Thursday, May 21, 2009

Potluck & Prayer Schedule

Potluck and Prayer is cancelled for tomorrow, Friday May 22nd.

Currently, we have Potluck & Prayer scheduled for every Friday evening. We have had wonderful times of prayer, roundtable discussion and fellowship on Fridays since we began this ministry 4 months ago. There have been meditative Taize services, regular Evening Prayer, discussions on the School of the Americas, Right-to-Life and other topics in between. However, it is difficult to maintain a regular weekly commitment. In addition, some people who have not been able to attend have suggested that another day of the week would be better. There are also anti-death penalty vigils on Fridays that we currently cannot attend.

We are open to suggestions--maybe having this once or twice a month rather than weekly is more feasible? We definitely would like others who don't live at the Catholic Worker house to lead either the prayer or discussions. While we have had guests drop in on virtually every Friday, we do not have a large enough group to feel comfortable having some of us live-in members sit out if our schedules demand it. We thought that the regularity of a weekly event would build momentum and familiarity, but maybe we should just schedule these as we can and make an announcement rather than have a set date/time.

Please bear with us as we try to find a schedule that works well. Even more importantly, please join us in discerning as we would love to have the involvement of a larger group of people in this. If you would like to lead prayer and/or a roundtable discussion, please come forward! In addition, if there is another day or time that works better than Friday evenings, please let us know! Prayer and roundtable discussion are very important to our community life and mission.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hosting Guests and Being Guests

This has been an incredibly busy time for us getting ready for the Dedication and with lots of other events going on. Just a few highlights:

We have offered hospitality to people who are attending a conference on racism this weekend, and some members of the Cleveland Catholic Worker have decided to take us up on it. Schedules are still in flux, but the plan is to share breakfast with them early Sunday morning before they leave, between 7-8:00. Drop by if you'd like to meet them! The Conference is on Saturday, May 19th from 9 am to 7 pm at The Ohio State University. Details are here, please check it out.

Pat, Austin and I were invited to the Josephinum Seminary at the end of April. We participated in evening prayer and then shared dinner and much discussion with their justice and human life group. We then got a tour of the Seminary. Their hospitality is top-notch and we were treated to a very warm reception. We are looking forward to finding ways for our communities to be involved and support one another in ministry work. It is a very beautiful campus. I was particularly moved by visiting the nun's chapel. In fact, I was stopped in my tracks and left speechless when I entered there, and I can't explain why (still speechless, I guess!) I wanted to stay in that chapel, it felt like my thirsty soul was drinking.

We recently hosted a group from Ohio Weslyan University! There are on a "pilgrimage" visiting different ministry sites in the area and stayed overnight with us earlier this week. We wish them well in their journey! They left us some delicious carrot bread which they baked right at our place!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stove and Refrigerator

We have been approached by an organization called Birthright of Columbus asking if we know anyone who has a refrigerator or an electric stove they are willing to donate to a very appreciative home.

There is a single mother with an 18-month of child who is moving into our neighborhood. A couple years ago, she was pregnant and found herself pressured to have an abortion. She sought out the help of Birthright to carry the child to term and raise the child properly (Birthright offers support in a no-pressure environment to women who have an unplanned pregnancy). The child's father is incarcerated. This woman is very determined and is making great strides. She is raising the child and has worked her way out of Section-8 housing and is just about to move into a new place for herself.

We can also take monetary donations as the St. Vincent de Paul society has connections to purchase these items at extremely reasonable rates. Jake estimates he can buy both of these items for $400 total. However, it would be best to use items that someone already has and does not need.

The home also has a gas hookup for a stove, but an inspector told the woman it would require bringing in a professional to properly hook it up and make it ready for use, so that is why they are asking for electric.

We never needed to ask for these items before since our home was so very fully furnished and well-maintained through the generosity of the Dominican sisters! So if you had these items that you were just waiting to give to the Catholic Worker, now is the chance!

Call Frank or the CW house at 614-267-3322. For a limited time, Frank has access to a truck to make a pick up!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

No-Till Farming Demonstration

Portions of this piece were written by our neighbor and fellow community gardener, Erin K.

Stop by to see the No-Till Gardening Demonstration on May 13th at 6:00 pm!

One of our neighbors has done missionary work in Zimbabwe. Megan has helped farmers learn a method of no-till farming. This is a hot topic in sustainable agriculture, as it saves the land from erosion and avoids fossil fuels normally spent when digging up the land.

This coming Wednesday at the community garden (at the corner of Huy and Oaklawn), Megan will be demonstrating a no-till method of farming that she learned during a year-long agricultural internship at ECHO (Educational Concerns Hunger Organization). The method, also known as Farming God's Way (FGW), originated in Zimbabwe and is based on the two principles found in creation of: a) no deep inversion (tilling) of the soil; and b) utilizing a natural blanket of mulch to keep the soil covered. FGW is used throughout Africa to train and equip rural farmers to increase their yield potential.

For more information about the two organizations, click on the links above.

Feel free to wear old/gardening clothes and shoes if you would like to help dig the planting stations. Looking forward to seeing you there!

The basic idea of no-till agriculture is that the land already has a balanced ecosystem of plants, animals and insects living above and below the surface. By tilling it up, the land becomes vulnerable to erosion and disease. Yields are often significantly higher for no-till methods. It is also a good method for farmers in developing countries as it can be done without expensive machinery.

Megan is going back to Zimbabwe in just a few short weeks, but before she goes she will leave us with a large section of corn planted for us to share.

* * *

The entire group of gardeners who are working with us is quite an impressive group. Each member has shown a tremendous level of enthusiasm and initiative. Besides the no-till section, neighbors have had large quantities of mulch delivered, they have staked off the plots, assisted with tilling and have already put in walkways. It is a dream come true when the community takes ownership of a project, and that is certainly happening with the garden!

Check out the picture above of the freshly mulched pathways between the plots in our new garden! Pictures from the left are Frank, Cheryl, Zeila and Tim. Photo by Kevin (you can double click the picture for a more detailed view).

The regular times for working in the garden are Wednesday evenings starting at 6:00 pm and Saturday mornings starting around 9:00 am. We'll be in and out at other times, but those are the best times to catch the group there and to share tools and ideas!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Catholic Worker School, Friday Nights

Among the fondest memories of my time at Catholic Worker communities in Akron and Worcester, MA, were the great discussions. You just never knew who was going to drop in. You may find yourself in the midst of learning about the great social justice encyclicals of the modern popes, or you may hear a new perspective on American foreign policy that you just never would have heard elsewhere. People who had traveled to war zones such as Serbia or Iraq would describe what they saw and heard. You learned about other Christian communities like the Bruderhof and L'Arche. People would talk about the gospel in a different way, but it felt like home.

You met people who told firstand stories of risking their lives to immigrate to America via "coyote" or who endured tortures at the hands of American-trained operatives in Latin America.

When I think about how we are living into our mission as a Catholic Worker community, I always hope we can foster a place where these discussions can happen. A Catholic Worker house should be a place where you can go to get educated.

During our Friday potluck last week, we were treated to visitors Jim, Linda and Bo who have been very active in the world of social justice. We talked for hours around the dinner table. Bo is very much involved in working against the death penalty right here in Columbus and is working on a novel about a death row inmate. Jim and Linda are also writers who have just finished a book on the School of the Americas, entitled Disturbing the Peace: The Story of Father Roy Bourgeois and the Movement to Close the School of Americas. They are a treasure trove of information on the peace and justice movement and know Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Sr. Helen Prejean very well. I'll be talking about their book more in the future.

At our Friday Potluck tomorrow (May 8th), we are going to host a local Respect Life organization. They are interested in starting a house of hospitality for women as an alternative to abortion. They would love to talk to us about how we got started, how we are funded and if there are ways we can partner together. When we met with Bishop Campbell last fall, he was extremely supportive of us moving in this direction.

One of the biggest criticisms of the pro-life movement is that there is a lot of talk against abortion but not enough support and resources to help people in difficult situations. This is one of the ways to address that. We will probably need women live-in community members before moving in this direction, but it is an important ministry that we would love to support. If nothing else, we can share our experiences and hopefully learn what the pro-life movement is doing.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dedication and House Blessing!

Our community was blessed in multiple ways last Friday.

Despite the torrential downpour and wailing tornado sirens, Mass was held as scheduled on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

The opening hymn could have been written by Dorothy Day herself:

Here in this place, new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away.
See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in - the lost and forsaken
gather us in - the blind and the lame.
Call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

Pastor Scott Kramer of St. James the Less led the celebration and contributed a story about the "old convent" and reflections on the Holy Family.

Dave shared a reading from Genesis: God the Worker creates the world. In the Old Testament, God is often described as a Craftsman and Artisan. This gives new meaning to the notion of Jesus as the Carpenter's Son! God not only creates the cosmos, but he is intimately involved with it in every detail. He is lovingly concerned for it, for he hears the cry of the poor. The Carpenter is always at work.

Fr. Larry Rice (from the Newman Center) opened the Homily with reflections on the wonder of Creation juxtaposed against the Gospel reading which shows the cynicism directed against Jesus in his own time. The Catholic Worker, in his view, thumbs its nose at cynicism and points toward a New Creation. Bill gave an extended reflection on God's Workers--Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day--along with the history of the movement.

Sr. Barbara, without whom we never would have moved into our new location, led us with Petitions. Pat, Cheryl and our friend Vielka from Kairos Outside brought the Offertory gifts, which included items to be placed at the foot of the altar to remind us of who we are and where we come from: A box of food from the pantry, the Catholic Worker sign, a painting of Dominican Saints & friends and a book of the Precious Blood priests.

Daniel and Stephanie from Ohio Dominican University filled the church with beautiful voices, drums and guitar, while I accompanied them on guitar and mandolin. George from The Josephinum was the server during Mass. Erin gave the closing reflection. She expressed appreciation for all the people who have been contributing and described the ongoing work of the Columbus Catholic Worker.

We call upon Joseph the Worker and Jesus the Carpenter to help us build the City of God, where our tears will turn into dancing.

After Mass, we dashed through the rain in the courtyard and gathered in the chapel of the Catholic Worker house. Fr. Scott opened with a house blessing prayer and Pat led us in a Litany to St. Joseph. Fr. Scott then gave Sr. Barbara first dibs on sprinkling Holy Water, who then passed it on to our founder, Cheryl. After that, the group dispersed, going through the whole house blessing rooms, including the food pantry downstairs, and passing the Holy Water around. Jake and Pat from the St. Vincent de Paul Society joined in, as well.

We concluded the evening with gregarious laughter, discussion and by sharing some wonderful food and cake. Friends new and old were there to kick off this event. There were also many Dominican sisters (former residents) watching over us, and quite possibly Dorothy, Peter and all the other saints, too.

It was a full house, in more ways than one.


You may have noticed the new banner at the top of this site. It is a contemplative glance along the stained glass windows of the chapel. The picture gives me the feeling you get when you walk into an old church and you can feel the prayerful drama there in the atmosphere. I think it speaks to something deeper about who we are and our mission, something that can't be defined but sort of pointed toward--something to meditate upon. It tells more about where we are coming from than lists of activities.

The picture was taken by my close friend Scott, who also overlaid the text on top. Scott is an excellent photographer, check out his pictures here, arranged in two sets entitled "Nature/Rural" and "City." You can also see a panorama on his blog with descriptions of the editing and selecting process. For locals, he has some good shots of Columbus and the Short North area. Check them out!

Thanks, Scott!