Cherith Brook

’s Mercy & Gospel Obe
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C A T H O L I C

W O R K E R

Advent 2014

So E lijah did according to the word of the L ord; he went and lived by the C herith Brook…and the ravens brought him bread… I Kings 17

Pregnant Time
by Eric Garbison

While in a dank Birmingham jail cell, Martin
Luther King received a letter from a group
of white, mainline clergy snug in their sanctuaries. “We recognize the natural impatience of
people who feel that their hopes are slow in being
realized” they wrote, “But we are convinced
hat these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.”
King was quick to reply (on toilet paper from
his cell), “I have yet to engage in a direct-action
campaign that was ‘well-timed’ in the view of
those who have not suffered unduly…For years
now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ …this ‘Wait!’
has almost meant ‘Never.’ We must come and
see…that ‘justice too long delayed is
justice denied.’”
“Wait” is often the language and
logic of injustice.
The body of Michael Brown was
left in the streets for 4 hours. What
were they waiting for? And, as of this
writing, we are still waiting to see if St.
Louis County Grand Jury or the
Federal Government will indict the officer. Will the case be tried? If so, will
it be moved out of the county to an impartial court room? Folks in Ferguson
and the African American Community
more broadly are tired of waiting for
the end of racial profiling and fear of
abuses by uniformed power.
They’ve just built a new Taco Bell in
our neighborhood, a fourth auto parts
store, and a new McDonalds is almost
completed. Resources can be had for
a Sprint Center, Kauffman Center, the
Power and Light District, even for large
centralized soup kitchens to feed hundreds of meals daily (and redirect the homeless away from the downtown). But Mike,
Rick, Sandy and others, who all have regular
incomes, are homeless, waiting for safe affordable housing; housing that is dignified is hard
to get at $640 a month. When will affordable
housing be built? And not just in Kansas City
neighborhoods but also in neighborhoods in
Liberty and Lee Summit, Olathe and Leawood.
Greg Boertje-Obed is waiting in a Ft. Leavenworth prison cell. He, Sr. Megan Rice and
Mike Wallie made their way into the heart of
the nuclear weapons at Oakridge TN, the “Fort
Knox of uranium.” As they waited there for the
guards to come, they hammered on the walls of

one of the greatest idols of our time.
“Repent! God’s kingdom is at hand!” was
burned into the handle of their small
sledge hammer. These prophets are tired
of waiting. Would their symbolic action
channel the end for which we wait? (Their
work was a confession of sin, of our own
complicity in the illegal, immoral, yes,
sinful use of nuclear weapons; and of our
practical atheism—that we trust more in
our technology than in the Creator of the
Universe.) Unless his appeal is successful, Greg will be behind bars for four more
years, waiting for justice.

welcomed for who they are and what they
bring…a world where “justice is at home.”
I wonder how the early Christians heard
this. Did it frustrate or disappoint them?
Or perhaps it sounded unjust? There is
painful irony in reading these in a world
where waiting is the polite speech of injustice.
We are not only frustrated by the
Powers-That-Be, we are not only frustrated
with our own collusion, we even get upset
with God. The psalmist knew this complaint, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget
me forever? How long will you hide your
face from me? How long must I bear
pain in my soul, and have sorrow in
my heart all day long? How long shall
my enemy be exalted over me?” (13:12)
We have no choice but to be
honest about this. (Doesn’t God
prefer our honesty over piety?) We
must wonder if Advent, the “season
of waiting” is outmoded church
language meant to keep us hanging
on? Like the Market’s consumption of Christmas, is it meant to
pacify us? Is it simply another form
of dodging justice? Like the white
clergy writing King, how often have
we in the church masked our footdragging. How often have we been
custodians maintaining the status
quo with a message of “Wait!”?
Perhaps there is another angle
to this? Doug Harink suggests
another way to understand what
feels like God lingering needlessly:
Mark Bartholomew
One of the first Advent passages of this
“The present time is never simply dead time or
year comes from 2 Peter 3:8-13 “The Lord
metered time, as a historicist would have it;
isn’t slow to keep the Lord’s promise as some
it is time pregnant with the patience of God…
think of slowness…” It seems that, in the
We live not in a time of empty waiting. We
face of challenges and persecution, the first
live in the fullness of time of God’s gracious
century Christians were getting impatient.
patience—a time given to us in which to
The promise was “a new heaven AND a new
repent. This is the time for the church…and
earth where justice is at home.” And they
the whole world… to wake up to the reality of
were anxious for it to become a reality. We
the destruction that we bring upon ourselves,
too are weary as we wait for a new heaven
even seek out, through our sin and submission
AND new earth where nuclear weapons
to the rebellious powers…”
have been abolished, where safe affordable
Christ’s birth reminds us that Christian
housing is available to the poor as well as
waiting is not stagnant; it is pregnant.
the non-poor, where young black men will
Time is pregnant as Mary is pregnant with
not only be safe and equal, but loved and
Continued on Page 5

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Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Advent 2014

Impolite, Disruptive,
Nonviolent Struggle

by Chris Homiak

by Theo Kayser

I was surprised to hear about the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. My childhood home is just a couple
miles from there and growing up Ferguson was a
place familiar to me. I had friends who lived there,
would go get ice cream there and when it came time
to learn how to drive it was the Ferguson License
Office that issued my learner’s permit.
As a kid I was taught a very white, middle class
understanding of the police. They were benevolent,
the protectors of civil society and the person to
approach if ever I was lost and unable to find my
parents. This reality was shaken when I joined the
Catholic Worker Movement. On the streets of Los
Angeles’ Skid Row I saw police whose jobs seemed
to consist of nothing more than making life as hard
as possible for those who lived on the street. It was
here that I first began to ask the question I would
later often hear chanted by the Ferguson resisters,
“Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” But still,
that was the huge metropolis of LA, a place known
for bad cops and racial unrest, not my beloved
North St. Louis County.
It isn’t surprising that the news of the Ferguson
uprising came as a surprise to me. Despite my radical reorientation to the filthy rotten system as a
white person, to “know” about how the police target
poor folks or people of color isn’t to really understand or feel it. For people from a similar place of
privilege as me the sight of a Ferguson police cruiser
in their rearview mirror elicits at most the fear of
a speeding ticket and even then they would expect
the cop to be at least begrudgingly polite as he gave
it to them. I have never felt the reality that St. Louis
rapper and activist Tef Poe described in an article he
wrote for Time Magazine, “We don’t drive certain
places in our very own community after a certain
time of night. We avoid suburban communities as
much as possible because we fear being unjustifiably locked up and thrown into jail. In Saint Louis
County all of the cards are stacked against young
black people.”
The protests in Ferguson
have not been like the antinuke, peace vigils many of us
Catholic Workers are accustomed to. The people of color
participating in and leading
this movement cannot go
home at the end of the day
and feel fairly sure they will
remain untouched by the
violence they were resisting that day the way we can
after vigiling against nuclear
weapons production. Every
28 hours a black man is killed
by police or security officers.
Almost everyday there is a
new Mike Brown, Trayvon
Martin, Eric Garner, Vonderitt
Myers or John Crawford. For

What Do
You Expect?

those in the streets this struggle is concretely about
life and death and their protests have reflected this.
They have been loud and filled with righteous anger.
They aren’t “polite”, they are disruptive and don’t tell
the police where they will nonviolently strike next.
They are our guilty conscience and whether we are
at Walmart or at the symphony they will not let us
forget the fact that black lives matter.
Despite what you may have gathered from white
controlled, corporate media the protests in Ferguson
have been 99.5% peaceful. In a society where black
skin is equated with criminality it can be expected
that large groups of angry, organized, oppressed
people demanding systemic change will be received
with fear and hostility. While the police at peace
gatherings I have been to in the past have bottled
water to hand out to those protesting, the police
in Ferguson come prepared with riot gear and tear
gas. Perhaps an even more startling contrast of how
different groups are treated by the authorities, was
the show of force displayed by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police at a peaceful justice for Mike Brown
march through downtown one weekend and their
barely visible presence the next when a large group of
almost entirely white gun rights advocates marched
along a similar route openly carrying firearms.
As white people in America it is our responsibility
to work and tear down this racist system. We must
follow the leadership of those who are adversely
affected by it and we must figure out that it is no longer acceptable to condemn perceived acts of violence
by protesters while ignoring the systemic violence
of the state that protects police officers who kill unarmed black teenagers. Martin Luther King Jr. said,
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension:
it is the presence of justice.” We cannot be content
to have peace in our neighborhood at the expense of
justice for our non-white brothers and sisters or as the
Ferguson protesters succinctly put it “No Justice, No
Peace!”

“You rob a store and then walk down
the middle of the street – what do you
expect?”
I was recently in a group where this was
spoken, and I was silent.
Here’s what I wish I had said:
I expect cops to wave and smile, like two
did this morning as I jogged down the
middle of a dark street and they had
their spotlight on a house searching for
signs of entry.
I expect black lives to be as valuable as
white lives.
I expect black justice to be as fair as
white justice.
I expect unarmed teenagers not to be
shot at a distance or at close range.
I expect police to be connected to their
community, representative of their community, trained in conflict resolution
(not escalation).
I expect black unemployment to be less
than twice as high as white unemployment.
I expect black wealth to be greater than
1/6 of white wealth.
I expect black unemployment rate to be
less than twice as high as white rates.
I expect media to show more images
of white police firing tear gas than
black protestors throwing bottles, more
portraying the victim as a student than a
thief, more of the local community calm
or cleaning up than furious or weeping, more of daytime peaceful protest of
many than of nighttime unrest by a few
agitators.
I expect white acceptance that this is
rooted in systemic problems.
I expect white admission that this is not
an isolated incident.
I expect all people to learn the names
and stories of Michael Brown, Jordan
Davis, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin,
Kimani Gray, and Sean Bell.

Advent 2014

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

3

Two Walls, Two Worlds
by Jessie Light
In the long and ancient history of Jerusalem, many walls have been constructed
and many have been torn down. These
walls have served many purposes: some
were built to keep others out, some to
provide a place to worship, and some to
imprison. During my trip to Israel and
Palestine in January, I had the opportunity to spend time at two of Jerusalem’s
most notorious walls. During our first
night in Jerusalem, a group of us wandered down the winding
cobblestone streets of the
Old City, slowly making our
way to the Western Wallone of the most sacred sites
in the Jewish faith. Slowly
approaching the side of the
ancient temple, I laid my
hands on the wall and began
to pray. As my forehead
touched the cold rock, I listened to the Jewish women
around me who were praying fervently, mumbling
Hebrew from the Torah,
and weeping. Everywhere
I gazed, I saw thousands of
slips of paper, scrawled with
written prayers and tucked
into the crevices in the rock,
reminding me of all the
unspoken litanies we recite
to God. My time in prayer
was Spirit-filled- I felt a connection to my ancestors in
faith, and was very moved
by the experience.
The opposite of a wall that
is holy and sacred is a wall that divides and
oppresses. In 2002, Israel began construction on a 430-mile-long wall to surround
the West Bank for so-called security purposes. The eyesore of a barrier consists of
thousands of 26-foot tall concrete blocks
that weave a path through the scenic
countryside of the West Bank. During
a comprehensive tour of Jerusalem, our
group stopped at a particular part of the
wall in Jerusalem that cuts right across
the historic road to Jericho, one of the oldest routes in human history. The wall also
strategically segments Palestinian populations from other Palestinian populations, and makes it extremely difficult for
Palestinians to travel to school and work,
access health services and farmland, and
stay connected with family and friends.
Much of the wall is built illegally in
Palestinian territory on the West Bank
in order to protect illegal Jewish settle-

ments and encroach upon Palestinian
territory. In some instances, Palestinian
villages are completely surrounded on
all sides by the barrier, which serves as
a modern-day form of ghettoization. To
call this wall anything but an Apartheid
wall, as it is known by Palestinians, would
not fully capture the damage it is causing
to society. My experience with this wall
was very different. As I touched the cold,
smooth, graffiti-covered surface, it felt

the General Assembly, the divestment
decision was painful, and many felt that
this was the beginning of construction on
a wall within the church. Reconciliation is
needed- within the Presbyterian Church,
within interfaith relationships, and more
broadly, within Israel and Palestine. While
I am grateful that my denomination took a
strong stand against injustice, I recognize
my own duty to educate others and to
reconcile with those who were hurt by this
decision.

I hope that justice will
come. I hope that the walls
that divide and oppress this
world will come down. But the
first step to any wall coming
down is recognizing that the
wall exists. As peacemakers,
we are called to the work of
reconciliation and my prayer
this day, almost a year after
visiting Israel and Palestine, is
that we might set an example
of what reconciliatory work
can really do in this hurting
world. Peace be with you.
Jessie led our August Roundtable discussion on the recent PC
(USA) divestment of Corporations who support the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and
Gaza. She is a Seminary Student
at Austin Theological Seminary
working toward ordination in the
PC(USA).

empty. I could almost feel the hatred and
fear within the wall, and I remembered the
prayer I prayed the night before, standing in the Old City at the Western Wall:
Lord, bring us peace. Lord, bring us justice.
Lord, bring us peace with justice.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed
an overture at this summer’s General Assembly that began the process of divesting from three American companies (HP,
Motorola Solutions, and Caterpillar) who
benefit from or are supportive of the
Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. In the eyes of those who advocated
for divestment, including myself, this was
a moment of breaking down significant
walls on the road to peace and justice.
Aligning the church’s stewardship with our
socially responsible investing policy makes
sense, and divestment is both a logical and
powerful tool for nonviolent resistance.
However, to others who were present at

LINKS:

http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_barrier_map_
july_2012_english.pdf
http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
http://presbypeacefellowship.
org/israel-palestine
http://www.fosna.org/
http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/
main/index.php?option=com_
content&view=article&id=256

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Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Advent 2014

Festival Of Shelters

Volunteers Experience Life on the Other Side of the Serving Line
Alishiya Kapoor

“Shepherd me oh god, beyond my wants, beyond
my fears, from death into life,” was the Psalm
that started our night off, and the Psalm that
stayed with me for the rest of the night. As my
feet started to become sore in my heavy boots
and the discomfort of my bag digging into my
shoulder blades, I let God take all my wants and
desires of just wanting to be in bed after a day
of work and the comfort of home. That night,
I let my heart be opened to the experiences of
the people who we were coming across.
One of the most emotional parts of the night
was figuring out where to sleep when getting
woken up after almost three hours asleep in a
warmth of a lobby to a parking lot. Just having
to scrounge up the energy to pack up and move
on while settling the fears of sleeping out in the
cold and not having resentment for the people
who kicked us out was tough. The experience of
the separation between the person of authority/power and the person living on the streets,
a separation that seemed loud and clear to me
that night, after our second time of getting
kicked out after settling to sleep, and the lack of
recognition or help by others left me even more
unsettled.
I was filled with the opposite emotions after
a long walk from Cherith Brook to River Market
where we found the food truck and seeing familiar faces and experiencing the hospitality of

Illustration by Lonnie Welch

two men showing us their home on the streets,
and to the company of Chris, a man who shared
his lessons and experiences with street life.
So, as I peeked my head out of my sleeping
bag the next morning, sleeping out at a church,
the light of day started to appear and I came
back to that same Psalm, in thanksgiving for
a new day and a new perspective. I only lived
this life for one night, but the darkness to the
life I was brought to constantly throughout the
evening until the morning brought me back to
what a relationship with God is in this society,
constantly being restored after hardship.
-Alishiya Kapoor is a community member of Jerusalem Farm in the NorthEast Neighborhood.

Steve Andrews

I thought I knew what homelessness felt like.

As the pastor of a Presbyterian church, who has
taken groups to soup kitchens, talked to people
in the yard at a Catholic Worker house, and even
walked for hours in the rain just to experience
the water soaking through my skin—I thought I
knew what homelessness felt like.
I had heard people talk about how cold it gets
at night. I had heard people talk about how much
their feet hurt. I had seen the impact of humanizing hospitality on people who spend so much of
their lives being told they are less than others.
I thought I knew, and then I spent a night on the

streets on October 10th, celebrating the Festival of Shelters with the Cherith Brook Catholic
Worker—and what I knew was challenged by
what I felt.
On October 10th, I learned just how much my
feet, ankles, and calves could hurt, as I walked in
good shoes from the shower house to the food
truck to the seemingly endless chain of unsafe
places to sleep. I can only imagine how this feels
in shoes that aren’t up for the task.
I also learned how cold the cold can be. I
thought I came prepared, with layers of shirts
and sweaters and a good jacket. The temperature
wasn’t supposed to get too far below 45, and I
don’t think it did. But I didn’t realize how cold
45 degrees could be—when you’re out in it for
twelve hours or more. I didn’t know the cold
would soak through every layer of clothing and
every inch of my skin and every ounce of protection from the elements, until the cold became
an indelible aspect of the night, etched into my
shivering body.
In the morning, I thought I had simply packed
too light, but those in our group with sleeping
bags said they shivered their way through the
night, as well. I can only imagine how this feels
when the temperature is less than 45 degrees.
I can only imagine how this feels when the covers are even more inadequate than mine.
Another thing that surprised me was the way I
was noticed, and how I noticed the way I was noticed. At our group’s first stop, a food truck under a bridge near River Market, folks who were
serving and folks who were being served knew
other people in the group, and it was pretty clear
to them that even though we were asking for
dinner, we didn’t necessarily ‘belong’ on the side
of those being served. Selfishly, I was glad to be
recognized in this way—glad to be seen as out of
place among the homeless.
But those perceptions changed as the night
wore on. As our group dove through dumpsters
for pieces of cardboard, and then carted those
wonderful pieces of insulation from place to
place, people from my background—people
of privilege, people with places of permanent
shelter—began to see me in a new light. Walking
through the streets of downtown with a backpack and layers and cardboard in hand, the folks
who came to the city to party thought of me as,
once again, ‘out of place,’ because they began to
see me as homeless.
The security guards who rousted us from our
temporary beds thought we were homeless. The
people in line at Hope and Faith Ministries, the
next morning, thought we were homeless. The
people who served lunch at the Catholic Church
thought I was homeless. They even joked with
me, in that subtle and warm, but slightly condeContinued on Page 5

Advent 2014

Festival Continued
scending, tone I’ve so often used from their
side of the serving line.
The experience of celebrating the festival
in this way was an experience of being ‘out
of place,’ and that makes sense, as this holy
moment calls people like me to set aside our
permanent shelters, to experience impermanence at least for a little while, and to
remember that whatever side of the serving
line we find ourselves on, we depend on
God for everything.
On October 10th, I felt dislocated,
physically and emotionally. I can only
imagine what that feels like when it’s a daily
reality—when impermanence is a chronic
aspect of a person’s life—and when there
is no or little hope for permanence. It must
become easy to forget that life was anything
other than this daily trek—anything other
than this daily dependence on God.
What I’ll most remember from this night
is the outside wall of the church we slept
behind. While a light designed to disturb
anyone trying to sleep in the church yard
flashed and flickered on and off like a
metronome, I shivered in the cold, unable to
sleep, and stared at that wall.
How many churches are there in this city?
in this country? in this world? Are they really unable to open their doors in Christian
hospitality and love, to invite those who are
out of place into some place for the night?
I suspect I know how many people in my
church would respond to the idea of turning
the sanctuary into a shelter—because they
don’t know, or don’t remember, what it
feels like to not have a place. But thanks to
the Festival of Shelters, and thanks to this
profound celebration of those holy days, I
know, or at least I have a sense. And I’ll try
to remember well enough to tell them.
-Steve is a pastor at Parkville Presbyterian
Church.

Jordan (Sunny) Hamrick

Think of a time when you have been
vulnerable, I mean really vulnerable. What
is the situation you are thinking of? Is it
a case of emotional vulnerability, exposing your heart and thoughts? Is it physical
vulnerability, testing the durability of your
physical body and toughness through elements or an uncomfortable situation?
My standards of vulnerability were
pushed during the Festival of Shelters.
There were times of great hope, such as
walking into Hope City (properly named)
and seeing people from various walks of
life coming together under one roof. Then
there were times with equal levels of frustration and discomfort, such as seeing the

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

5

Pregnant continued
massive amounts of people who need the
assistance of Hope City and recognizing
that there are not many programs in the
area to cater to the needs of the masses.
I bring the word vulnerable to mind
because it seemed to come up as a theme
within our group’s discussion while we
were out for the night. We spoke of how
we were cold, our bodies hurt, and our fear
in not knowing where we were going to
sleep, or uncertainties of who may have
liked or disliked us.
I experienced a step up in my sensations of vulnerability when the elements
around me began to change and there was
nothing I could do to stop them, or make
the situation better for myself. To quote
my uncle, “you work with what you got!”
While he may have been talking about
construction materials, his words related
to my situation at the time. The early
evening was much warmer than anticipated, which brought on a sense of comfort
and brought off heavy layers of clothes.
Shortly after a few layers were shed, a
subtle few drops of rain dribbled onto my
face. Recognizing I didn’t have a fancy REI
rain coat, or even a poncho, my energy
shifted from casually strolling and taking
in the night with some friends, to wanting
to find shelter immediately. Luckily the
rain declined and never became an issue
but for a moment it hit me that I might be
in for one soggy night if this rain comes
down.

This provided a prime example
of lack of control. I could not control the
rain, nor could I control that I was not
properly equipped for the rain. It made me
think of how this situation applies to the
broader spectrum of living on the streets.
Many people do not have enough control
or the power to be able to get more community resources closer to them, which
would allow them to progress forward.
Instead, as I was informed by our guide
Lonnie, they have to spend their entire
days walking 120 blocks or more just to
meet their basic needs. In order to attain
one meal and shelter, our group walked
roughly under 50 blocks that night and we
felt it. Our muscles felt it, our minds took
a toll, and our heart received equal impact.
It is our job as a neighbor, as a citizen of a
community, to be the good samaritan and
recognize our fellow human being in their
situation. If you have access to resources
seek to use them and always remember we
are blessed.
-Sunny is a community member of Jerusalem
Farm in the NorthEast Neighborhood.

God’s Hope Incarnate. Mary must see her pregnancy through
the discomfort, the social shame, the poverty, the pain. In all the
limits of her youthfulness, low status and human body, Mary must
wait. She must wait through her social and personal struggles,
not bypass them. Likewise, God will not beam Jesus down
instantly from the heavens. Like Mary who trusts that God, “has
pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly,”
(Luke 1:46-55) we too must trust that God’s favor rests on us. God
will use our smallness for divine change. Faith is not having all
the facts or answers but trusting in spite of what on the surface
looks hopeless.
If this is true, authentic waiting will not only contain the joy of
the expectation, but also the heaviness of the child, the discomfort
of a full pregnancy, the anxiety of anticipated responsibility, the
fear of the unknown, the anger of deferred hope—we must never
be comfortable in our waiting.
And there is another twist: According to this early Christian, we
deceive ourselves if we think it is largely we who are waiting! “The
Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise as some think of slowness,” we read,
“but God is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all
to change their hearts and lives.” Are we not testing God’s patience
as well? If God is exercising extreme patience toward us, mercy
and not indifference or impotence is the reason for the delay. If
we believe in human freedom and in the call to justice, we must
acknowledge human agency for problems and solutions alike.
So, if God is waiting on us, the author follows up, “What sort of
people ought we to be? We must live holy and godly lives, waiting for
AND hastening the coming day of God.” It is never only waiting; it is
always “waiting, and…” For the author, the time of “waiting” is
simultaneously the time of “hastening” its arrival by “leading lives
of holiness and godliness.” This is why a life of nonviolence must
be an life committed to prayer; and a life of prayer is shallow piety
without active nonviolence, especially in a world of racism, on the
brink of mutual assured destruction and growing homelessness.
Waiting and hastening…they are one posture.

When you eat, get full, build
nice houses, and settle down…
don’t become arrogant, forgetting the LORD your God:
the one who rescued you from
Egypt…the one who fed you
manna in the wilderness.
Deuteronomy 8:12-20

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Advent 2014

Advent 2014

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Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Advent 2014

Br. Louis Rodemann:
An Interview,
Last February we had the chance to interview Br.
Louis Rodemann. Our hope was to share the beautiful story of his life’s work and glean wisdom from
someone committed for the long haul to the radical
love of the gospel. Br. Louis spent 28 years at Holy
Family House Catholic Worker serving the poor and
witnessing for peace in Kansas City. He now lives
around the corner and continues to volunteer at
Holy Family.
Brother Louis thank you for sharing your
story with us.
It’s a blessing for me in the sense that until
asked sometimes I’m not inclined to take the
time to reflect and focus and remember and put
some pieces together. This is good for me also.
I’m grateful to be here.
Tell us a little about your life, where you came
from and how you ended up at Holy Family
House.
I was born 1939 during World War II and
the aftermath of that. I grew up on a farm in
central Missouri and went to Catholic schools
all my life. After high school I joined this group
called the Christian Brothers. I had the Brothers as high school teachers and I always liked to
study and did fairly well so I thought that the
combination was attractive to me.
After I finished my college work, I was
assigned to come to Kansas City and it was an
all-boys Catholic school near downtown Kansas
City, MO. I was there for five years and took
some time off to study and then I was assigned
to direct a retreat house outside of St. Louis. I
did that for a couple of years. I was asked to
return to Kansas City. Shortly after I came back,
that all-boys high school was closed for economic reasons. Some of us were asked to stay there
and turn what had been the Brother’s residence
into a small alternative school. That has evolved
into what is still called De La Salle High School
on 37th and Troost.
How long did you teach and when did you end
up at the Catholic Worker?
I was there 10 years at the all boy’s school
all through the 60’s and up till 1980 at the High
School. And then I talked my way into starting
an adult education program at Seton Center
which is at 23rd and Benton. It was a very small
operation. I was the only teacher. Basically it was
GED and adult literacy. I did that for about 15
years but shortly after I started, I got involved
with the Catholic Worker as a live in community
member in 1982.
How did you learn about the Catholic Worker
Movement?
When I was teaching in 1974 there was an
open house for a Catholic Worker that was going

to start. Our formation director had gotten a
bundle of subscriptions to the Catholic Worker
so we were familiar with the paper. When I
heard about the open house I went to meet the
staff and see the house.
It didn’t grab me that I needed to start
coming here until about a year or two later when
I started showing up. One of the staff members was willing to show me a particular task
that I could do every Saturday. Basically it was
to beg food from the produce companies that
surrounded what we still call the City Market.
We established relationships with some of the
produce people. If we felt we didn’t get enough
results from the begging then we would go
around and look in the dumpsters. That was
pretty much our source. The house wasn’t well
known like it became well known. There weren’t
as many resources of donations and stuff like
that.

Mark Bartholomew

Do you remember how the house got started
and how it got it’s name?
I don’t have a story about the name. I do
know how the house was started. There was
a young couple, Angie and Bob Calvert were
members of the War Resisters League in New
York and for some reason the leadership of the
WRL decided to move their headquarters to
Kansas City. Angie and her husband Bob were
assigned to come and open that house. So that
was the beginning. They bought 908 E 31st and
they began to operate out of that house. It was a
lot of offering literature, giving talks, supporting
conscientious objectors as counselors, just a real
effort in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Was it a Catholic Worker from the beginning?
It was not a Catholic Worker. They did not
envision that at all. They were just carrying out
the directives to establish the WRL headquarters here. Somewhere in that first year or so
happened to go to California to support Cesar
Chavez in some of his boycotts with the United
Farm workers. Dorothy Day was there at the
same time. The story is, Dorothy asked Angie if
there was a Catholic Worker in Kansas City and
Angie said, “no” and Dorothy said, “start one.”
With Angie being on her own and Dorothy’s
enthusiasm and directive, “well go do it,” that
was coupled with the changing of the neighborhood. Angie found herself answering doorbells
for people asking for a meal or a coat so it kind
of led to her respond to Dorothy in a positive
way.
Eventually the house next door was also
available and I guess with some simple donations they were able to purchase both of the
houses for something like a total of $10,000.
They owned the houses and put them in a land
trust from the beginning. That has been a great
asset to have those paid for. We have taken out
a couple of big loans from different religious
communities and a couple of wealthy farmers
who were willing to put the money up with no
interest and eventually we were able to pay them
back.
That kind of began to work on me as a possibility. Annually there would be some kind of
consultation between the leadership in my community about what do you want to do next year,
or here are some needs that the Brothers need
filled, would you consider going here or there? I
began asking the provincial about the possibility to live at the Catholic Worker. The first man
that was in that position just said no way, that
Brother’s are teachers and they live with other
Brother’s. This is not something that Christian
Brothers are going to get into. I was persistent in
asking each year. By the third or fourth year the
guy said this is something I had to get out of my
system so go ahead and try it. This was back in
1981.
What brought you to the point that you
wanted to live in the house?
The whole notion of my teaching, my way of
relating to the students, getting to know them
more personally, getting to visit the families,
getting to see the background and the situations; When we moved from the regular all boys
school into the alternative school for kids who
had dropped out that got me even more involved
with the families, the components of poverty
and the dysfunction of families. So I think my
inclination was to get closer and closer to the
Continued on Page 9

Advent 2014

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Educator
&
CatholicWorker
Part 1, the History
people I was serving. Not just this is something you do for a few hours of the day and I
go home and they go back to wherever their
situation is; To be more immersed in the
actual lives of the people I was mentoring.
How did your awareness of solidarity and
justice begin?
It certainly emerged more specifically
with the Catholic Worker context. After
Vatican Council there was new thinking
about the church and the new charisms that
the communities were trying to go back to.
Our founder De La Salle was quite radical in
his notions of education. When he started,
education was for the well to
do people who could afford it.
The teaching style was more
tutoring, and one-on-one
relationship with the students.
It was De La Salle who really
advocated no tuition charge
for the poor and the working
class people. So that had been
our roots.

of groups who could make use of the house
and pay the rent and do the up,.keep. So,
one of the houses was used as a resettlement
facility for relocating Cuban men who were
being sent out of the country by Castro. The
second house there was an intentional community made up of lay people. There was a
young couple and several single people who
had gotten to know each other and decided
that they would like to get together and try
living in community. The two weren’t connected to each other.
After a year there was a sister of St. Joseph who had been involved as a volunteer
and it kind of came upon her that maybe

don’t you just stay?” Then it was like, “we
pray after dinner why don’t you stay and
pray with us?” And it was like “well you
know your way around here. We need a
weekend off. Why don’t you fill in for us?”
It all kind of evolved like that. They were
very encouraging of me to join them and
they wrote letters to the provincial that
kind of supported him and his decision to
let me try this out.
By the late 80s I was the only one of
these people still remaining as a member of
the house. So we became more dependent
on shorter-term younger community members to make the CW community viable. We
connected with a group coming
out of a Franciscan sisters
group in La Crosse, Wisconsin
called Shared Horizons.

What was the work of the
house at that time? The 80s
into the 90s.

Well it grew through the
80s to have the predominant
reputation of a combination of
an evening meal and a shelter.
Have there ever been periods
The whole 80s evolution, which
of tension between being a
I think would be true of CWs
Catholic Worker and Chrisall across the country (and a
tian Brother?
lot of them that started in the
I’ve never felt it. I encourmid-70s), I think all of them
aged and asked individual
felt a real change in dynamics
Brother’s through the years
in the 80s particularly after
to come and join me so there
the Reagan administration
would be more Lasallean preshad been in place for a year or
ence. A couple thought about
two. All the things that the
it but never felt that personal
Reagan administration undid
call to join. I have never been
from previous building up of
called to task for choosing this
support for people who were
way of life or continuing it. We
poor, the whole war on poverty
have provincial get-togethers
and they have always inquired how things Brother Louis dumpster diving at the City Market in the 80’s and things like this that had come through
the 60s and 70s. We found that the simple
are going and some of my classmates have
we could convert this back into a Catholic
survival needs became more difficult, and
been financially supportive in sending in
Worker. She approached one of her commumore people became caught up in that.
donations and things like that. So I have felt
nity members who was agreeable to do that
There was a huge increase in the needs of
in some sense that I have been stretching
and then a Franciscan sister came along who
things we did at the CW, particularly meals.
the boundaries just a little bit, certainly my
had just finished her law degree and had
All through Angie and Beth’s time and the
response to our charism of caring for the
taken a job with legal aid. So she was looking
early 80s a typical meal was predictable but
poor has nudged others into thinking of
for a place to live. The three of them decided
the number would be like 20, 25, 30 people.
how they can do that in their own way.
they would live in community in the process
But then from ‘80 to ‘82 it just exploded
of bringing the CW back to life. They were
into 100 in not more than a year.
Tell us about the transition to working
joined by a lay woman. So as a community of
full time at Holy Family?
four they began to offer meals in the evening Part 2 of this interview will be published in
It was Angie O’Gorman, Beth Seeberger
and offer some hospitality for single women.
our Lent issue. You can see the videos of the
and a few other short term people who
From 1981-82 I had continued to do my
complete interviews at our blogspot: cherithdid the first phase of Holy Family. I guess
going to the market scavenging thing so
brookcw.blogspot.com
it was 1980 that the two of them they felt
I would bring it back and they would ask,
that they had given it their best go and they
“why don’t you help us process this stuff?”
were no longer able to continue the house
So then I would and eventually they would
as a CW house. So luckily they didn’t atsay, “well its almost time for dinner why
tempt to sell it. Instead, there were a couple

9

10

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Advent 2014

Cherith Brook Catholic Worker

Advent 2014

Celebration!

by Jodi Garbison

I noticed this year that I tend to think in
‘themes’. Maybe it’s from teaching and creating
theme-centered lessons, I’m not sure. I think in
‘themes’ when planning a community member’s birthday party or reflecting on an event
or community experience. In reflecting on the
months since our last newspaper, the theme of
Celebration keeps coming to mind. We always
have cause to celebrate but this season it seems
especially true in the life and work of Cherith
Brook.
In August we sent in our last mortgage payment. We celebrated with a big party in the
parking lot, between the two buildings. Now, all
of you know that we are not a self-made group
of people. This has been possible because many
people offered non-interest loans and many
more gave faithfully each month. We consider
it a blessing and miracle to pay off the mortgage
in less than eight years! Thank you, thank you!
The night (and bellies) was full of BBQ, scalloped
potatoes, salad, collard greens and ice cream
cones. (Thank you Kelly Hanerhoff!) Former
intern, Caleb Madison, hooked us up with a
live jazz band that played during the meal. Eric
reminded us all that Cherith Brook (a.k.a. “the
shower house”) belongs to a trust – not to any
individuals. It belongs to all who have invested
and continue to invest in various ways. We are
all responsible to maintain the integrity of work
and welcome of Christ every day. It’s a joy to
have the burden of paying a mortgage lifted.
In early October we celebrated the Festival of
Shelters. Not a commonly known Jewish festival but one that is central to our community and
faith practices. The festival is about celebrating
the harvest and giving thanks for God’s provisions often found in precarious, unassuming
places. We built five shelters in the yard depicting shelters of people who experience the most
vulnerability in our neighborhood – undocumented, exploited women, post-incarcerated,
refugee and homeless. Ten people went out and
spent time on the streets for 12 and 24-hour
vigils. They came back with stories of God’s
goodness and provisions and also a new sense
of compassion for folks who suffer daily in our
city.(see reflections on pp. 4-5) We invite you to
consider participating in the Festival of Shelters
each year in October.
In September, we had the joy of joining Nick
and Sarah at their wedding celebration. True to
Nick and Sarah, the wedding was such a fun, festive event. It was great to see people who came
for the wedding that we don’t see very often.
Congrats to Nick and Sarah! (Thankfully we get
to see them every Monday for showers.)
We celebrate trying new things. Eric and
neighbor, John Tramel, started a men’s circle at
Cherith Brook once a month. After attending
Circle Process Training, it seemed like a good

tool to encourage sharing at deeper levels. The
hope was to offer not only a safe space but also
tools for men to share feelings, emotions and
support for one another. Unfortunately, after
six months of trying, men’s circle was cancelled
due to lack of attendance. Who knows? Something else might emerge at another time to
foster this kind of sharing and support amongst
men. We continue to use the Circle Process in
our weekly rhythms as a community.
We celebrate our time of living with and working with Theo and Nicole. We are thankful for
the couple months they were here. We might
see them from time to time since they have only
moved to St. Louis to be closer to Theo’s family.
We celebrate the end of growing season and
look forward to the rest that winter offers. We
celebrate our faithful volunteers! Without folks
coming to help, we wouldn’t be able to offer
clean clothing, hot showers and healthy meals.
(We are in need of more volunteers for our
shower days, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday
and in need of people to consider living in intentional, Christian community.) Come celebrate
with us!

Shower
Needs
Tennis Shoes (esp. men’s 10-13)
Jeans & Belts (30-34, 4-6)
Boxers & Panties (S & M, 4-7)
Shampoo & Conditioner
Body Wash
Spray Deodorant
Razors & Toothbrushes
White Socks (esp. men’s)
Foot Powder
Tampons & Pads
Ibuprofen, Tylenol, & Allergy
Laundry Soap (High Efficiency)
Cold medicine/Cough drops
Lotion
Winter Coats, Gloves & Hats
Sleeping Bags

House
Needs
Sugar
Creamer
Powedered Milk
Baking Soda
Dish Soap
Salt & Pepper
Hot Sauce
Toilet Paper
Tissues
Milk
Butter
Rice
Energy Saving Light Bulbs
Stamps
Candles
Canning lids
Bus Passes (31 day & One-Rides)
Post Cards (Postage Paid)

11

Cherith Brook
Catholic Worker
3308 East 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64127
(816) 241-8047
cherithbrookkcmo@gmail.com
http://cherithbrookcw.blogspot.com

Our
Who Are We? Schedule
Community—Cherith Brook is a residential
Christian community committed to sharing
table fellowship with strangers, and all our
resources with one another. We have found
our inspiration from the early church and the
Catholic Worker.
Mercy—Our daily lives are structured around
practicing the works of mercy as found in Jesus’
teachings. We are committed to regularly feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink
to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, visiting
the prisoner and the sick in the name of Jesus.
Peacemaking—As followers of Jesus, we
understand our lives to be centered in God’s
Shalom. Cherith Brook strives to be a “school”
for peacemaking in all its dimensions: political,
communal, and personal; working constantly to
undo poverty, racism and militarism.
These three orbs can be summed up as the struggle
to connect with the God of life. We pray that Cherith Brook is a space where all of us—the broken—
can come to learn and relearn the ways of Jesus;
a place to struggle together for God’s call of love,
mercy, peace and justice.

Upcoming
Events

Showers

M, T, Th

8 :30--11:00 am

Prayers

M, F

6–6:30 am

W 7:30-8am

Dec 12


Dec 13

Roundtable, Dr. David May
“Politics in a Manger: From
Star to Straw”
Workday

Dec 22 - Jan 2 CLOSED
Community Meal
(Singing every other week)

Work Day
Roundtable Discussions

Th

Monthly, 2nd Sat
Monthly, 3rd Fri

5–7 pm

9 am–1 pm
7 pm–9 pm

Jan 10

Workday

Jan 16

Roundtable, TBA

Jan 19

MLKing Celebration

Feb 14

Work Day

Feb 17

Mardi Gra Celebration

Feb 20-23

CW Farm Gathering, Luck WI

Feb 20

Roundtable, TBA

March 14

Workday

March 20

Roundtable, TBA