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the STL CW in the LA Catholic Worker's latest newspaper

 

The St. Louis Catholic Worker is the latest addition to the Los Angeles CW's sister house network of communities started by LACW alumni. Theo who spent 7 years with the house in LA wrote this short intro peace in the February 2024 Catholic Agitator (found in its entirety here). 

Find out how to contribute to our efforts to start a house of hospitality here.


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I first came to the L.A. Catholic

Worker 14 years ago. It was just a

few days after my 20th birthday.

Looking back, I had no idea what

I would be getting into (maybe I still

don’t), and if you had told me then

that one day I would be starting yet

another LACW Sister House, I would

have had no idea what to think.

It was my first time taking a train.

As I climbed aboard Amtrak, I was

heading to a place I had never been

to before, and looking to try a life-

style that was outside of what I had

been taught was possible.

I guess it seemed like an adventure.

I was going to help run a soup kitchen

on Skid Row, which is the heart of

homelessness in L.A., and L.A. is con-

sidered the capital of homelessness in

the U.S. I was looking for something

different and I figured at the Hippie

Kitchen I would be jumping right in.

Who would have guessed I would end

up spending seven years with the Los

Angeles Catholic Worker?

Since joining the movement I have

had the opportunity to travel all over

the U.S. visiting and living with

different Catholic Worker commu-

nities. As I have traveled here and

there around the country in recent

years, the truth has dawned on me:

Permanent encampments are now a

common feature all over the U.S.

While the realities of L.A.’s Skid

Row seemed like an anomaly at the

beginning of my Catholic Worker

career more than a decade ago, they

have become entrenched as part of

everyday U.S. life.

I think of how in grade school

we learned that during the Great

Depression, there was a name for

the encampments created when the

capitalist system was incapable of

housing everyone: Hoovervilles. The

perspective of time allows us to judge

widespread encampments from that

era more cognizantly than we were

prepared for in our parallel moment.

Successive administrations at all

levels are seemingly unable—if not

unwilling—to tackle this problem.

In my hometown of St. Louis, the

local government is no different than

the state or federal agencies, they

scarcely even want to acknowledge

the problem of houselessness. They

want it literally to become invis-

ible (though this is increasingly

impossible), while at the same time

they refuse to actively address the

problem. So when people wound up

sleeping on the lawn of city hall, how

did the government respond? With

a late night raid by police. Their

actions were so shameful, they knew

they had to try to conceal them with

the cover of darkness.

It is no wonder that just as soon as

we announced our intent to bring a

concrete Catholic Worker presence

back to St. Louis, we immediately

started getting inquiries:

“Have you found a place yet? I

know someone with nowhere to stay.”

“I wish the Catholic Worker in St.

Louis was up and running, I am aware of a mother and daughter in 

need of housing for a few nights.”

 In our city, the Mississippi River-

front is one place you will find per-

manent encampments. I was down 

there one night recently passing out 

hot food and supplies when a fellow 

abruptly redirected our chit chat 

asking me and my friend, “What are 

Catholics known for?”

 Startled by the turn and unsure of 

where he was going, “Well, I guess 

that depends on who you ask,” is 

how I answered honestly.

 It turned out that “charity,” was the 

response he was looking for. “Catho-

lics are known for charity.”

 “Yet St. Louis is a very Catholic 

city and look at how many people are 

sleeping out here?” he continued. “I 

saw a mother and her baby sleeping 

out here the other night. What will 

it take? Will a baby have to die from 

cold on these streets? Where are all 

the Catholics?”

 “We could make a start here in 

St. Louis. We could show the rest 

of the country that if you care these 

problems can be fixed,” he concluded 

before heading off into the night 

among the blocked off streets and 

elevated railway lines.

 Our friend that night was correct. 

 What will it take?

 The need is large. Chrissy, Lindsey 

and I know we will not be able to help 

everyone in the St. Louis area. But we 

return to the words of Catholic Worker 

co-founder Dorothy Day: “Often we 

believe that there is little we can do. 

But let us do all we can to lighten the 

sum total of suffering in this world.”

We hope that if we make a start others 

will too, as they are able.

 We are going to open a Catholic 

Worker house of hospitality. We hope it 

will be a spring of sustenance to those 

without food, a safe haven to those 

without a place to sleep, and a head-

quarters for the revolution of the heart 

Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin taught.

 However, we need help. The infla-

tion and high interest rates that make 

life harder for the working classes 

also make it more difficult for us as 

we try to find and purchase a home.

 If you are in a place of abundance 

at this time please consider helping 

us financially as we work to “build 

the new world in the shell of the old” 

that Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin 

often talked about.

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