying food, and so we can do some things like start publishing our newspaper again. In February, we received 4500 lbs of food from the food bank!

Another milestone this year was the publication of the 5th edition of our Better Times Almanac of Useful Information. We printed 4,000 and all have been distributed. It has also turned out to be a great fundraiser, as many people sent in money as a result of receiving a copy, & so we are doing a second printing.

In November 2003 we started the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, which now has 342 members, and has sold $123,000 in Oklahoma Food products directly from Oklahoma farmers to Oklahoma customers. This is social justice and the care of creation at work. If we want a more Catholic stewardship of the environment in rural Oklahoma, then there must be a market for the products of sustainable agriculture. In the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, we have the beginnings of this practical application of the Church's teachings on social justice and the care of creation.

Meanwhile, the world continues to rage with violence and war. There is little that we can do about that, but we continue to pray and to advocate the "Little Way of Justice and Peace', doing our small part to create a civilization of life and love in the midst of the collapsing ruins of the culture of death. RMW

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