December Newsletter: “God is light: there is no darkness in God at all.” (1 Jn. 1)

Dear Friends,                                                                                              Christmas 2014

flight to egypt

Flight to Egypt by Fritz Eichenberg

So many Christmas carols speak of light, brightness, or “the stars are brightly shining.” That’s because the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem is the story of the “light of the world” cracking the darkness.

Not only do the Gospels describe Jesus as the light of the world:
“I am the light of the world;
       anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark;
       they will have the light of life.” (Jn 8: 12)
but Jesus calls each of us to be the “light of the world:

“You are the light of the world….your light must shine in the sight of others.” (Matt 5:14)

In our world with so many refugees and so many wars and such a gap between extreme poverty and extreme wealth, we have an opportunity to be kind this Christmas and be a light to the dark. The prophet Micah comes to mind:

“What is good has been explained to you; this is what
Yahweh asks of you: only this,
To act justly,
To love tenderly and
To walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Dorothy Day was right when she repeated over and over again: “the answer is LOVE.”

Have a Holy Christmas,

Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Jan Johanson,
Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane and J. Arthur White.


  1. FOOD in any amount. We have 7 separate residences to supply and can use all the help we can get.
  1. Teachers for our English Language School to help at night and tutors to help grammar school children with their homework in the afternoons. Call Sr. Mary Jane Floyd at (650) 366-8315.
  1. Jobs for Day Laborers. Call Cesar at (650) 339-2794 – Hauling, painting, gardening, carpentry, staining, tile work or any other job you might have.
  1. Household needs: A car, a Brother desktop copier (DCP-7065DN), shampoo, laundry detergent, shaving cream, razors, a large & not to old refrigerator for our home for troubled teens, index cards, gift cards for Christmas, (Target, Safeway, Old Navy, Payless,etc.)
  1. A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker center.
  1. Your ongoing love and support.


“Always Be Grateful” November 2014 Newsletter

“Always be grateful.” (St. Paul the Apostle)

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                           Thanksgiving ‘14

The Giants won the pennant!!!! The Giants won the World Series!!!! How could life get any better for us diehard Gigantes fans? I’ll tell you how, but first I digress.

In early November a group of Catholic Worker supporters (Jim McGarry from the University of Notre Dame Dorothy Stang Center, a few Notre Dame Sisters, and Butch & Lynn Shafsky & friends) collaborated with us to open a new home for women in Redwood City. Our first guest there is Veronica (age 43, needs hearing aids, and has diabetes). Veronica has a daughter on full scholarship (tuition, room and board) at Notre Dame University. Prior to moving into her new abode, Veronica lived in a U Haul storage shed. Her new 1 and a half bedroom apartment was donated by one of our other supporters. Veronica will not pay rent for the first month and since December (Christmas) is always free, she will have the first two months free. Once she gets a job, her room, board, and utilities will never be more than ¼ of her income. If she has no income, then everything is free.

Now back to my question. As much as I love the Giants, as excited as we were when they won, it breaks my heart to know that Fred (our local resident Vet) lived in a tent in the mudflats for two years and that Veronica lived in a storage unit, and that Day Laborers get crammed into a rental unit in sleeping bags rolled out right next to one another, and that men & women need to sleep on our front porch and that Ingrisd spent a year in prison seeking asylum until Susan welcomed her to another home for women. Life can be much, much better than the Giants winning the World Series.

It is true that we beg for everything at the Catholic Worker House. It is also true that we live like kings. We have homes, beds, toilets, showers, cars, hot water, phones, clothes, medicine, T.V.’s etc. ALL THAT WE HAVE IS A GIFT.

This Thanksgiving we turn to God and you, our supporters, to say “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” And we pray that life will become a lot better for sisters and brothers in need. I agree with Peter Maurin who helped found the Catholic Worker:

The world would be better off
if people tried
to become better,

And people would
become better
if they stopped trying
to be better off.

For when everyone tries
to become better off
nobody is better off.

But when everyone tries
to become better
everyone is better off.

Everybody would be rich
if nobody tried
to become richer.

And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried
to be the poorest

And everybody would be
what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what they want
the other person to be.


For decades, non-violent peace activists in the Bay Area and throughout the western states have joined together to stop the insanity of nuclear weapons and transform weapons of mass destruction into low cost housing, rapid transit, alternative energy and sane living that contributes less to global warming. We demand that our government spend less on weapons and more on job-creating priorities like education, health, and the environment.

On Sunday, March 1st 2015, at Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park, we will host an evening dedicated to PEACE. All are invited. On Monday, March 2nd you are also invited to a non-violent direct action against war and for life at Lockheed/Martin Corp. in Sunnyvale. Lockheed is the largest weapons manufacturer in the world. For details, call Susan or Larry at (650) 366-4415.

Peace and gratitude,
Larry for all of us


  1. Food in any amount. We now house over 25 people a night at various locations in Redwood City (two homes for Day Laborers, 2 residences for VETS, 2 apartments for women and children and our home for troubled teens).
  1. Household needs: socks, hand soap, Turkeys or Safeway gift certificates for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, a volunteer carpenter to replace kitchen counters and repair our front porch, Kleenex, paper towels, Pine Sol etc
  1. Christmas gifts for the families & teens we serve: gift certificates to Target, Old Navy, Payless shoes, Movie passes (Cinemark), music, clothing, jewelry, or anything teens and children love. We do have a number of smaller children in our communities now. (ages 6-12).
  1. Tutors for our English Language School to help small children with homework. Call Sr. Mary Jane (650) 366-4415.
  1. Jobs for Day Laborers: call Cesar at (650) 339-2794
  1. Your ongoing love and support.

Sept 2014 Newsletter: “The world will be saved by beauty.”

“The world will be saved by beauty.” Dostoyevsky

Sept. 2014
Dear Friends,


If you have been reading our newsletters, you are familiar with Larry’s “Needs” section which always mentions our needs for volunteer teachers and tutors. Over the past 20 years we have been blessed with wonderful teachers and tutors. Recently, Larry told me about Kirsten who wanted to do something with children. Kirsten is an artist by trade. She told me about her idea of having an art camp in which the children would have fun drawing, painting, pasting, cutting and much more! It sounded great especially when I asked Kristen what I would have to do and she responded, “NOTHING.” For me it was a no brainer and for the children an opportunity not to be missed.

So from June 9-13th the “big room” in our school became an art studio! Fourteen children, grades 4-8, signed up and no one missed coming because this was truly summer excitement. Kirsten and her artist friend, Lynne arrived with their car loaded with art materials & supplies. I witnessed how junk could be transformed into a piece of art!

The first directive the children were given was that there were no mistakes. The children learned that each of them brought to his/her work something about their own personalities. Kirsten and Lynne encouraged and praised all of the work that was done and they would comment on various parts of each art piece. “Cool” was the highest of praised and heard a lot!

The children learned some art vocabulary: definitions, pastels, palette, layering, images, brayer and texture. (I learned a lot too just watching & listening). Each day there was a different project: collages, decorating bags, creating their own books and decorating little boxes with myriads of objects.

At noon the children enjoyed delicious lunches prepared and delivered by some of our wonderful tutors. The lunches topped off a fun morning.

I am grateful to Kirsten and Lynn for sharing their artistic gifts with us. I was amazed to see the individuality of each child expressed in the work they did. I know that it was a very positive experience. THANK YOU, Kirsten and Lynn and THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR WONDERFUL VOLUNTEERS who make our English Language School and our Tutoring program possible

Love and gratitude,

Willa Bickham painted this mural at the Viva House Catholic Worker in Baltimore.

Willa Bickham painted this mural at the Viva House Catholic Worker in Baltimore.

Sr. Mary Jane Floyd for all of us.
P.S. As we prepared to begin another full year of teaching and tutoring, one of our supporters sent a sensational donation that allowed us to re-carpet the entire school and replace our window coverings. God is good and so are you.


Another of our wonderful supporters has donated a 3rd three-bedroom apartment in Redwood City. This home will be long-term housing for vets. Three wounded warriors will be invited to live each in their own room. With the addition of this residence, the Redwood City Catholic Worker will normally be housing between 20 and 25 guests each night including: our house for troubled teens, two residences for day laborers, a house for women and children and the home for vets. None of this would be possible without God’s love and your support.


  1. Food in any amount.
  2. Household needs: Kleenex, shampoo & conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, tool kits, can openers, coffee, condiments, freezer food (meat, pizza).
  1. The English Language School and tutoring program needs teachers and tutors –Call Sr. Mary Jane (650) 366-8315.
  1. BIKES: We have given out hundreds of bikes and the need continues to be Gigantic. We need bikes, helmets, locks, lights and repair tools.
  1. Musical Instruments for children to be part of a mariachi band.
  1. Laptop computers and other portable things (I Pads & calculators etc) that teens can use.
  1. Volunteers: one to tutor one of our teens in Chemistry, Geometry and English and the other to CUT HAIR ON FRIDAYS DURING OUR FOOD DISTRIBUTION. CALL SUSAN (650) 366-4415.
  1. Your ongoing love and support: money and houses for the poor.

June 2014 Newsletter

           “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be  clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love….Always be thankful.” (Colossians 12ff.)

Dear Friends,

One of our teens had been at the Catholic Worker House for “at risk” teens for about 3 months. During that time she had never initiated a conversation with me (Larry). In fact, whenever she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper. Because terrible things have happened to her, she has lost her voice – a symptom of not realizing how precious she is.

One of our goals at the Catholic Worker is to melt the “ice of fear” that paralyzes our teens. We have found that every person (no matter how damaged) has a healthy person inside screaming to come out. No one wants to live in fear. Our teens try hard to overcome fear with trust; but where there is severe damage, it is so difficult and scary. We have also found over the years that if we offer a safe and sane home and expect our teens to go to school every day and every class, then they tend to get stronger and healthier. As we love them, the ice of fear sometimes melts.

Sure enough!!! After being in our safe and sane home, this young women (our silent teen) came to me and initiated her first conversation in 3 months. She began tentatively, “Can I ask you something?” I put my book down and said, “Sure, what’s up?” She then asked, “Is it O.K. if I call you grandfather?” When I said, “Yes,” she walked across the room and kissed me on the cheek. She now does that first thing every morning.

Love works. Miracles happen. The body of Christ is alive and well in our midst. Thank God.

Peace and gratitude,

Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges,
Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Aida Figueroa,
Jan Johanson, J. Arthur White, and Susan Crane.

P.S. Our English Language School and tutoring programs are closing for the summer, but we will need teachers and tutors in September when a new year begins. We are DESPERATE for someone to teach basic computer skills. Call Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, (650) 366-8315. We will also need backpacks & school supplies.

P.P.S. Susan Crane is working with one of our very generous supporters who is donating to the poor the use of a second 3-bedroom apartment. This new residence for women and children was furnished by our supporters, repaired by Day Laborers and painted by volunteers from Notre Dame University. If you would like to help Susan with this new Catholic Worker, call her at (650) 366-4415. Susan will continue to live at our house for teens and manage the new center with help from volunteers.

P.P.P.S. CORRECTION: In our last newsletter I gave you an incorrect website for our Catholic Worker. The correct one is:  Susan developed this website and it is terrific.


  1. Food in any amount. One thing we never get is fish and our current family loves fish; 25-pound bags of pinto beans (you cannot give us too many pinto beans).
  1. Household needs: sleeping bags– we have 2-4 guests sleeping on our front porch these days, Pinesol, Kleenex, shampoo & conditioner, bikes, help with wi-fi connectivity problems (call Susan 366-4415), socks, underwear, paper towels, backpacks filled with school materials.
  1. Vehicles: bikes, cars, vans, trucks, RV’s etc. If you need a worker, call the DAY LABORER ORGANIZERS (Cesar or Ramon) at (650) 339-2794.
  1. Invitations to give talks to groups about any of the following topics: the Catholic Worker, non-violence or resistance. Call Larry or Susan 366-4415.
  1. A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker. Call Larry for a cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
  1. Volunteer doctors, dentists, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and handymen.
  1. Your ongoing love and support.


Join people all over the world in the global day of nonviolent action to close Guantanamo.

We will meet in front of Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA (Mathilda and Java Streets), from 12-1 pm to remember those still held at Guantanamo, to call for the end of indefinite detention, and to tell Lockheed that torture is immoral.May 23

On May 23rd of last year, President Obama again promised to close the detention facility at Guantánamo.  His pledge came in response to the mass hunger strike by men protesting their indefinite detention and to the renewed, global condemnation of the prison.  One year later, far too little has changed: few detained men have left the prison and hunger strikes and forced feeding continue.

It’s a well-known fact that  contractors supply interrogation services, and contractors have traditionally not been subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Lockheed Martin has been involved in the interrogation (torture) of prisoners at US facilities in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lockheed spokesperson Tom Jurkowsky asserts “During our period of performance at Guantanamo, our employees were under the direct authority of” the U.S. Southern Command.  “We had no authority to, nor did we, direct the actions of any military member, active or reserve.” However, prisoners who have been released say otherwise. 

Since Obama’s speech, only 12 men have been released. 154 remain, nearly all of whom have never been charged with a crime.  76 were cleared for release by the US government years ago.  56 men are from Yemen, the largest national group at Guantanamo, but they remain subject to an effective moratorium on their release based on their nationality.  No one from Yemen has been freed since the May speech.

Up to 40 prisoners continue to hunger strike, and many are being subjected to forced feeding — a practice condemned by international human rights organizations, medical associations, and members of the US Congress.   New lawsuits in US courts lay bare the extreme cruelty of the forced feeding at Guantanamo.  To quell the public outcry against the prison, the US military in December 2013 stopped reporting the numbers of hunger strikers.  More recently, it has classified their protest, in Orwellian fashion, as “long term non-religious fasting.”

During his May, 2013 speech, President Obama asked the American people: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike . . . Is this who we are?”

Sadly, as we face yet another broken promise, this is what the United States remains — a country that continues to indefinitely detain and brutalize the men at Guantanamo.

Join the Catholic Workers, the Pacific Life Community, and folks from the Dorothy Stang Center of Notre Dame de Namur University for a spirited gathering on Friday, May 23, at noon in front of Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale.

For further reading, check out these articles:


Meet the New Interrogators: Lockheed Martin Chatterjee Pratap

Witness Against Torture: May 23 Global Action

Call the Redwood City Catholic Worker at 650-366-4415 for more information about the action at Lockheed Martin on May 23.


Mother’s Day Proclamation

Mothers’ Day, as it is generally celebrated, is a time to buy a card or a gift for your Mom, thank and celebrate her, make breakfast for her with your children, take her out for dinner, or have brunch and a family day together.  All good. Gratitude is always good.

However,  the original idea of Mothers’ Day was for mothers organize for the common good, to mourn the war dead,  to bring aid to both sides of the conflicts, and to figure out ways to organize world peace. The holiday has been hijacked.

Here’s some of the history that Brian Handwerk researched for the  National Geographic:

“It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna’s mother—held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
In the postwar years Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist strategies to unite former foes. Julia Ward Howe, for one—best known as the composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870, calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. (National Geographic, Mothers’ Day Turns 100: It’s surprisingly dark history by Brian Handwerk)

When Ann’s daughter, Anna Jarvis, saw Mother’s Day commercialized and eviscerated of the intended meaning, she dedicated her life and her income to defending the original meaning of the holiday.  Outspoken, arrested, and isolated, she died in poverty.

Here is the appeal that Julia Ward Howe wrote:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.


Being the Hands of God

The mission of the Junipero Sierra High School Faith and Service Ministry is “As I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:15)

April work day - 44

Marco Hernandez, James Outman, Erin Court, Charlie Dowden, Ryan Krug and Mary Dowden

On April 28, 2014, several students and one staff member from Junipero Sierra put their mission into action and helped out the Redwood City Catholic Worker.

The students helped us with tasks that are important for hygiene and cleanliness, but are not very glamorous and not something that can easily be put on a college application.

The students cleaned our truck, cleaned plastic bins used in our food distribution, cleaned the porch, and cleaned the street.

Now, we only had five students, and one parent-staff, and so that’s a lot of work.

The truck that was cleaned is the truck that picks up  about 10,000 pounds of fresh produce every week. The produce  is used by the Padua Dining Hall of St. Anthony’s Parish  in Menlo Park and other Catholic Worker houses in the area, and is distributed on Friday at our Catholic Worker house.  

April work day - 03

James Outman and Marco Hernandez clean the inside of the Catholic Worker truck.

This truck also picks up furniture, paper for schools, and various surplus goods that need to be moved to people who can use them.

Other students cleaned bins that are used for food distribution at the Catholic Worker on Fridays. What happens is this: we are given cases of  produce that have some items that are spoiled. These cases are poured into the bins, and then cleaned and sorted. You can imagine that the bins need to be cleaned!  The students worked hard, used a lot of elbow grease.

April work day - 23

Mary Dowden, French teacher and parent, Charlie Dowden, and Ryan Krug clean the bins that are used for food distribution.

The Catholic Worker house is on Cassia Street in Redwood City. We do not have a regular street cleaning program, if we have one at all.   Erin, who is a self starter and responsible worker, was asked to clean up the street, cleaning both sides of the street. Not a very glamorous job, nor particularly social, as he was working alone. But at the end of the morning, the street was clean.

April work day - 25

Erin Court cleans the street, on both sides. A solitary and humble task: Erin is responsible.

The truck, inside and out, the food bins, inside an out, and the street: All cleaned.

Thank you, Sierra Students. Thank you  James Outman, Charlie Dowden, Erin Court, Ryan Krug, Marco Hernandez and parent/teacher Mary Dowden!!!  We hope you come back and help us out again.