Monday, January 26, 2009

Living in a Catholic Worker House

Our Catholic Worker House is looking for women, men and families who want to live together in community. What does it mean to do that?

Three of us live at the house now. Two of us work full-time jobs while the third is able to devote all his time to outreach work. We basically live "normal" lives with the exception that we live together in community--we pray together and conduct outreach ministries together.

I take great joy in knowing that the money I would normally spend on rent is now money that is being used to keep the lights on in a center of Christian outreach. So instead of just using my "extra" money to give to the needy, my basic living expenses are now going to a greater purpose (our "rent" is very reasonable).

The same is true with my time: All the time and effort I would normally spend cooking, cleaning and maintaining a home is now time I spend doing those same things for the Catholic Worker. Someday soon, instead of just making dinner for myself, I will also be cooking for some neighbors in need, too. Just by living there I am available in ways that would be difficult if I lived elsewhere. The magic of the Catholic Worker is simply sharing our normal daily lives with others in need. You don't need any special skills for that--it is just about being hospitable and available to be with others.

The main requirement for live-in members is that we all participate in cleaning and maintaining the house. Members are also required to have a background check. We ask that people who live with us would also want to participate in the mission of the community--although no single activity would ever be mandatory (for example, no one is required to attend prayer).

Our ministries are just starting out, but we have begun (or will soon begin) home visits for the elderly, assisting at a food pantry, community gardening, ESL classes, regular prayer, hot meals to the hungry and social action against the death penalty. Members can participate in these or develop their own ministries that our community can support.

The name "Catholic Worker" is one of the most confusing parts of the movement. There are communities that aren't Catholic at all, such as The Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA, which was founded by Protestant ministers. At the regional meetings, the topic frequently comes up to change the name. However, the name has stuck just out of the tradition and the history that goes with Dorothy Day, but make no mistake: While we are rooted in the Catholic tradition, we are open to all faiths. The charism of our community is largely based on the members. Our flavor tends to be Catholic just from the simple fact that most of our members are rooted in that tradition.

So if you are interested in living with other people of faith and doing outreach work together, we would love to share our home and invite you into our community. Each day is unique, as you never know who might drop in. Some days we are hosting a community group, another day the pastor drops in with his dog, and some others days it is just us guys. In any case, it sure beats coming home to the TV or the lonely internet every night! People can get very isolated in our society, but human beings were never meant to live that way.

Our house exudes a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, which we attribute to the prayers and loving attention of the Dominican sisters who lived there for nearly 50 years. At other times, the house is full with people eating and talking together. At the very core, the Catholic Worker is a movement of hospitality. As Dorothy Day would say, each person who comes to the door--whether it is a person in need of food, someone attending a meeting or another person just passing through--each person who comes to the door is Christ. We try to live that charism every day!

If you are interested, contact us here or by phone at 614-267-3322. To see if you are a good fit for our community, you would have the chance to talk to the members of our community (those who live there as well as those who don't) and possibly to stay overnight on a weekend just to try it out. In a 20-bedroom facility, we have gobs and gobs of space. With a few more people living there, we could devote all of our donations directly to our ministries rather than having to use some of it just to pay the utilities. We would love to have several more people join us!

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