Wednesday, April 29, 2009

May 1st

We hope to see everyone for our House Blessing and and celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st! Mass is at 7:00 pm with the blessing, snacks & refreshments to follow.

You are welcome to drop off desserts or snacks at 6:30 pm before the event! We'll also need help afterwards, as the place needs to get in tip-top shop in preparation for a retreat being held immediately the next morning!

Call us at 614-267-3322 with questions!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Open House for the Latino Community

We were able to formally greet the Latino community yesterday with an Open House after both of the Spanish language Masses.

We had a very nice turnout. A few families came after the 12:30 Mass and we had a larger crowd after the 6:00. Folks were very friendly and curious to know what we are up to. Bev and our friend Vielka from Kairos Outside both did a wonderful job interpreting and giving tours in Spanish.

We were reminded recently that the Latino community often feels like second-class citizens. They often get the leftovers. Sometimes even well-intentioned people from the English-speaking community can give this impression, as people keep their distance due to awkwardness over the language barrier. We really wanted folks to feel special and welcomed in our home, so we decided to splurge with an array of desserts, lots and lots of fruit (a favorite for Latinos), a shrimp ring and a cheese tray. We worked hard to greet people in Spanish and they worked hard to use English, and between the two we were able to communicate very well.

Our guests thanked us warmly for both the food and the time and attention. It might be very surprising how isolated people from the Latino community can feel here. Just having someone from the English-speaking community who is willing to talk to them and share the time of day can be huge and a long overdue welcome for them. To share with people that they are more-than-worthy of the best we have to offer--that is the spirit of Personalism of the Catholic Worker, and we were glad to indulge.

The Latino community has quite a few ideas for how they can use our space and asked about everything from hosting meetings to temporary housing for families in need. A number of people inquired about ESL classes and the legal clinic. The community garden also seemed to generate interest. One gentleman even wondered about using the kitchen for preparing for a wedding reception.

It turned out the timing for this event was just right, and we have learned to trust in the Holy Spirit on things like this. We now have more people who could interpret and more activities to share with the Spanish-speaking community than we did back when we started. We were much more prepared to give a warm welcome.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top Hat

Please join us in congratulating Jake as the recipient of this year's Top Hat Award! This is an award given to an outstanding participant in the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Jake has done an outstanding job as leader of the group at St. James the Less. He has helped them move the pantry to a new location, raised a lot of funds and other resources and has just been a marvelous leader with boundless enthusiasm. He's all heart and certainly deserves the recognition.

There will be a mass and celebration at De Sales High School at 4:30 pm this Saturday, April 25th. Please attend and congratulate Jake!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kairos Outside

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

We have a policy of not advertising the names of the groups or individuals who spend time at our place. We respect their privacy. The following group, however, would love us to share their story. This is a good thing, because it is such a wonderful story to share.

We have been hosting the Kairos Outside prison ministry group on two weekends this spring. Check out the link, they are a very impressive group!

This is a group of women who have loved ones in prison. They support each other and prepare to eventually spend a weekend at the prison itself in solidarity with their loved ones. Marion Correctional is the only place where people can currently do this. These women are often ostracized from their families, community and churches. They often blame themselves and others lay blame at their feet for the crimes of their relative. This support group is a true gift from God to these women, as well as to their loved ones in prison.

This is exciting for the Columbus Catholic Worker. The Works of Mercy are basically our mission, but we currently do not have any direct outreach to prisoners. Supporting Kairos Outside helps us to contribute to this part of our mission by extension! It has been an honor serving them.

When they go to Marion on the weekend of May 16-17, they would like some volunteer help. Male volunteers are needed for kitchen duties and also as escorts for the women to the formal dinner. Women volunteers can help out on the 17th in the closing ceremony. Contact us if you are interested in helping!

Woodcut is from a series on the Works of Mercy by Ade Bethune.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ESL Kickoff!

I've long since run out of fingers and toes to count our blessings on.

Our first ESL session was a blast. It did not just go well--it was actually beautiful.

There were about 10-12 students from all different countries. One man walked two miles in the rain to attend class. There were also seven tutors and helpers from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Ohio Dominican University and the Catholic Worker.

We started off working with the students one-on-one to asses their language level. The tutors and students both jumped in eagerly, and there was much conversation and laughter in the room. At the end, Bev taught a short lesson to the whole group. She did a great job, and her lesson was fun and engaging. I learned a lot by watching Pastor Ruth and Bev, as they have considerable experience teaching English.

People got up and talked about where they were from and mentioned some points about their country of origin. Students were from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela. A consistent theme is that many miss their homeland, and some came out of very tragic circumstances. They are also proud of their homelands have a rich culture to share (and hopefully recipes, too!)

We are trying to figure out the best way for tutors to be involved. We will see how it evolves. It may be best to have tutors work with students before or after class or schedule different times to get together. Students are at such different language levels. We have already scheduled some Sunday night tutoring, as weekdays are not very good for a lot of people who work late.

Students were very gracious and offered to help us in other activities. Some volunteered to help when we have an Open House after the Spanish masses. Another man offered to help us if we ever need painting or other work around the house.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yard Work and Gardening!

Austin and I were able to join members of the St. James the Less parish for their annual yard clean-up event on the day before Easter. I got my tired winter muscles moving again, and it felt great being outside and working. We weeded, raked, picked up litter and delivered endless loads of mulch.

The crew worked around the rectory, church and in the courtyard. The also wound their way around and did some significant work at the Catholic Worker. They trimmed shrubs, weeded and mulched in front of our place. They deserve quite a bit of gratitude for this all this hard work!

Even though the crew wore me out entirely, I was able to trek off afterwards and finally broke ground in our new garden! The parish is going to let us use one of the baseball diamonds in the fields off Huy Road. I dug up some soil samples to be sent off for testing. I also was able to start our much-needed compost pile. No longer will we need to have buckets of compost sitting on the counter top, because they can go right in the ground whenever we want to empty them!

We will have a meeting on Wednesday, April 15th at 7:00 pm for anyone who is interested in joining us in our gardening efforts. It would be wonderful if this garden turned into a true community affair. Neighbors, parishioners and Catholic Workers welcome to participate. At the very least, we’d love a moderate garden to grow produce for our ministries, the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry as well as for neighbors or anyone who helps in the garden. If there is lot of interest, we could have a larger garden.

Also: We will gladly take your kitchen compost! Save your vegetable peels, fruit cores, used coffee grounds (filters and all), tea bags and eggshells. Just store them in a container with a lid and drop it off anytime. Please don’t include meat, bones or any cooked foods, as they tend to attract pests. This link from the EPA has lists of what to include and not to include at the bottom.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

ESL Program Starting, Volunteers Needed!

We were talking about the possibility of an English as a Second Language program at a meeting a couple of weeks ago. Fr. Pat has said this is an important ministry, and I have run across many folks who have expressed a desire to help. The only problem was that it was intimidating to start a bran new program. If only someone could just get the ball rolling, we thought, that would give us the opportunity to get established and go from there.

Like it says in scripture, ask and you shall receive.

Within a day of that meeting, we received contact from Bev, a woman who used to run the ESL program at St. James the Less. She wanted to start it up again, but needed a place to hold classes and could certainly use volunteers to assist. She may have to leave at the end of August, but in the meantime she can facilitate the program and get us up and running. Bev was involved in our group in the beginning and has been a big help at Grace Place Catholic Worker in Cincinnati.

Here are the specifics:

There will be intermediate and beginners level classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm. We are looking for people to be classroom teachers, one-on-one tutors, or occasional conversation partners (as well as students!) Tutors would have the option of scheduling a convenient time to meet with their student outside of regular class time.

The program kicks off on April 14th and 16th with "assessment sessions." Volunteers are needed to help determine the language skills of the students so they can be placed in the appropriate classes. No training is needed for this. Regular classes will begin the following week.

If you are interested, please call Frank at 614-267-3322 or email here. This a great opportunity not only to teach English, but also to practice Spanish and for cultural exchange. Spanish language skills are useful (especially for the beginners class), but not required.

The Dominican Learning Center provides a one-day training for tutors. It is from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon on May 9th and June 13th. You can begin volunteering before taking the class. Let us know if you want to take the class, as we have to schedule in advance.

There is the possibility of offering some Spanish classes as a cultural exchange, as well.

For conversation partners, all the students need is someone willing to talk at their own pace and to be patient while they try out their language skills. It is good while learning a language to get used to hearing different styles of speaking from different individuals. There are plenty of opportunities for interactive conversations, such as going through a kitchen and pointing out all the items and (the church sanctuary would also be a good place for that).

* * *

The mission of the Catholic Worker is the works of mercy. How is teaching English related to the works of mercy? It is another way to feed people. Instead of just giving people food directly, we are helping them develop the language skills that will enable them to feed themselves over the course of their lives, as well as communicate with more people. This is also a great opportunity to provide hospitality and a warm welcome to a segment of the population that is often very isolated.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Retreats: Full Speed Ahead

Our place is working out to be very nice for retreats and workshops. This past Saturday, we hosted a ministry group that had an all-day event with workshops, prayer, meals and breakout sessions. It went very smoothly, and we got a lot of positive feedback. A couple of us were on hand to help facilitate the process by washing dishes, cleaning, arranging furniture and providing general hospitality.

The group moved from the large dining room and into the living room and chapel for various sessions throughout the day. For breaks, it was a lovely sunny afternoon so some folks went out into the church's courtyard and others found space in the parlor rooms or elsewhere.

There were nearly 35-40 people in the building for most of the day. People said that it was comfortable and there didn't seem to be any issues with space. This is good news, because we were previously unsure about what size group we could handle. We had to be creative with space to accommodate everybody, but we were able to do it without sacrificing quality. We probably don't want to have groups larger than 50.

We learned a lot from this event. There is a lot of work to be done the day before the group arrives. It is also important to have at least 2 Catholic Workers on hand at all times to help with clean-up and hosting.

There is another ministry group scheduled in a couple of weeks, and this one is also looking to be a large group and a number of the participants will be staying overnight for a 2-day event. We are looking forward to it!

Wish List for Upcoming Retreat

We have been working to get the house ready for an upcoming retreat for a ministry group. This will be our first overnight event that will accommodate a significant number of people--up to 15 overnight guests!

Austin has done some major cleaning. Pat and Erin assembled beds and rearranged furniture. Erin is also our Feng Shui expert. She put together the following:

There are a few items we need to be ready for the upcoming retreats. We don't necessarily need new items--gently used is just fine.

List of Items Needed for Retreat:
  • 10 washcloths
  • 8 Hand towels
  • 10 bath towels
  • 1 Bathmat
  • 3 Twin Sheet sets
  • 1 Full Size Comforter
  • 1 Floor Rug (small)
Also: We can use a couple more beds, especially double-sized beds. Small dressers, trunks and bookcases would also be well utilized.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Legal Clinic: Good News

The following is by community member Pat:

We had a great turnout for the Second Hispanic Legal Clinic last night. Amy (the lawyer) saw 9 individuals and families and stayed until almost 9:30 consulting with each. We had a number of volunteers come to help out, which was very helpful. The St. Vincent de Paul Society provided a large number of donated Cheryl's cookies and we had plenty of beverages. Next month, we would like to offer more food and snacks, as some people waited over 2 hours to be seen.

Angela from the Diocesan Latino Ministry Office (who co-sponsors this event) was consulting with families and helping to direct people. Fr. Pat stopped in and stayed for a while. He provided Spanish words for signs for both the Catholic Worker and the Food Pantry (the latter is a term which strangely does not translate easily into Spanish). We are looking for ways to direct people to the right door and have proper signs in place. We had to help all the first guests to find us, as some were walking around the parish complex looking for the Clinic.

Bev was on hand to distribute flyers for the English as a Second Language program that is starting up. She has taught ESL at St. James the Less before, and the new program will be at the Catholic Worker. More information will be coming about that shortly, as we are forming a volunteer program with tutors, class teacher and conversation partners!