by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Catholic Worker, the movement of hospitality to the poor and public peacemaking, which I consider the greatest gift of the North American church. These days, I’m spending a few weeks helping out at the Kelly Avenue Catholic Worker house in Half Moon Bay, Calif., while my friends Eric and Alice, who run the house, are away on a much-needed vacation. So I’ve been able to experience the Worker again firsthand and give thanks for this ministry.
Thirty years ago, I spent a few weeks at the New York City Catholic Worker, and I’ve visited many houses across the country since then, but this is my first time back staying at one. Of course, it helps that this house is located among the hills of Northern California along the Pacific Ocean.
At the moment, the Half Moon Bay house offers four main services: hospitality to the homeless; a soup kitchen that feeds 200 people twice a week; labor at a nearby community farm to harvest and distribute fresh, organic produce to low-income families; and a weekly distribution of donated items such as clothing, furniture and bikes. Currently, a Mexican family with two children is staying with us. The Worker also distributes food four times a week and offers emergency assistance as well as medical support and accompaniment to families and homeless people. My job is simply to be here and help out with these projects.
On my first full day, we were up at 5 a.m. to load the white pickup truck with 10 crates of fresh vegetables picked on the nearby farm for the Coastside Lutheran Church for the morning soup kitchen. Usually approximately 200 people come for breakfast, mainly farm worker families and a few homeless people. As the church volunteers arrived, set up and began cooking, it was announced that I would cook the pancakes!…