What is the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House?

By Robert Waldrop

We are part of the world wide Catholic Worker movement, which consists of more than 150 different "houses", each autonomous, in the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. The Catholic Worker movement was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933 in New York City, for the purposes of helping Catholics and others live the works of mercy, justice, and peace as taught by the Catholic Church, and thus to be of ongoing practical assistance to the poor, weak, and vulnerable in our communities.

The mission of the Catholic Worker movement  is also to work against the structures of sin which inflict oppression and injustice in our societies, and to help build up the Kingdom of God here and now.

Each Catholic Worker house is traditionally named after a saint or great hero. We are named after the Archbishop of San Salvador, who was murdered by his own government, while saying mass (during the Offertory), on March 24, 1980. His martyrdom came just a few weeks after he had publicly appealed to President Jimmy Carter to stop sending guns and money to the El Salvadoran government, as they were using those resources not to fight communism, but rather to oppress the poor.

Our primary charitable mission is food security. Each month we deliver food to people in need who don't have transportation to get to a regular emergency food distribution site.  Since 2007, we have made more than 37,000 such deliveries to 67,000 people.

We are able to do this due to the generosity of the Catholic Church of St. Charles Borromeo, which built a 2,000 sq ft food warehouse on their church property, the Dorothy Day Center, which receives food from the Regional Food Bank.  We help with the expenses of the Center and in return receive the food that we distribute.

In the course of doing these things, we sometimes run into people who are in need of special attention or rescues of one sort or another, so we also have, on occasion, helped pay utility bills or rents, bought medicine, paid for doctors visits and veterinary treatment, marriage licenses, school supplies, bus tickets, found furniture, dishes, etc. as needed. These kinds of assistance are dependent upon what resources we have available.

We have hosted teams of students who come and spend a week with us, immersed in poverty, doing good works, and learning about frugal and simple living.  We organized a week of free clinics for an optometrist and a doctor who visited us from Kansas.

Besides providing emergency food assistance, we are also active in community gardening, and in encouraging and educating others about the virtues and joys of growing  some of your own food and buying other food items directly from farmers. We helped start the Oklahoma Food Coop (http://www.oklahomafood.coop ) and provide
extensive online and print resources to educate people about the importance of growing some of your own food, and how to do this.  We have provided about 1,000 trees for people to plant since 1999.

We publish a monthly newsletter, the Oklahoma City Catholic Worker, distributed primarily to people we deliver food to, and maintain an extensive  internet apostolate of websites and discussion groups.

Our philosophy is Catholic personalism, which Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin taught was the willingness to take personal responsibility for living the joys of the Gospel.

In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that whenever we feed the hungry or shelter the homeless, we are doing this to Jesus himself. Likewise, when we refuse to feed the  hungry and close our doors to the homeless, we are rejecting Jesus. Anticipating modern political rhetoric nearly 70 years ago, Dorothy and Peter taught that the  best way to help the poor was for Christians to become personally involved, rather than expecting someone else to do what was necessary.  The failure of Christians to do that, then and now, was considered a grave scandal. The fact that most people didn't think it to be a scandal, was also a scandal.

Our actions are rooted in our faith; we are Catholics, faithful to the Church, obedient to the Gospel. We believe that the social teachings of the Church  are practical guides for everyday life, and that we have a duty to form our consciences in accordance with the Church's teachings on these matters, even though the world may reject this message as folly. Paul writes of embracing the "foolishness of the Cross", and this is our joy too.

We pray over everything we give away; we pray for the people we help, for the people we can't help, for those who will die this day in war and economic chaos, and for those whose generosity makes what we do possible.

We also take responsibility for exercising proper stewardship over whatever part of the material world has been entrusted to us. We think our grandparents' advice was  right on the mark: waste not, want not. We embrace frugality and simple living, and seek to break the hold that materialistic consumerism has on us and our families  and our communities. We have come to understand that we are not sum of the stuff we own, and we hope to help others to realize this truth and its
beauty and joy and practicality. As Mother Teresa once advised, we think it is better to use less, so that others may have more.

We aren't afraid to be small; we know we start small or we don't start at all. We don't have to be "successful" as the world knows the word, we are called to be faithful and obedient.

We don't feel like we have to save the entire world, we are responsible for what the Lord puts in front of us, and we don't think we'll meet anything that we won't also  receive the grace to understand and accept. We do what we can, with what we have, where we are, and we pray that God makes up the difference between what we can do and what is needed.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless, comfort the sorrowful, strengthen the fearful, bring justice to the poor, and peace to all nations."

+ Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House + 1524 NW 21st + Oklahoma City, OK 73106 + 405 557 0436 +

Our websites:

http://www.justpeace.org Access to Catholic social justice teachings

http://www.bettertimesinfo.org Access to sustainable, simple, and frugal living resources and information

http://www.energyconservationinfo.org Energy conservation resources and information

See also http://www.justpeace.org/cwchaplet.htm the Chaplet of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, which is prayed using rosary beads.

For access to the world Catholic Worker movement, visit http://www.catholicworker.org .

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cathworker/ Catholic worker discussion group

Find us on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/oscarromerocatholicworker