Rebuilding Together Peninsula Helps the Catholic Worker

Our Catholic Worker house on Cassia Street for at-risk teens was built in 1917.  It’s a wonderful house, but it has its needs. Rebuilding Together had helped with our house for Day Laborers and with the language school and so we turned to them again.

Rebuilding Together  is the finest, most professional, most efficient volunteer support group we have ever worked with. This year they helped people in about 60 homes and 15 community facilities.

Rebuilding Together  (aka Christmas in April) had their main volunteer day April 25, and there were close to 40 volunteers here at our Catholic Worker house. These men, women and children came from sponsoring agencies like the San Mateo Credit Union, the Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club,  Rotary of Woodside/Portola Valley, and Sierra High School. The lead contractor and work captains are from NOVO Construction.  Thank God for NOVO and all the volunteers.

NOVO came in a week early to do preparatory work. The work included 30 feet of fence and a gate, striping an exterior wall to the studs and rebuilding it, replacement of all the kitchen counters, rebuilding the front steps, demo and rebuilding of the front room ceiling, replacing the laundry room floor, and upgrading the gardens around the house. The biggest issue was asbestos in our front two rooms, which required extra planning and work.

The Encore Performance Caterers came with breakfast and lunch, with tables with tablecloths. We ate really delicious food and had a lot of fun. If you ever want to volunteer, we recommend Rebuilding Together.

Here are some pictures of the work Rebuilding Together volunteers did at the Redwood City Catholic worker home for teens and families. (If you select one picture, you can see all the others in a slideshow.)

April Newsletter: Stop the Killing

As I was cuffed and stuffed into the back of a paddy wagon by one of Sunnyvale’s finest, Steve Kelly S.J. was next.  He too was cuffed.  As all of his pockets were roughly turned inside out in the futile search for weapons, I asked, “Steve, what are you giving up for Lent?””  He replied, “Apparently, everything.” (Larry Purcell)

“When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes
again he went back to the table. ‘So you understand’ he said,
“what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and
rightly: so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have
washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.  I
have given you an example so that you may copy what I
have done to you.’”   (John 13)

Lent 2015

Dear Friends, 

As I was cuffed and stuffed into the back of a paddy wagon by one of Sunnyvale’s finest, Steve Kelly S.J. was next.  He too was cuffed.  As all of his pockets were roughly turned inside out in the futile search for weapons, I asked, “Steve, what are you giving up for Lent?””  He replied, “Apparently, everything.”

For 4 days, 77 members of the Pacific Life Community had been at Vallombrosa Retreat Center to remember the past (Hiroshima/Nagasaki), celebrate our present friendships and plan actions in the future to “save the world” from nuclear extinction.  The arrest at Lockheed for members of the Pacific Life Community was nothing new.  Many of us had been returning to Lockheed and other sites crucial to our nuclear arsenal since the early 70’s.  In our group of 77, we don’t wear war medals or ribbons on our chests; but we probably have over 25 years of cumulative jail time for resisting war and nuclear weapons.

Pacific Life Community at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA (Photo thanks to Mike Wisniewski, L.A. Catholic Worker)

Being arrested in the name of LIFE should not come as a surprise to Christians – especially as we celebrate Holy Week.  When we re-enact the life, death and life-in-death of Jesus, we remember the past, celebrate the present, and hope for a better future – all of this centered on Jesus who was arrested.  One of the earliest chroniclers of the Jesus story was the Disciple Paul and Paul wrote a number of his encyclicals from jail.

“I, the prisoners of the Lord, implore you therefore to lead a life
worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in
complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.  Do all you can
to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you
together…..If we live the truth and in love, we shall grow in all
ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is
fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength,
for each separate part to work according to its function.  So the
body grows until it has built itself up, in LOVE.”   (Eph 4)

Paul, in prison, was simply following the example of our Lord.

As far as I know, Jesus didn’t get any more T.V. and newspaper coverage for his arrest than we did. But people of non-violence, people of the book have this belief that the TRUTH will win out.

So dear supporters, as Susan Crane, Steve Kelly S.J., Mary Jane Perrine, Ed Ehmke, Peggy Coleman, a few others and I recover from just a few days in jail, we ask you, we beg you, we implore you, in the name of God, STOP THE KILLING and stop preparing to kill.

  Have a Holy Easter.Larry2

Love and peace,

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

NEEDS

FOOD in any amount.

Household needs: Laptops, ipods, tablets, calculators for high school & college age teens, Simple Green cleaner, Pine Sol, garbage bags, socks, dish soap, 8 ½ X 11 paper, etc. We hope to have grant $ for 4 college students at $2,000 each.  If you want to help, call Larry (650) 366-4415.

      3.    TRANSPORTATION: Putnam Automotive recently donated to us a beautiful used car and we gave it to Guadalupe Catholic Worker. We can always use cars, trucks, bikes and any other means of transportation for the poor.

      4.   Teachers and tutors for our English Language School or our after school tutoring program.
Call Sr. Mary Jane (650 366-8315).

      5.   A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker House.  We need to help young disciples be able to live and work with the poor for free for the rest of their lives. Call Larry for coffee: (650) 366-4415.

      6.    If you need a painter, carpenter, hauler, gardener or other worker, call the laborers and ask for Cesar or Juan Carlos  at (650) 339-2794.

      7.   Your ongoing love and support.

Love is the Answer: February Newsletter

                        “God will wield authority over many peoples and arbitrate for mighty nations; they will hammer their swords into plowshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. Each person will sit under their own vine and fig tree, with no one to trouble them.” (Micah 4)

Dear, dear friends,                                                                            Feb. 2015

So much of our work at the Catholic Worker is going beautifully. Teens, Vets, day laborers, and women & children have found homes. The poor receive gigantic quantities of free, fresh vegetables. Women and children are learning at our English Language School and in our tutoring program. For 40 years with God’s grace and the help of countless volunteers and supporters, we have been trying to make sense out of everyday life and the gospels.

While these works take up the bulk of our time and energy, we are acutely aware that all that we are, and all that we have, and all that we love can be gone in a FLASH. Certainly, there were moms and dads, school children, retired vets, priests and nuns living and working as hard as we do in the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Gone!!! All of their work, all of their loves, all of their homes, hospitals, schools, and convents were vaporized instantaneously.

At the Redwood City Catholic Worker for “at risk teens,” we know that all life is at RISK – we live under the sword of Damocles known as “nuclear weapons.”

At one time in the history of upright two legged creatures (not too long ago), cannibalism was a common practice. Cannibalism is now abolished. Much more recently, slavery was a common practice. Slavery is now universally condemned and its abolition is within reach. Someday, if our species has enough time, we can live in a world without war and certainly, in a world without nuclear weapons!!!

Since the early 1970’s, I (Larry Purcell) have been periodically arrested for non-violently resisting war and opposing nuclear missiles built at Lockheed/Martin in Sunnyvale, Calif. For the past 3 years Susan Crane has been living and working at the Catholic Worker for teens. Susan has spent 6 years in Federal Prison for 4 separate “Plowshare Actions” that say “yes to life and no to death.” by converting destructive weapons into useful tools of life.

As Valentines Day approaches, we want to recommit ourselves to “Love is the answer.”

God willing and with a lot of work from us, the human race will survive global warming and nuclear weapons long enough to learn to stop the killing and to love one another.

Joy and gratitude,

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

 You are all invited to two events:plc

A presentation: “Hell Fire: Lockheed/Martin and the Weapons Industry Go to Gaza” by Dalit Baum from American Friends Service Committee on Sat. Feb. 28th at 7:30 pm. Place– Vallombrosa Retreat Center 250 Oak Grove Ave. Menlo Park.

Monday March 2: A non-violent direct action at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale (light rail station at 5th and Mathilda Ave in Sunnyvale) 10 to noon. For info and details, call Susan Crane (650) 366-4415.

NEEDS

  1. Food in any amount.
  2. Mayra (one of our teens) will give birth to her baby in June. We need everything: crib, stroller, car seat, high chair, diapers, blankets, etc.
  1. Household items: outdoor welcome mats, lap top computer, tablet, smart phones, wheelchairs, large lightweight suit cases, Pine Sol, bikes, locks, helmets, a flat T.V., scholarships to Canada College for out teens– tuition is now $2,000 a year.
  2. A house or money to buy a house for another Catholic Worker. Call Larry for coffee (650) 366-4415.
  1. Mary Jane pleads, “We desperately need teachers of English.” And ”Speaking Spanish is not necessary to teach” in our school. Classes are from 6:30 to 8pm Monday through Thursday. For info call Sr. Mary Jane (650) 366-8315. Her final words are, “We have space, we have women who want to learn English – we need you to teach them. Thanks.”
  1. Cars, trucks, and vans – Redwood General Tire Company, in Redwood City, has generously volunteered to repair and smog donated vehicles that we will give to the poor.
  1. Day Laborers need jobs (painting, carpentry, hauling, gardening, etc). Call Cesar at (650) 339-2794. These men and women can do everything.
  1. Your ongoing love and support.

Redwood City Catholic Worker House continues to seek support as new year begins

By  in the San Francisco Examiner, Jan 2, 2015

During the holiday season, the front porch of the Catholic Worker House on Cassia Street in Redwood City is overflowing with donations. But the need for support doesn’t stop now that the holidays are over.

“It’s nonstop for us between Thanksgiving and the new year,” Catholic Worker House Executive Director Larry Purcell said. “Then, on Jan. 3 the phone stops, the mail stops and the visits stop. People are done, but poverty isn’t done.”

Purcell is a former priest who in 1974 helped to found the Catholic Worker House, which provides services for at-risk youths and others. The organization is based on the traditional Catholic worker model — nobody is paid to work and no one is charged for services. Purcell said his goal is to “try to make sense of everyday life and the Gospels.”

For four decades, the Purcell family and dedicated volunteers have worked to bridge the gap between supporters and those on the margins. One of those supporters is Bill Somerville, the founder and president of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation in Oakland, whom Purcell calls “a co-worker and partner.” The foundation and the Catholic Worker House work together to navigate funding issues and opportunities.

The Catholic Worker House currently provides 25 residents with food and shelter. Among its facilities, there are two houses for veterans, two for day laborers, two for women and children, and one house for at-risk teens. During the holidays, the Adopt-a-Family program has provided at least 50 local families with toys, gift cards, food and clothing.

“It’s pretty clear that love and kindness are the answer,” Purcell said. “Yet, the poor aren’t always treated kindly. They are often yelled at and brushed aside.”

When Purcell ran out of gift cards a few weeks ago, he handed out $10 bills instead. A few days later, while in line at the post office, he spotted a familiar face: a Catholic Worker House client who was sending her $10 bill to relatives in Mexico.

“We are out of touch as a society,” Purcell said. “Poverty on the Peninsula is not a once-a-year problem. The gap between the rich and poor in San Mateo County is expanding rapidly. ”

Volunteers are needed to tutor children after school and help with the Catholic Worker Language School. Donations of food, clothing, sleeping bags, school supplies, toiletries and money for scholarships are taken year-round.

“We always need help from professionals with specific skills — such as carpenters, mechanics, electricians, contractors, doctors and counselors,” Purcell added.

Hundreds of at-risk teenagers have lived at the Catholic Worker House since Purcell founded the Redwood City chapter decades ago.

“Many have come from jails, hospitals and families that are falling apart,” Purcell noted. “A few of our teenagers have arrived from other countries. We help at-risk teenagers who are dealing with serious issues — suicidal tendencies, cutting, eating disorders and addiction.”

Purcell said his work is rewarding because he is able to help people like 17-year-old Juan, who fled a violent home in Mexico. Purcell became his legal guardian and said the young man is looking forward to a bright future.

Another client, Susan, was in foster care for nine years and struggled with dealing with her complicated childhood. Yet, after living at the Catholic Worker House for a few years, she graduated from high school and community college, managed to save $20,000 by working at Safeway, and went on to work at Stanford Hospital.

“Sometimes, my job is like being a housewife and a Teamster for the poor,” Purcell said. “I recently asked one of our 15-year-old girls, ‘What’s the biggest difference between living here and where you lived before?’ She answered, ‘That’s easy — we never run out of food here.’ I love what I do. You really can’t do this job if you don’t love it.”

 

 

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.

NEEDS

  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.

PACIFIC LIFE COMMUNITY

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

NEEDS

  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,

ENGLISH LANGUAGE SCHOOL SUMMER SESSION

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.

A PLACE FOR HOMELESS VETS

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.

NEEDS

  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.