The Holy Family Did Not Have Papers: December 2015 Newsletter

“After they (wise men from the East) left, the angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child
and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt’….”  (Matt. 2:13)

Dear friends,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Christmas 2015

The Holy Family, undocumented immigrants, ran for their lives across the border into Egypt – the empire that had enslaved their ancestors.

The picture of a small child, fully clothed, face down and dead, in the sea that kisses Egypt haunts me.  The child still has his shoes and socks on and is neatly dressed, deeply loved.  He could have been ours.  He is ours.  He could have been the baby Jesus.  He is part of the Body of Christ.

The sound of dissent today includes suicide bombers, drones with cruise missiles, and heavily armed armies on the march. Caught in the midst of unspeakable violence are millions of ordinary men, women and children of many faiths – all running for their lives. They are leaving everything to escape violence.  The Jews did this during WWII and they were joined by millions of Italians, Germans, Poles, Russians and others.  Ordinary people – on the move – are the body of Christ fleeing violence.  They are the People of God crossing the desert.

This Christmas, in addition to figuring out what we will buy for our loves, we (as a country) need to decide if we are going to welcome the stranger, house the homeless, open the door when there is a knock, and see Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters.

Catholic Worker Houses are known for opening our doors to the homeless – we do not require papers.  We do not need proof of citizenship since we believe that we are all one family, with one God, living on Earth our common home.  During Mass on Sundays, we sing “All Are Welcome;” and during the week we try to live that at the Catholic Worker.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, may God’s light shine on the families of the world as we welcome them to our part of Earth.  As we celebrate Christmas with gifts, may Peace find a home on Earth as we struggle to end the violence. Christmas is a time for children, for life, for joy.  May God bless the children of the world.


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


  1. Food in any amount.

     2.  Household needs:  Kleenex, candles, garbage bags, laundry detergent, musical instruments (a guitar or keyboard & amplifier), sleeping bags, tarps, tents, ponchos and socks for
homeless, CD players, shampoo & conditioner, toiletries etc.

      3.  English Language School and Tutoring programs:  We need tutors in the afternoons. You would be helping young children with homework.
           Call Sr. Mary Jane at (650) 366-8315. By the way, we are so glad that Mary Jane is back in Redwood City with us. God is good.

      4. Day Laborers:  If you need gardeners, haulers, carpenters, plumbers, craftsmen, or handymen, call Cesar or Juan Carlos (day laborer organizers) and they will find just the worker for you.                 Call (650) 339-2794.

      5. Transportation: After housing and food, the next priority for the poor is transportation.  We need bikes, bike lights & locks, cars, trucks, vans, and mobile homes.
Call Susan or Larry at (650) 366-4415.

      6. A home or money to buy a home for a new Catholic Worker Center.  Call Larry for a free cup of coffee.  (650) 366-4415. 

       7.  Your ongoing love and support.

Black Lives Matter…………………………… November 2015 Newsletter


(by Murphy Davis – – a Catholic Worker who works to end the death penalty. Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, two Presbyterian clergy, started the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia)

More than a year has passed now since young Michael Brown was shot down in the streets of his own neighborhood by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  Police killings of citizens occur approximately every 28 hours in the U.S., but the killing of this particular unarmed young Black man was a turning point. The streets of Ferguson exploded with angry citizens, determined to seek justice for Michael Brown and for their community.  Other towns and cities joined in. New voices have emerged every day in the streets and courageous young Black people are taking risks to interrupt business as usual with the message that Black Lives Matter.

I would venture to guess that most Americans who are not among the white supremacists can agree – black, brown and white – that Black lives matter even though most would hasten to add, “All lives matter.” This qualification shows the lack of understanding of what the activists are saying. Black lives are at risk every single day in the U.S.A.  Black mothers and fathers tremble with fear when their young ones leave home to play or go to school.  Will they return alive? Can they walk from here to there in safety? The stress of daily life is incomprehensible to those who grow up believing that “the policeman is my friend.”  The young Black leaders are not asking to be heard; they are demanding to be heard; and there is rage in this demand. It is long past time, and their patience is thin. We of the white power structure have had opportunities again and again.  We will ignore them this time at our own peril and at the peril of our still-waiting-to-be-born democracy.

Black lives have been cheap from the time the first chained black feet walked off of ships onto the shores of Virginia…When chattel slavery was abolished, white supremacy found other ways to accomplish its evil. The short years of Reconstruction meant the vote for Black men and forward movement for former slaves with the protection of federal troops. But when the “Redemptionist” white Southerners had their way, the protection disappeared.  The Klan enforced terror in the Black community; the vote was snatched away, the cruel system of sharecropping instituted, and the use of Constitutionally sanctioned penal slavery kept most of the captive labor force in place…Our history as a nation has rested on the assumption that Black life is cheap and expendable.  Mass imprisonment, the death penalty and our financial systems have insured that black bodies continue to be under the control of the dominant (white) system.

…As a whole, we are reluctant to seriously examine the structure of white supremacy and white privilege.  This leaves us blind and deaf to the cries of our young friends who demand that we listen NOW. We continue to allow “racism” to be about only those who are Neo-Confederates and openly advocate a whites-only America.

Black Lives Matter…and other established and ad hoc groups are crying out for us to understand the pain and terror of Black life in the U.S.  When Eric Garner can be choked to death on the street by a gang of police, when Sandra Bland can be stopped and jailed and “found dead in her cell” for the crime of an improper lane change, when Walter Scott can be pursued for  allegedly failing to pay child support and shot to death in the back, when 12-year-old Tamir Rice can be shot dead by police on the playground—as we know, this list could go on and on.  The message is clear: Black Lives Do NOT Matter.  Black life is cheap. Black bodies are still a disposable commodity…..

How would we white people feel if the young people at such risk were our children and grandchildren? I have a little white grandson who is almost 12 years old.  What would I do if he were – God forbid – shot down while playing with other children?  Well, the truth is that these are our children.  In the words of Jonathan Daniels, who sacrificed his own life for the life of a young Black woman named Ruby Sales, “We are…one.  We are indelibly, unspeakably ONE.”

…Anytime people are shot down in the streets, slammed to the ground, or killed in prisons or jails, they are our sisters and brothers. The police who shoot them down (even though they might protest) are our sisters and brothers.

We Are One.  Black Lives Matter. This is an emergency. When will we act?

Peace and gratitude,

Larry, Ronnie, Jan, Mary Jane, Aida, Susan and  J. Arthur


  1. FOOD in any amount.
  2. Thanksgiving baskets (we give out 150 gift certificates to Safeway) so families can buy chickens or turkeys for dinner.
  3. Christmas gifts and gift certificates to Target, Cinemark movies passes, Old Navy, Payless Shoes, Safeway etc. We adopt 50 to 75 families and give out another 150 Safeway gift certificates for Christmas dinner.  Included in these families are our residences for VETS, Women and Children, and Day Laborers. These days we are housing about 25 people a night.
  4. The Catholic Worker Tutoring program needs tutors (4pm to 5pm) to work with school age children.  They especially need math help  for 7th and 8th graders. They could also use teachers for the computer lab for adults in the evenings (6:30 to 8pm). Call Pam (650) 365-6019.
  5. A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker Community. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
  6. Your ongoing love and support.

September 2015 Newsletter

“I shall make a covenant of peace with them…they
will feel safe on their own farm….I shall gather them
together from everywhere and bring them home to
their own soil.”  (Ez. 34:25,27 and Ez. 37: 21-22)

September  2015
Dear Friends, 

Our work with the poor in San Mateo County has been going on for 40 years – thanks to God and your ongoing support. Since the beginning, two priorities have always been at the heart of our work as Catholic Workers: HOUSING AND EDUCATION.

Initially, our housing consisted of living with 4 or 5 troubled teens and our commitment to education was immediate.  In order for any teen to continue to live with us for free, they had to go to school (every day and every class) and get “C’s” or better.  A few of our teens (Alexandra, America, Mila, Alberto, etc) received almost straight “A’s” and went on to 4 year colleges.

Forty years later, we now house (in Redwood City alone) 29 or more guests each night.  In addition to our home for teens at risk, we have two residences for women & children, two for Vets and two for day laborers.  As we have expanded hospitality, we have also expanded our commitment to education.  Our English Language School has been a neighborhood service for 45 to 60 adult women for almost 25 years and our after school tutoring program for small children has operated for that same time. Now, due to your fantastic generosity, this year alone, we have given $2,000 college grants to 7 teens.

Years ago, with the help of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation (i.e. Bill Somerville & company), we arranged for America, one of our teens, to receive a full 4 year scholarship to St. Mary’s College.  For lots of reasons, that dream didn’t work out for America.  However, some years later, she did graduate from San Jose State University with a degree in Engineering.

At the Catholic Worker House, we try to help our teens and guests to dream and we help them build their dreams one day at a time.

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

Great Books about the Catholic Worker

The Good Samaritan can be considered a sequel to Jeff Dietrich’s book, Broken and Shared. The essays in both books were first published in the L.A. Catholic Worker’s newspaper, Catholic Agitator, as well as National Catholic Reporter and the Los Angeles Times over a period of more than 40 years.  These books confirm what many of us have known for years: Jeff Dietrich is the best writer of our generation of Catholic Workers.”  This book review by Frank Cordaro, also a Catholic Worker, reflects my sentiments exactly.  The Los Angeles Catholic Worker has been the boot camp for many, many Catholic Workers for well over 40 years. Their work with the extremely poor in East L.A. is legendary and makes sense out of everyday life and the gospels.  I highly recommend these books which capture so much of the spirit of our lives.
                                      Love, Larry


Food in any amount.

Household needs: paper towels, large and small garbage bags, heavy duty grocery bags or food carts, back packs, socks, bikes, sleeping bags, a scooter for one of our little ones (7 years old), tents and tarps for outdoor living, and condiments.

Jobs: for day laborers call Cesar or Juan Carlos at (650) 339-2794.  We are also trying to help Veronica (hearing impaired) find work. For details, call Susan at (650) 366-4415. Veronica lives at one of our apartments for women and children.

Mayra gave birth, at our home for teens, to a beautiful baby boy (Alexi) and she needs infant stuff—he is one month old….diapers, wipes, food (Gift certificates to Target are excellent).

A house or money to buy a house for another Catholic Worker in our area. For a free cup of coffee and details, call Larry (650) 366-4415.

At Thanksgiving and Christmas we give out gift certificates to Safeway instead of fresh turkeys (which are hard to handle).

Your ongoing love and support.

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,
Arthur White and Susan Crane


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.


  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.”