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
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
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.
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
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 +
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 .
Catholic worker discussion group
Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/oscarromerocatholicworker