US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The difficulty of keeping up a Catholic Worker house

Online Editor | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Even when a ministry ends, the effects and stories live on.

By guest blogger Karen Kirkwood 

As I write an article about the Catholic Worker movement for U.S. Catholic, I've been reflecting on my own experiences on a Catholic Worker farm in the early ‘90s. Because our house, too, closed after a few years, "The life and death of a ministry," published in the National Catholic Reporter on Jun. 11, by Rosalie G. Riegle, brought up many memories.

I think one of the difficulties in any social justice work is sustaining the work. The constant search for funds and materials, the high-turn over rate of volunteers, the difficulties inherent in living in community, and the endless needs of people all take their toll. Riegle mentions dreams and overextending. Yes. It is hard to keep one's feet on the ground when one's vision is so strong.

I remember the inordinate amount of time we spent in meetings in my three years on the farm. Perhaps the problem is our goals are not attainable, they only create a journey. But we long for the perfection of our dream. We must do the good we can in the situation we're in, and let the rest go.

The Jeannine House met needs while it could. Our farm housed an immigrant family of seven for six months. We provided a home base for several men who lived on the edges of society. The young man with schizophrenia who lived with us for years now lives on his own. Riegle is right; the stories matter. They are the heart of the Catholic Worker because stories are the only way to fully demonstrate the works of mercy in action.

Guest blogger Karen Kirkwood is a regular contributor to U.S. Catholic who lives in Washington.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.