Thursday, July 30, 2009

Canning Class!

by Erin

We have the fortunate circumstance of having a local expert on canning (Melissa) in our midst, and we are offering a class to share her knowledge. Only 12 participants will be accepted due to limited kitchen space. We currently have 4 reservations-- so sign up quick!

We will be canning apple sauce and tomatoes (two different processes). The class takes place on August 12th at the Catholic Worker House in the kitchen from 6-9 pm. A donation of $3 each person will be accepted to pay for jars, fruit and supplies. Tomatoes will be supplied from the Catholic Worker garden. Scholarships are available to those who need them. If you bring your own jars (2 quart size) a dollar donation will cover other supplies.

Feel free to invite a friend.

If interested, please an email to this address indicating your interest and whether you have jars. Happy canning!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Developments--Food, Justice

We are on a regular rotation with Justice Gardens. We are scheduled to receive a shipment of produce from them every other Saturday (for the duration of the farm market season). With a regular schedule, we can make sure the produce gets to where it needs to go smoothly and quickly. We are also talking to some other local community gardens, because we are more than happy to take their excess produce.

We also got a shipment from Snowville Creamery, thanks also to a tip from Justice Gardens! This is absolutely beautiful milk from cows raised without artificial hormones. It is also non-homogenized, so the fat content is in a form much better for human consumption. People who are lactose intolerant often respond well to this kind of milk. This is top-of-the-line stuff! Snowville says that they can make a delivery just about every Saturday afternoon. Fresh milk is an unusual luxury for most food pantries, so we are happy to give this a try!

* * *

At the second installment of our book discussion on Disturbing the Peace on Sunday, we heard from a local organizer who takes people to the annual protest at WHINSEC (formerly known as the School of the Americas) in Ft. Benning, GA. Some participants in the book study expressed a desire to make the trip this year. We will be sending out more information as we get closer to the date. We would love to send a large group from Columbus down this year!

I was there in 1999 with about 10,000 people. There were speakers, musicians, booths with information on justice activities. At the close of the weekend, a large portion of the attendees chose to commit civil disobedience and trespass onto the military grounds and face arrest. It is a powerful event, as each participant walks onto the grounds carrying a cross with the name of a person who has died at the hands of US trained graduates of the SOA.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pax Christi

Pat and I had the pleasure to attend the National Peacemakers Conference held by Pax Christi USA. It was a last minute decision. We literally found out about the conference, and within a couple of days we were in a car headed toward Chicago!

Pax Christi is the Catholic peace movement, with great support by Catholic bishops. As their international website says: "Pax Christi International was started in 1945 as an organisation of Catholics in Europe who wanted to promote reconciliation at the end of the Second World War. " The national website says: "Pax Christi USA rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation. "

A great synopsis of the weekend is here. Fr. John Dear, who wrote the article, was also one of the presenters. His talk was powerful: "Put down your sword" are the last words of Jesus to the Church.

Bishop Matthiesen from Amarillo, TX, was recognized with the annual Teacher of Peace award. He made a courageous stand against nuclear proliferation, and his efforts helped gather momentum which eventually led to the US Catholic Bishops issuing a statement against nuclear weapons in the mid-80s.

One of the featured speakers--Miguel D'escoto, who is the President of the United Nations General Assembly--was not able to attend due to the continued crisis in Honduras. Participants were more-than-understanding.

We were treated to overnight accommodations at Su Casa Catholic Worker. This very large building is a former friary for German Franciscan brothers. It now houses an intentional community of about 9 members and offers hospitality to Latino families.

It was a great weekend. It gave a jump start to my own justice awareness. Pat saw some old friends he knew at the Catholic Worker in D.C. The presenters were great, and there were numerous vendors and other groups that were distributing information about their work.

We are currently discerning whether or not to start a chapter of Pax Christi through our community. It seems like it would be smart if we tied our justice efforts to the larger peace movements going on nationally and internationally. It is certainly nice to randomly scatter seeds of justice and goodness in the world--it is even better to take those seeds and plant fields in the vineyard of the Lord. Good justice work is organized and strategic. Being connect to Pax Christi would certainly help with that. Please see us if you would like to be involved!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Perpetual Sundae Bar

I don't remember who it was, but I remember the moment exactly. We had a meeting to try to figure out a way to thank the Dominican sisters for leaving us their convent so well furnished and loved. A statue? A speech? Some other gift? Some visionary soul shouted out: ICE CREAM PARTY!

Those words echoed through the Catholic Worker and set in motion a chain of events that has steered the course of our community ever since.

Cheryl got the ball rolling by dropping off tubs of ice cream, bottles of syrup, nuts, sprinkles, cherries and whipped cream. In other words: A recipe for success.

The ice cream party at the Dominican Mother House was not a one-time event (I'll be blogging about that event in more detail soon). The perpetual ice cream bar has been a mainstay of Catholic Worker life ever since. It is a balm for many ailments.

Every so often we break out the sundae bar during ESL class, and the students are overjoyed. Some chop up whatever fruit we have on hand to make a banana split or some other concoction.

Erin comes over frequently to help out at various events, and she often brings her kids. While her kids generally love the house (there is nothing like playing hide-and-go see here!) sometimes the kids just want to be at home doing their own thing. They patiently wait for her. The cure? Sundae bar! Suddenly those frowns are upside down!

Weary travelers? Long day? Need an excuse to hang out? All roads lead to ice cream around here. Some scoop in peanut butter. One ESL student spoons on at least a half-dozen Maraschino cherries. And still others just like a plain bowl of ice cream. The style may be different, but the core reality is the same: This is how we do business.

Whether the crowd is Dominican nuns, Latino immigrants or fidgety children, ice cream is a common thread that runs through our lives. We owe so much to the genius out there who suggested it! Whoever you are, please come forward to collect your reward, which is--you guessed--it: A sundae!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Some patrons of the food pantry are truly overjoyed at gifts of fresh vegetables. However, you may be surprised that sometimes these fresh vegetables are not a welcome addition! It is not that people don't like them or appreciate them. The problem is that they require a lot of time and usually other ingredients to make them work.

Just imagine coming home with a bundle of radishes or basil. These are nearly always a component in larger dishes which require at least a half a dozen other ingredients. Even a simple squash requires cooking oil and at least a little seasoning. People in poverty often don't have the time, energy or other resources needed to make a meal like that. They are busy just trying to survive and often prefer ready-to-eat meals such as cans of soup or stew.

Many thanks to Grace, who volunteers at a couple of local pantries as well as the Catholic Worker, for pointing this out.

One idea is to package up combinations of produce that complement each other.

Salad works well in this regard. Within the bags of lettuce, we are now including items such as a garden fresh radish, green pepper, carrot or cherry tomatoes--whatever is available. We top it off with some single-serve packets of salad dressing. People can simply open the bag and help themselves to a complete salad without needing any other ingredients.

Erin suggested putting simple recipes with a bundle of items. Perhaps tomatoes and basil leaves with a little note showing how they work well on a grilled cheese sandwich or chopped up together in a cold salad with some cheese.

* * *

In other news, we have had some theft at the garden. The real trajedy is that we would have been more than happy to give space for anyone to grow all the fresh vegetables they could ever need. We would also have been happy to give them produce from the community sections of the garden. Unfortunately, the theft occurred in a gardener's private plot.

We are thinking of ways to address this in the future. Perhaps we could put up signs inviting people to pick, but in certain areas only.

Theft is probably part of the reality of a community garden, but it is still sad. So far we have been blessed that the garden has been virtually untouched by theft or vandalism all year. All we can do is have faith that the people who took it must have really needed it, perhaps a young kid wanting to provide for his ailing grandmother.

* * *

On the brighter side, the jalapeƱo and chile pepper plants are starting to produce in abundance. We'll be handing them out to our Latino friends at our ESL class tonight!

* * *

In still other news, let me direct you to a picture of the beautiful okra flower:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peter Would Have Been Proud

Our first book study session of Disturbing the Peace took place last night. We started shortly after 7:00 pm. While the session "officially" ended at 8:30, folks continued talking until nearly 10:30. It was a wonderful night of conversation, education and--as Bill pointed out--clarification of thought, in the Catholic Worker tradition.

Even if you didn't attend the first session, please come for the second. It will be in two weeks on July 26th at 7:00 pm. We have copies of the book for borrowing or for a donation. Read through Chapter 9 before session 2.

This is not something to miss!

Check out Erin's comments here about the book study and other thoughts about social justice.

You can also read her other post which talks about a concert we attended at the North Columbus Friends Meeting (Quakers). While distributing flyers for the book study, we were invited to this show, and it was quite good! The performer was Tom Neilson and he was wearing and anti-SOA T-shirt! How about that!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Room to Grow

Kirk built a wooden box so that gardeners can drop off their vegetables to donate (see picture). You may have seen it outside the back door of the Catholic Worker. It has holes on the side so the veggies can breathe.

We have been able to provide a nice selection to the food pantry lately. We've been stocking the fridge with bags of salad, green beans, squash, turnips and collards. However, we could easily provide 3-4 times more produce without being excessive.

When the time comes, there will certainly be enough tomatoes, but some of the other crops could have been planted more densely. With that in mind, there has been some major planting going on so that we'll be strong by the end of the season. We can certainly ramp it up for next year.

While it may look like all the space in the garden has been taken up, there are spots all over that are available for planting. There are some sections where nothing has really sprouted, and there comes a time to admit that it's not happening there and re-till it. Tim & Frank H. found room in some of those areas to put more beans. There are piles of what used to be sod all around the no-till corn section that are already perfectly mounded up for squash. There is a 3-foot wide perimeter that goes around the whole garden where we have been storing our supplies and mulch. There is quite a bit of room in there for more crops. I've been squeezing in squash and bean seeds all over. Just when you think there is no more room, you find there is a bounty.

There has already been talk about how we might organize this for next year. Some folks who did not get on board want to participate next year, including members of the Latino community. The current gardeners gobbled up the space and quickly expanded to other sections. It is fun to watch the enthusiasm and to see what plans the Holy Spirit has for this!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Unexpected Bounty

It is not everyday that someone pulls up to the house with a pick-up truck full of fresh produce to donate, but that's exactly what happened on Saturday!

A group called Justice Gardens works hard to distribute the bounty of local gardens to folks in need. Our very own gardeners James & Erin K. referred us to them as a delivery site. The group gets donations from vendors at the Clintonville Community Market as well as Panera Bread and makes a point of delivering them to local shelters and free pantries.

We sorted through it and got it ready--there were bushels and bushels of mostly organic zucchini and heads of lettuce. There was also an assortment of cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, kale and swiss chard. Having available refrigerator space made a difference, as Justice Gardens otherwise would have to deliver everything immediately. We added some yellow squash, jalapeƱos and kohlrabi from our own garden.

We distributed it in two places: We took a load down to Faith Mission. The majority we shared with the Latino community. We set up a table and gave it away after one of the Spanish Masses this weekend.

This gave us a good opportunity to connect with the Latino community. They are hard working, and we usually need to insist before they take gifts of any kind. We shared in a friendly spirit and talked about our ESL classes and the legal clinic. Bev was helpful speaking Spanish (shown in the picture above) and Erin S. distributed flyers and produce. Many have not experienced much hospitality from the non-Latino community, so this was a good chance just to radiate some good feelings.

Fresh, organic produce is always a good thing to share. Some folks live in apartments and don't have access to a garden of their own. We are certainly hoping to involve more members of the Latino community with our garden next year!

That's me peeling a kohlrabi in the bottom picture--many of the Latinos had never tasted that vegetable before. We handed out some slices and some were impressed!

Many thanks to Justice Gardens for bringing an unexpected twist to our weekend--they are a new group, but their ministry is an important one and we'll be looking for ways to work with them in the future. Thanks also to James & Erin K. for the referral!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hospitality News

People sometimes come to the door of the Catholic Worker asking for help. On a couple of occasions, we've been able to offer them food and refer them to shelters in town.

A woman came to the Catholic Worker asking for help, yesterday afternoon. She said she had been evicted and had nowhere to stay. A volunteer helped her to some food and a blanket. Erin was called in and discussed options for shelters. Not being able to find anything, Erin took the woman back to her house to stay the night (since we are currently not set up to provide emergency shelter at the Catholic Worker). Plans were made to get the woman prepared for one of the local family shelters, but after breakfast she disappeared.

Please keep this woman Cynthia in your thoughts and prayers! She was friendly and well-mannered, but we certainly don't know her whole story.

The Catholic Worker does not recommend that people take strangers into their own homes without first being part of a supportive community that can share the burden and provide the proper preparation. For example, we were careful to make sure there were at least two Catholic Workers around whenever possible. It is also crucial to go through some serious spiritual discernment before taking on a ministry (and the potential risks) like this. Erin was not acting alone.

Part of the vision of the entire Catholic Worker movement is to foster a greater sense of hospitality in our society. This sense of hospitality has been sorely missing in the last few decades as Americans are positively terrified of strangers. We live in isolation from the people around us. However, prudence is in order. The Catholic Worker movement has traditionally done hospitality in community, not as individuals acting alone.

Hospitality can be a very beautiful witness. When a group manages it well, it can a relatively safe, nurturing atmosphere. It is an amazing thing to realize that somewhere in town there is an open door, a place where you can go if you are in need! For advice on doing this, contact a local Catholic Worker community!

Woodcut above by Ade Bethune.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

SOA: Past and Present

We are going to have a showing of the movie Romero on Monday, July 6th at 7:30 pm. I saw the movie several years ago and loved it. I've been meaning to watch it again so it's fresh in my mind for the upcoming book study on the School of the Americas.

Please drop on by and join me, we'll have refreshments and snacks, of course! Whether you attend the book study or not, you are certainly welcome.

* * *

There is also something going on right now in the world that also relates directly to what our book study will be about. You may have noticed in the news that there was recently a military takeover of the government in Honduras.

At first, the story may seem rather ordinary: Another third world government has been overthrown. That's hardly even news, right? Well, it bears looking a bit further: The government that was overthrown was democratically elected. That's sad, but again, is that really news in that part of the world? Going even further, the man who led the uprising was trained in the USA by the US military.

While this is tragic, certainly the US can't be blamed if someone they train is a bad egg and goes off and does something terrible, right? Our government professes to support democratically-elected governments around the world. That was supposedly part of our rationale for entering Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places.

Honduras is not an isolated incident, though. This article brings the story into a larger context. Literally dozens and dozens of US-trained and supported personnel have been involved in all sorts of takeovers, wars, abuses and atrocities all over Latin America for decades. Even worse, the constant state of chaos that is the result of all these atrocities keeps this part of the world dangerously impoverished and suffering.

So what is our government doing supporting people who are doing the opposite of what Americans value? Is our government simply mismanaging this, or is this intentional? Neither seems excusable, in my opinion. I don't know about you, but I think those are very good questions!

We'll be exploring these topics in the coming weeks, please join us!