Monday, March 30, 2009

Does Anyone Have a Truck or Van?

Special Request: Does anyone out there have a truck or large van? There are a couple of beds earmarked for the Catholic Worker. The hard part is getting them to our place!

Our goal is to have the beds ready to use before April 17th. On that weekend, we are hosting a large retreat group and will need every bed we can get. As of right now, several of our bedrooms are unfurnished so we can always use a few more beds or bedroom furniture.

Please email me here or call us at the house at 614-267-3322. We have plenty of people to carry the beds, we just need access to a vehicle!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Promise of Spring

Praise be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (and John the maintenance man): The furnace is scheduled to be switched off for the summer!

We have really been enjoying these spring-like days and not just for the sunshine and nice weather. The real reason to be joyful for spring is that it keeps our radiators cold at home.

We just got through some fiercely cold months and have the gas bills to prove it. These old style boilers are very different than most household heating systems--they generate a lot of heat just by being turned on. Thermostats are down below 60 degrees but still we are in short sleeves. However, in the deep freeze of winter we are hoping that keeping the thermostats down that far will make a difference next year.

That's all behind us for at least the next several months. Having low expenses for the summer will give us a chance to breathe so we can build up our community with more live-in volunteers and by spreading the word to build up donations. It is normal in a Catholic Worker community for donations to be used just for the utilities and house payments, since the house itself is a means of ministry. However, our goal is to handle that solely through the individuals who live here, so that donations can go to special projects and more directly to outreach ministries. We just need time to let the Lord build that.

* * *

There is a community meeting & potluck at 12:00 noon this Saturday, March 28th. We will be discussing the progress on our ministry work and looking for help in discerning where we should be focusing our attention. We will also be planning the upcoming naming & dedication ceremony.

There is a cleanup before that at 10:00 am in preparation for an upcoming retreat that we are hosting and people are welcome to volunteer for that, as well!

Hope to see you there on Saturday!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Community Meeting & Clean-Up Day!

The Catholic Worker is starting to hum with a schedule of retreats and workshops.

In mid-April, one ministry group will bring over 40 participants for a weekend retreat, including as many as 15 people staying overnight from out of town! That is probably the maximum amount our building can handle. We may need other community members to offer hospitality to some of these people in case the CW house fills up--please let us know if you would have space in your homes for that.

Clean-up & Preparation

This Saturday, March 28th, at 10:00 am, we will be getting the rooms ready for the upcoming retreatants. The Dominican sisters left the place in tip-top shape, but the bedrooms will need a dusting after sitting empty for so many months. Beds will be assembled and furniture distributed between the empty rooms. Volunteers are needed for this, so please consider spending time with us on Saturday morning this week!

After the cleanup, we'll have a potluck lunch and a larger Catholic Worker community meeting. We will discuss naming the house, ministry opportunities for our community and our upcoming May 1st Dedication.

You are welcome to attend all or part of these activities. Please join us!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

God's Economy and Well Wishes for Dale

Our community member Dale just recently moved out. He is on a mission to develop an outpost for his Jerusalem monastic community and is looking to begin that at Holy Family parish on the near west side. There is also the possibility of starting up an addiction-related intentional community there. We wish him the best!

Note: His Lenten prayer services on Thursday evenings at St. James the Less will still continue.

* * *

Dale likes to drink a lot of milk. It was customary to have a few gallons stockpiled in the fridge each week. With him gone, it is amazing how slowly the milk levels have been falling. There was this one full gallon in particular that was just zooming toward its expiration date and there was just no way we were even going to come close to touching it. I put the word out and asked around.

So I was cooking yesterday and someone came to the door asking about the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry. He came to the wrong door or else I never would have known he was there. I told him the pantry was probably closed, but I would try to help him. It turns out that Jake and Harry had stayed late and had items ready for him. I heard the man ask if they had any powdered milk (I supposed powered is usually what they carry in most pantries). He was thankful for his groceries, but mentioned milk a couple of times.

At the time my brain didn't exactly put it all together. I had forgotten about the extra milk jug we had. As he was leaving, he seemed to linger around just a little bit--perhaps just long enough to make the connection. I remembered the milk and handed him the jug as he was headed toward the car. He was quite happy.

It's a simple story perhaps, but I believe it illustrates God's economy. This is how it works: You sit around wondering what you are going to do with all this milk, and soon enough someone comes to your door asking for milk. You wonder how everyone is going to be fed, and when it's all said and done there are actually leftovers. This is why Dorothy Day entitled her book about the Catholic Worker movement "Loaves & Fishes." She no doubt saw multitudes fed every day, starting out with just a few scant items, just like in the Gospel stories.

There is another economy that Wall Street executives may never know about but in which your local food pantry may thrive. Items are shared, people are fed, things shuffle around between groups. The right items seem to arrive at the right times. Miracles happen every day.

This is why we don't charge for our services. When we host retreats and workshops, we are open to donations but we don't make them a requirement for services rendered. We try to minimize the connection between their involvement with our community and a payment. The Lord works it out. Putting a price tag on those services is like saying we don't trust the Lord, like somehow we have to control the process in order to get our needs met.

Not charging allows struggling groups to get by with less and offers wealthier groups the chance to give more. People can give--or not give--however they are inspired. It allows the personal relationship to come first without being dictated by business terms. I can actually feel the change in energy that happens once money becomes an expectation in the relationship--it is like a wall goes up between me and the other person. The Catholic Worker value of personalism challenges us to always put people before money, relationship before things and trust before fear.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Vincent de Paul in the House!

If you haven't been down to check out the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, you need to stop on by!

They have just finished relocating from the basement of the rectory to the basement of the Catholic Worker. They will have much more space and our two groups will be able to do so much more together by being in such close proximity.

For the last several weeks, the group has been working hard preparing the space. They took out loads of items to be thrown out. They installed shelves, a door buzzer, a light and had a fax line put in. The did numerous other repairs. There was plenty of cleaning and painting as prior flooding left mildew on the walls and floors. On Saturday, the move was finalized as students from De Sales High School helped them bring over all the food items.

The Catholic Worker is happy to welcome our new neighbors to the building, and we hope there is much we can do together! We will be on site to help out, especially if volunteers are low for any reason. We are also looking to provide complimentary services--after they give out food pantry items, we may invite the guests up for a meal or healthy snacks.

Here is their new office!

Pictures of Jake, Pat, Bob and everyone else in the gang will be here soon, but I need to catch them on a day when they are not up to their elbows in sawdust and bleach (which is not very often!) They are a very hard working bunch.

Today, March 16th, is the first day the pantry will be operating from their new location! Please join me in welcoming them, and stop on by to visit sometime.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Update: Friday's Prayer Cancelled for Focolare Mass

We will be attending a special event this Friday, March 13th. There is a special mass at 7:00 pm at the Newman Center at 64 W. Lane Ave. This mass is a memorial for the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich, who passed away one year ago.

As a result, we will not have our regular prayer service at the Catholic Worker house this week. However, everyone is invited to join us for an evening of prayer and fellowship at this event.

The Focolare have a special charism of Christian unity. They live in intentional communities all over the world and are a witness to love and unity. There is a community right here in Columbus, and we met them a few weeks ago. There is probably a lot that our two communities can do together!

Please join us for this event! Come to the Catholic Worker house at 6:30 and we can travel together or else just meet us at the Newman Center!

Prayer Updates

Dale is leading a prayer service every Thursday evening during Lent at St. James the Less. It begins at 7:00 pm and lasts roughly 20-40 minutes. This is in the church sanctuary, not the Catholic Worker. He will be alternating between a Taize format and compline every other week.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Home Economics

We've been looking for ways to save money and cut our expenses! Our core group of volunteers (including those who live here) are some of the more frugal and home economically-minded people you will meet. Still, there is plenty to learn, as this is an area that needs contact attention to stay on top of things.


Friends of mine will tell you that I have a passion for eating as cheaply as possible, while also staying healthy and organic. Living at the Catholic Worker gives me the chance to take advantage of bulk prices, and I am excited. I made an appearance at GFS for the first time today. There is one right up the road on Cleveland Avenue. Check out some of these deals:
  • 8 lbs of apples for $5.49
  • 25 lbs of whole grain, brown rice for just under $17

Can we really eat this much rice? With the number of vegetarians and veggie-friendly eaters around, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much beans & rice we can go through. Guess what's for dinner?

10 lbs of potatoes are just over $3 at GFS. As you may know, you can get this price on sale at Kroger’s right now, but it is good to know there is a place to get this price on a regular basis. I also got a number of brown napkins--cheap and more environmentally responsible than bleached, white ones. Last week, Cheryl got the fixin’s for a number of large pasta dinners for around $25 at GFS.

Beans are a different story. Bulk organic beans at the Clintonville Community Market are just 20 cents per pound more than the best price I found elsewhere. Considering the benefits of organics as well as the savings in plastic packaging waste, this is well worth it. We’d rather support the co-op, anyway.

Light Bulbs

It occurred to me the other day that 14 individual bulbs turn on every time we flip the switch in the main dining room! The size and scope of this building is definitely something new to get used to. As a result, we rarely spend time there by ourselves.

I’ve become aware of this because we are in the midst of a light bulb-counting project at the house. One generous donor has offered to drop off some fluorescent bulbs. These will keep our electric bill down and help us be as green as we can be.

Gas Bills

We keep lowering the heat in the house, but we can probably stand to crank it down even more. Put a couple of warm bodies in this building and it can get downright stuffy real quick!

Our gas bills are extraordinarily high. A typical monthly winter bill is around $1800! However, we’ve calculated that it is best not to go onto the yearly budget plan until late summer. If we can muscle our way through a couple of high bills this winter, we’ll have very small payments throughout the spring and summer. When next winter starts knocking at the door, we can avoid the huge bills by starting the yearly plan which will give us the same amount to pay each month of the year.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Retreat, Respite and Renewal

So what do you do with a 20-bedroom facility?

Our Catholic Worker is ideal for individual and group retreats. Good meeting space is hard to find in this town. Many groups simply cannot afford it, or even if they can, places often book up months in advance.

Our home is warm and lovely. Kids love it. We have an almost ideal set-up: Large dining room and kitchen. Cozy living room. Smaller parlor rooms with doors for privacy. There is also a wonderful chapel.

We have around 12 rooms available for overnight stay. This will vary, depending on how many live-in volunteers we have. We use some of the bedrooms for an office, storage and other uses, but they could be re-configured if needed. Most of the rooms have beds already set up, but we are getting some more donations and will have a "bed set-up party" in the near future.

How much are we going to charge?

We operate in God's economy: We don't charge. We'll let the Lord sort that out. We want to make sure cost is not a barrier, as many wonderful ministry groups out there are struggling financially and our mission, after all, is hospitality.

So far there has been strong interest. We have been approached by different parishes to host meetings as well as from a prison ministry group.


At any time, individuals can stop over for respite. We like the idea of a poustinia, which is a tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is a place people can go to in order to be alone with God. If you need to just get away and spend an afternoon or a weekend alone with God, we are more than happy to make our space available for you. Dorothy Day used to go on a retreat where she had nothing but a Bible, some bread and a lot of time alone with God. Probably the one thing lacking in a city such as ours is a quiet place to go to get away from it all. Just call ahead and we'd be glad to welcome you in!