With great sadness, we want you to know that our beloved Aida Figueroa passed away on Tuesday evening, December 29, 2020 at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City from COVID-19. She was 89 years old and had been living at the Catholic Worker for over 20 years. Larry was able to visit and pray with her Tuesday afternoon, and she was peacefully resting when he left. We remember with gratitude her life and service.
From our 2017 November Redwood City Catholic Worker Newsletter written by Larry:
“That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it…So do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself…” (Matt. 6:25)
Many, many of you have visited the Catholic Worker House at 545 Cassia St. in Redwood City and have met Aida Figueroa. But for those of you who do not know her, here’s a snap shot.
Aida is the only Christian I’ve met who has intentionally made absolutely no plans for how she will afford growing old. Her only retirement plan is “God provides.” And guess what, so far it’s worked. It’s amazing!!!!
As a Benedictine nun for 28 years, Aida learned that her life is in God’s hands. As she worked and prayed as a Benedictine she was put in charge of supervising the cleaning of a Catholic Hospital. While working and praying, she found out that God cares for her as he does the birds of the air and clothes her as he does the flowers of the fields. She prays as if everything is up to God and works as if everything is up to us.
Aida came to the Catholic Worker over 20 years ago (she is 89 years old) and has been a fixture ever since. When she first arrived, Larry emphatically told her: “I am not taking care of you in your old age!” She said nothing in response.
Even though Aida knows that God provides, in Benedictine fashion, she never stops working. Her current involvements include volunteering weekly with Friends of the Library, Sandwiches on Sundays, and St. Anthony’s “New to U” clothing give away. In addition to that, she is the #1 housecleaner at the Catholic Worker. She deep cleans the place every week– we’ve never been cleaner! And she helps us with all of our projects at the Worker House. She deeply believes in both praying and working.
Whatever Aida is doing, she believes in healthy living. She runs every day, practices Yoga, attends daily mass, gives and receives Jin Shin Jyutsu therapeutic massages and avoids (whenever possible) western medicine. Four years ago Aida was diagnosed with acute leukemia and has refused any and all suggested treatments (chemo, radiation, steroids, etc.) from Kaiser Hospital. She relies on her regime of healthy living, her chiropractor (Dr. Ken Felch), and a solid prayer life. For over 6 years she has been completely symptom free. Again, “God provides.
Her faith and good works at the Catholic Worker and throughout Redwood City are humble, innocent, and done with a kind heart. If you want to get to know how to “let go and let God,” then meet Aida.
We give thanks for the goodness of Aida and for all of you, our supporters, and of course to our God, who takes good care of all of us no matter what.
Any gifts sent to the Catholic Worker in Aida’s honor will be forwarded to her dear, dear brother Fr. Ed Figueroa, who has worked in Brazil with “throw-away kids” for his entire life.
“Do not conform yourselves to the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change…Work for the Lord with untiring effort…Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.” (Rom. 12)
Thanksgiving, 2020 Dear Friends, In the United States of America, we live in a house divided. Many, many of us (the Redwood City Catholic Worker included) are ecstatic that our current leader lost. Almost as many of our fellow citizens of the USA feel just the opposite. They fear that their hopes and dreams are gone with the current President’s loss. It is more and more difficult for our political spectrums to talk with one another, let alone respect one another.
At the Catholic Worker, even though we voted for change in leadership, we have no faith that the so called “new political process” will effectively address global warming, black lives matter, the massive disparity between the superrich and the rest of us, and the obscene expenditures for war (aka defense budget). In other words, we voted more against our current administration than we voted for Democrats.
Our new president will not necessarily address our above priorities!! As Christians we must try to conform our lives to the Gospels: all are equal, the poor are ambassadors of God, the rich (including Catholic Workers) will have a hard time getting into the banquet, feeding, clothing, sheltering the poor are a great way to meet Christ, and love is the answer. It’s important to remember that love at least means “DO NOT KILL.”
In our feeble efforts to conform our lives to the Gospel, we continue to offer hospitality at Cassia Street, to serve spectacular breakfasts to forty to fifty homeless sisters and brothers 6 days a week, and to share massive amounts of food with 60-80 families each Friday. We also visit homeless encampments weekly.
Since the beginning of this virus, we have shared over $110,000 in “rent subsidies” with the very, very poor because of your earmarked gifts and numerous grants from Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Most recipients are undocumented sisters and brothers. We will continue to offer rent subsidies if we are given more earmarked money.
This THANKSGIVING we know that we are here because of God’s grace and your wonderful support. We are forever grateful. All that we are and do is a gift. Nothing we do would be possible without your ongoing support. Thank God and thanks to all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Mary Jane Floyd, Jan Johanson, Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane, Aurora Thibault and J Arthur White
FOOD in any amount. We especially need frozen meals that we can share with the homeless (burritos, hamburger patties, salsa…variety is the spice of life.)
BREAKFAST NEEDS: sturdy paper plates and 12 oz coffee cups, plastic forks, frozen meals, socks, warm jackets, back packs, toiletries, deodorants, toothpaste, razors, tents, camping gear etc. One of our supporters donated a $5,000 brand new freezer. We have space!!!!
HOUSEHOLD NEEDS: paper towels, Kleenex, cleanser, backpacks, shampoo & conditioner, black garbage bags, efficient light bulbs, etc.
TRANSPORTATIOIN: Cars, trucks, R.V.’s and bikes. After housing and jobs, the next priority is transportation. Call Larry (650) 366-4415.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS: With the Virus, many of our sources have dried up. We have lots of children who love Christmas gifts. You cannot go wrong with gift certificates to Target, Safeway, Old Navy, and gasoline cards, bus tokens, etc. Call Susan or Larry (650) 366-4415.
Money to help with education scholarships ($500 to $2,000) and/or “rent” assistance.
The Redwood City Catholic Worker continues our work with the very, very poor. As Dorothy Day said, “Love is the answer.” We continue to offer hospitality and food to the poor. Each Friday, we distribute 200 bags of food to 80 families in need. Every week volunteers visit the homeless encampments throughout Redwood City. And 6 days a week we offer breakfast to about 30 homeless men and women in desperate need. In front of our home because of the foot traffic of those in need, the city has installed and maintains a mobile hand washing station and a portable toilet to help control the spread of the virus. To help families stay in their apartments, we have distributed about $90,000 in rent subsidies. All of us at the Catholic Worker are healthy so far, thank God. The following is written by Susan Crane, one of our full-time live-in-workers.
Arundhati Roy, in ‘The pandemic is a portal’ explains that “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
In his Leningrad lab, Ivan Pavlov used dogs to study learning and conditioning. The dogs naturally salivated when they were given meat and Pavlov conditioned the dogs to salivate when they heard a bell, which meant that the meat was coming. During the massive flood of 1924, Pavlov’s dogs were totally traumatized; and to Pavlov’s surprise, they completely lost their conditioned responses.
We have all been conditioned to believe certain things about how we need to live. We need capitalism as our economic system and anything that communism or socialism could offer is suspect. It’s normal for 3% of the people to be incredibly rich while a huge percent of us live month to month. It’s normal for health care to be tied to a job, and for insurance companies to make gigantic profits off healthcare. It’s normal for nuclear weapons to exist and threaten the lives of whole countries. It’s normal for some to have plenty of food and for others to pick up the scraps from dump sites. It’s normal to live, knowing that we are destroying the earth, the air, and the water around us. It’s normal, knowing that “Doctors Without Borders” sends medical workers around the world, and the USA sends soldiers and weapons (about 800 bases in other countries). It’s normal to think we have good schools, good health-care and the best legal system in the world, while facts tell us otherwise. If the earth is destroyed by climate change or a nuclear exchange, it will all be legal. It’s normal to know that families are being poisoned by radiation because they live near uranium mining or weapons production sites. It’s even become normal to think of unions as being outdated, even now when more and more people are losing their jobs.
Perhaps the pandemic has given us a chance to be open to other ideas. Last March, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, called for an “immediate global cease fire in all corners of the world.”Could we imagine a world where we cooperate with other nations? Could we imagine that we treat others as our brothers and sisters? Could we imagine not using sanctions and nuclear weapons to constantly threaten our neighbors? Could we imagine a system where workers have agency in their workplace, and can manage the workplace themselves?
The movement and resistance of Black Lives Matter has radically changed our conversations about racism, police violence and funding for entire police departments. What was unimaginable at the beginning of the pandemic, is now part of our national conversation.
Here at the Catholic Worker House, with your help, we continue to help our neighbors and attempt to live as if we live in the beloved community. For the first time in the 40 years of our existence, a couple from our immediate neighborhood spontaneously came to help with our food distribution. Hard times create more cooperation and feelings of mutuality. We try to live as if “Love is the answer.”
Visiting several of the homeless camps in Redwood City each week has been more sobering than I had expected. People are hidden away in the bushes along the tracks and highways, living next to rodents and garbage. We help with underwear, t-shirts, body-wipes and food. It’s not much, but it is a consistent effort to affirm their dignity and humanity. Additionally, so many of you (our supporters) have showered us with snack bags, meals, socks and hygiene kits and other items that we give away including tents, sleeping bags, bikes and rent subsidies. People have stepped up to buy rice and beans, put them into small bags and bring them every Friday for the food distribution. People we have never met are bringing food for the breakfasts and other needed paper items. Teachers have brought books for the children here at the house to read. When people do hopeful things, hope lives.
We know that the food we give out in reality belongs to the people who are hungry. In our often-failed attempts to be kind and help others, we know that God writes straight with crooked lines. We ask forgiveness from the poor. We ask forgiveness from those we work with when our social skills are desperately lacking.
Love, Susan for all of us.
Food:in any amount. Rice, beans, canned goods (protein), frozen meals etc. Folding carts to carry bags of food—the elderly, especially, need these carts.
Household needs: hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wipes, black garbage bags, reuseable or paper bags for food distribution, Kleenex, Clorox, lap top computers, bikes etc. If you have a computer that needs cleaning up or repairs, call Alfredo Chorro (650-796-5713).
The Homeless: sleeping bags, tents, tarps, ropes, bikes, bike locks and lights, bike tools, jackets, sweats, socks, etc. These days we are serving breakfast to 30 + homeless 6 days a week. We need quick frozen meals (tamales, lasagna, hot dogs, etc.)
Money to help with rent subsidies for the unemployed poor including: day laborers, dishwashers, house cleaners, restaurant employees and others who are not only out of work, but don’t qualify for federal aid, unemployment or disability. We have also been asked to send $25,000 to Pennsylvania for a young, Catholic Worker family to purchase a rectory and a school from their diocese. These days, what you give to us, we will give away.
Your prayers for Fr. Steve Kelly S.J. who is waiting for sentencing after spending over 2 years in custody for non-violently protesting at a Trident nuclear submarine base in Georgia.
“God 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. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.” (Colossians 3)
Dear, dear friends, Easter 2020
Covid-19 has struck with full force on our home – Earth. This pandemic has many silver linings. There are loads of “random acts of kindness” going on everywhere. But, for me, more importantly is the opportunity for our entire world to SEE things differently. This disease has no respect for global boundaries. It is a disease without borders and must be addressed simultaneously by every country in the entire world. We must address it together. What an opportunity to collaborate! This disease turns a blind eye to the differences between the 99% and the 1%. It discriminates against no one (except perhaps the very young—thank God for small favors).
We can try to close the borders and build the walls between us and this virus will find its way around and over and under whatever we build. If we ignore the poor while fighting this virus, we should expect to see many more homeless and more and more people jammed into smaller and smaller apartments or tents. The virus will thrive among them and will spread to all of us, including the 1%. If we go back to work as usual, to “save the economy” (i.e. Wall Street), then those high tech workers will be this virus’ incubator. We will either treat one another as one people and fight this pandemic together, or many more of us will perish early and unnecessarily.
What an opportunity to see our world as one world without borders and for each of us to see all of us as ONE FAMILY OF GOD.
As springtime blossoms, I hope and pray for more and more random acts of kindness, generosity beyond our wildest imagination, love flourishing everywhere and a healthier tomorrow. For now, all of us at the Catholic Worker are virus free.
God bless all of us this Easter.
Larry Purcell, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Ronnie Georges, Jan Johanson, Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane and J Arthur White.
P.S. For safety sake, we have closed our shower program and our English Language School. We try to be careful (shelter in place and washing our hands). We continue our hospitality at Cassia Street, and visiting some of the homeless camps. The Oakland home for men coming out of prison and the Multicultural Institute home for Day Laborers both are thriving. We also continue our Friday food distribution to the extremely poor. Our front porch is a very busy place these days, as many families come for food bags, and others come for a meal. With the collaboration of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, we have distributed about $30,000 in rent and utilities subsidies. This is another example of how Bill Somerville (Philanthropic Ventures Foundation) has again anticipated the basic needs of the very very poor.
Food in any amount. We have a lot of front door traffic asking for food. Rice, beans, canned goods (protein), frozen meats etc. Food for families who are out of work, food for folks on the street who need a meal.
Household needs: hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wipes, black garbage bags, Kleenex, Clorox, reusable or paper bags for food distribution, lap top computers, bikes etc.
The Homeless: sleeping bags, tents, tarps, ropes, bikes, bike locks and lights, bike tools, jackets, sweats, socks, etc.
Money to help with rent subsidies for the day laborers, the dishwashers, house cleaners, the restaurant employees and others. Our friends lost work because of the virus and will not qualify for a government check. Most of them have no plan B.
“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” (Matt. 25)
Dear Friends, Valentine’s Day 2020
The holidays are over and life here has settled back to “normal.” We are so grateful for all of the tremendous support we received from Thanksgiving to and through Christmas.
We live and work with the very, very poor and often see how wrong the priorities of our country are: unlimited military spending = not enough money for schools; the 1% who live lavishly = the rest struggle constantly and the poor have little hope; a wall is being built = the body of Christ is blocked from finding a place to live without starving to death or being shot….etc.
In January, I got a call from a county social worker. I did not know this woman, but she heard of us from a friend who described us as “Maybe they can help.” The social worker, due to privacy concerns, could not share her client’s name but gave us her number at WIC (#36). WIC is a terrific federal program for “women, infants and children” and I was very surprised that #36 could not get powdered formula from them or any other county agency for her infant. She needed 3 cans of formula at $20 per can. When #36 arrived at our door, she used her social worker’s name as I had suggested. In her arms was her 2 week old baby. I gave her $100 and she burst into tears – it broke my heart. How can this be? I drink scotch and she doesn’t have milk for her baby. OMG!!!! No wonder men and women go the monasteries and vow silence.
Years ago, I was at the Catholic Worker and a woman wanted two almost new mattresses from our front porch and needed help moving them to her place. I volunteered. We loaded the truck and drove about a mile to her home. The house was pretty nice and I thought: “Geez, how poor can she be?” Then she led me down the drive way past the house to a garage with a small side door. She entered first and I followed with the box spring. Inside was a garage, no car, a dirt floor and one dull light bulb hanging from the roof. The furnishings consisted of a sofa and nothing else – nothing. There were six other people of all ages standing around. This was her family. I had invaded their home. Never again have I presumed to judge who needs what!!!
Dorothy Day was right: “WE MUST ASK FOR FORGIVENESS FROM THE POOR FOR THE BREAD WE GIVE THEM.”
Love and hope,
Larry Purcell, Veronica Georges, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Jan Johannes, Aida Figueroa (in Brazil), Susan Crane and J Arthur White.
P.S. It pleases me that I have not gotten to the point where nothing shocks me!!!!!
All are invited: a BOOK READING by Leroy Chatfield (father of Kate Chatfield)
Friday March 20th at 7pm St. Bruno’s Church, 555 W. San Bruno Ave., San Bruno.
Title: “To Serve the People. My life organizing with Cesar Chavez and the poor.”
Food in any amount.
Household needs: large black plastic bags, laundry detergent, reusable shopping bags, toilet paper, dish soap, grocery carts for the elderly, cleanser, drain cleaner, bikes, cars, trucks etc.
Shower program: toiletries, a volunteer to do foot care a day a week (Tues or Wed. from 8:30 to 11am), sleeping bags, tents, camping equipment etc. Call Susan (650) 366-4415. This shower program meets a very real need of those who are living by creeks, in bushes, and in cars.
A house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker Center. Have a free cup of coffee with Larry (650) 366-4415.
Our English Language School has enough teacher and tutors and about 60 students. All is well.
If you need a day laborer (gardener, painter, hauler, care giver, house cleaner) call Cesar at 650- 339 2794.
“And here is a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of heavenly host, praising God and singing: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to all who enjoy his favor.” (Lk 2:11ff.)
Christmas 2019 Dear Friends, During the early 1970’s, my brother, Jim, and I (both priests in the diocese of S.F.) joined a small group of local families (the Sack’s, the Cannon’s, the Murphy’s, the Maffie’s et al) and formed the “COMMITTEE TO SAVE CHRISTMAS.” On the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday), we went to Union Square in S.F. (the center of Christmas buying in those days) and encouraged shoppers to buy nothing for their families and friends and instead give themselves to one another in love. Our understanding of the Christmas story was that the Holy Family only had each other and that was enough for JOY to the world. Because Christmas is also a time for “Peace on Earth,” we also encouraged shoppers to send the money they didn’t spend on Christmas gifts to a Buddhist orphanage in Vietnam. We quickly raised about $30,000 for the orphans of war and called for peace on Earth.
My dad loved to buy Christmas presents, especially for kids—he and my mom had nine children and 15 grandchildren. His take on our “Committee To Save Christmas” was summed up with his quip, “Oh, so now that you are all grown up, you want to kill Santa!”
About a month ago, I was standing in line at Safeway and a 50ish year old woman said to me, “Aren’t you Larry?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “You don’t recognize me?” I didn’t and she added, “I’m one of Juana’s children.” I knew Juana well because for 6 years or more I took turkeys, Christmas presents and miscellaneous needs to this very poor, hardworking, single mom of 5 small children. The woman in the line at Safeway must have been about 8 years old back then. As she hugged me she said, “I still remember all the gifts you brought our family over 40 years ago. They saved us!!!!”
In the spirit of the “Committee to Save Christmas,” I don’t buy gifts. But because of your spectacular generosity, we at the Catholic Worker House continue to play Santa with lots and lots of families who really have nothing. There are many ways to “Save Christmas.”
A better way than buying gifts would be to raise the minimum wage to a LIVING WAGE, or to stop flipping poor neighborhoods and making it impossible for ordinary people to own locally, or to reinstate taxes for the super rich, or to cut back on funding for the military, or to repeal “Citizens United” so that corporations can’t buy our elections, or to take steps to stop climate change….and that’s just for starters.
Since none of the last paragraph is happening this Christmas, I think we will continue to feed, clothe, shelter and educate the very, very, poor body of Christ. We will also (with your ongoing support) give hundreds of Christmas gifts to families in need.
As an old member of the “Committee to Save Christmas,” I hope that each of us will find a way this year to Love One Another and find the Other and that this will lead to Joy and Peace.
Merry Christmas to all,
Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Sr. Mary Jane Floyd, Jan Johanson, Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane, and J Arthur White.
Food in any amount.
Shower program: we need shampoo, foot powder, deodorant, underwear (men’s and women’s), warm shirts and jackets, a person to do foot care once a week, tents, sleeping bags etc. A handyperson to do small repairs. Call Susan 650-366-4415
Household needs: Kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, Simple Green, laundry detergent, a laptop computer for college, gift certificates (Target, Safeway, & Old Navy,), reusable cloth bags for our food program.
Day Laborers: It is now possible to hire men (cleaning, gardening, hauling, painting, repairs, etc.)—call Cesar at (650) 339-2794. And you can hire women for housecleaning and other jobs – call Stephanie (650) 339-2794. Their phones are on M – F from 8am to 4:30pm.
We are still trying to raise $4,000 for two more college scholarships. Call Larry.
A house or money to buy a house for another Catholic Worker Center. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
For info on our English Language School, call Pam at (650) 365-6019.
Quite a few of you, our supporters, have asked about Susan and my trial for non-violently protesting nuclear weapons at Lockheed Corp. in Sunnyvale, California. Lockheed is the largest military contractor in the world and builds nuclear missiles for the Trident Submarines. Eleven of us were arrested there for trespassing. Happily, I can report to you that all charges against us were “dropped in the interest of justice.” We can now continue to feed, clothe, shelter and educate the very poor in the name of Christ; and we will certainly find ways to condemn nuclear weapons and war. My hunch is that when we asked “Who owns the road?” upon which we were arrested for trespassing that Lockheed wanted to “drop the charges in the interest of Lockheed!” Why, you might ask. The answer might be to follow the money. In the 1970’s Lockheed owned all of that land (including the road leading into Lockheed) and sold it to the Navy (at great profit for their shareholders). Shortly thereafter (we believe) Lockheed turned around and leased the same land back from the Navy for perhaps $1 a year to avoid property taxes. This information is what we were requesting so we could verify our suspicions. If the people and schools of Sunnyvale are being robbed of property tax money because of such an arrangement, then Lockheed should be on trial not only for manufacturing inhuman weapons of mass destruction, but also for theft and conspiracy with the Navy. Our dear friend, Father Steve Kelly S.J., has not been so fortunate. He and 7 other protestors entered a Trident Nuclear Submarine Naval base in Georgia; he’s been in jail for the past 18 months. He goes to trial in about a week and is facing decades in prison. Steve recently wrote: “I am among the wilderness of the incarcerated – two and a quarter million folks comprising the human warehouses in the empire. It is resistance jailed, a price extracted by the empire. And I echo the words of Martin Luther King Jr: ‘An empire in its death throes as it clings to and mouths obscene threats with its lethal arsenal, a fire that is a direct theft of trillions from the poor….’” Recently Jeremy Scahill challenged all of us by saying: “The greatest danger that we’re facing in this society right now is not Donald Trump’s corruption. It’s not something involving Ukraine or servers or the DNC. We have one of the most unstable individuals in this country with his finger on the nuclear button….That is the crisis in the country right now.” Dorothy Day’s first arrest as a young woman was to promote a woman’s right to vote. After she got the right to vote, Dorothy didn’t vote because she didn’t like her choices. It is not unusual for Catholic Workers to NOT vote. I agree with Dorothy that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats represent fundamental Christian values of love, non-violence, and peace. But we can surely do better than what we’ve got. In today’s world, all of us need to vote since our very lives depend on it. After voting, we cannot trust the politicians. Therefore, before, during, and after voting, we need to live lives dedicated to the ending of nuclear weapons and global warming. It is time that the words, “BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS” described each of us.
Love and gratitude,
Larry for all of us.
P.S. Remember! If our Earth is shattered by nuclear weapons or climate change it will all be “legal.”
Food in any amount.
Showers for the homeless: wash cloths, detergent, deodorant, tents, sleeping bags, tarps, underwear, T shirts, warm clothing, bikes, etc. Call Susan (650) 366-4415.
Addition: There was an excellent article about the Catholic Worker House in Climate magazine recently. It omitted that Aida Figueroa has lived and worked with us at the main house for over 20 years and that all of our programs rely on dozens and dozens of other volunteers.
Workers: If you need men or women to do work (painting, gardening, skilled labor, house cleaning, etc.) call Cesar at (650) 339-2794. We love to get tools for the Day Laborers.
Our Catholic Worker House on Cassia St. has solar panels. They are excellent and save us a lot of money. If you want a great company, try the non-profit “SUNWORK RENEWABLE SOLAR PROJECT”– excellent. firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas gifts and Thanksgiving baskets. We try to give outSafeway and Target gift cards at both holidays.
We need vehicles (cars, trucks and RV’s) for the working poor.
A house or money to buy a house. Call Larry for free coffee (650) 366-4415. We need your ongoing love and support.
Our English Language School continues to empower many, many sisters and brothers. To learn more, call Pam (650) 365-6019.
A person who can help at our shower program by doing foot care. Call Susan for more information. 650-649-8690 or 650-366-4415.
D.A. Drops Charges Against All Eleven Lockheed Martin Defendants!
On Monday, March 18, 2019, about 50 people from the Pacific Life Community were joined by members of Code Pink and the Musicians Action Group to say a clear NO to nuclear weapons, war, and a bloated budget for warmaking that Lockheed Martin lobbies for and benefits from. Lockheed Martin builds missile systems for nuclear weapons, and builds all sorts of deathdealing munitions and weapons.
Eleven people held a sign that read: “Lockheed Weapons Terrorize the World” and then walked out into the street as if to block traffic from going into Lockheed. As it turned out, as we approached the entry way to Lockheed, the security people closed the gates themselves. Nevertheless, the eleven were arrested and charged with trespass.
After an arraignment where we all pled not guilty, we were given a trial date of September 30, and the group started to plan and prepare for trial.
The next thing we know, the District Attorney has decided “in the interests of justice” to drop the charges. We have to wonder if the charges were dropped “in the interests of Lockheed”, as we know that the government and corporations work hand in glove.
One of the defendants, though his lawyer, brought up the question of who owns the road where we were arrested. Perhaps Lockheed didn’t have the authority to charge us with trespass on a public road.
In the 1970s, we believe that Lockheed sold some of its property to the Navy at a hefty profit, and then leases it back for pennies, and consequently does not have to pay Sunnyvale any property tax on that land. Perhaps we were arrested on that land.
Or, perhaps Lockheed Martin didn’t want a public discussion about the weapons that it makes, the children who are maimed and killed by them, or the threats to all life on earth made by the existence of nuclear weapons.
Perhaps the thought of paying for three squares and a cot for 11 people seemed like a poor use of county funds.
Or, perhaps the District Attorney had a change of heart.
At any rate, Larry, Susan and our co-defendants are relieved. Thanks for your support.
Published on September 2, 2019 in Climate Magazine by Scott Dailey
The Thibaults were running out of options.
John Thibault, his wife Aurora and young daughters Sophia and Sjohna were shuttling among Redwood City motels and living in their old Toyota Camry while John tried to sell cars. Sometimes, their monthly income reached just a few hundred dollars.
Somehow, they heard about the Catholic Worker House, a gray, Craftsman-style structure on Cassia Street, two blocks south of downtown Redwood City. Among other things, its volunteers and two-person staff regularly hand out food to the hungry and homeless. While waiting in line with her mother and sister for food, Sophia, then 8 years old, struck up a conversation about books with staff member Susan Crane. At the same time, Sjohna was attracted to a doll on the porch, where people leave items that anyone can take.
Aurora told Sjohna she couldn’t have the doll because the family had to travel light. Sjohna started crying, and Crane intervened. One thing led to another, and before long, Crane and Larry Purcell, the Catholic Worker House’s director, invited the Thibaults to move in for as long as they needed.
That was just the break they’d been waiting for. Aurora, who comes from Bicol province in the Philippines, says that, while living at the house, John was recently able to update his electronics training, which he had used as a military contractor in Afghanistan. With that, he has found a new job, and the family’s fortunes are on the rise.
“It’s everything,” Aurora says when asked what the Catholic Worker House has meant to the Thibaults. “We’ve made our lives straight. Before we met Catholic Workers, my husband was in a lot of debt and was in a depressed state. Now he’s more focused on working and the future of the kids.”
Founded in 1974 by Purcell, then a Catholic priest (he left the priesthood in 1980), the Redwood City Catholic Worker House is one of 203 such communities around the world. It’s one of two in San Mateo County; the other, which Purcell also helped establish, is in San Bruno.
The house serves the very poor – those for whom, as Purcell says, “Food is a discretionary item.” In addition to collecting and distributing around 10,000 pounds of leftover food each week from the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market (most goes to the Padua Dining Room at St. Anthony’s Church in Menlo Park), the house takes in the homeless, the addicted, troubled teens, and families such as the Thibaults.
It also currently offers a shower program for local homeless people, providing not just a chance to spruce up but also clean underwear and a pair of socks for folks who spend most of their days on their feet. In addition, the Catholic Worker House has an English-language program where volunteers teach approximately 60 immigrants. It also provides college scholarships for needy students.
No one is charged, and no one gets paid. The Catholic Worker House takes no government money, and lacks tax-deductible status for donors, who frequently give in amounts ranging from $25 to $100.
Purcell, who lives elsewhere in Redwood City, and Crane, who lives at the house, are part of the larger Catholic Worker movement, launched in 1933 by a pair of activists in New York City named Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Day and Maurin promoted the radical notions that people should live their lives according to the gospels of the New Testament, and particularly care for the poor and refrain from war.
Along those lines, Purcell and Crane – both 75 years old – have been arrested numerous times while protesting against the U.S. military and the Sunnyvale facility of defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Despite their arrests (and four prison terms for Crane), they are unrelenting. Both face a September 30 court date for recent charges of trespassing at Lockheed Martin, and Crane was detained overnight in July in Germany following an anti-nuclear protest at a joint U.S.-German air base.
“The problem with nuclear weapons is that if one or two of them are used, then we’ll be committing suicide,” says Crane. “It doesn’t seem to be a good way to spend our money.”
In the Catholic Worker House newsletter, which reaches 2,000 friends and donors, Purcell lists current needs and also rails against “The Empire” and a “system of life” that includes a “war economy” that “creates winners (the rich) and losers (the poor).”
Asked about his political views, Purcell says, “I don’t know if I’d say it’s politics. It’s an awareness that the people we deal with – the very poor, immigrants, day laborers, the uneducated, street people, people on the street that are vets, the teenagers that are homeless or are coming from dysfunctional families – we feel they’ve been damaged by the system. We think there’s systemic violence going on.
“And so we address that. I don’t know if that’s political, as much as feeding, clothing, sheltering and asking, ‘Why are these people in this situation?’ I’m terrified of the Republicans’ agenda in this country. I’m not very impressed with the Democratic agenda in this country, either. I’m very impressed with Christian values as they are articulated in the gospels.”
Those ideals are perhaps most famously expressed in the Gospel according to Matthew, in which Jesus says applicants to heaven will be judged by what did for the needy. In particular, Jesus proclaims, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
“So if that’s political, then I’m political,” Purcell says. “I would say I’m a communionist. I believe we’re all one body, that we’re all one family.”
Purcell has experience with large families. He grew up one of nine children in a wealthy, Catholic household in San Francisco. His father, James C. Purcell, was an attorney who, working pro bono, successfully sued the U.S. government in a case that ultimately led to the closure of the nation’s World War II concentration camps that held American citizens of Japanese descent.
One extended-family member – and Democratic office-holder – who admires Purcell and the Catholic Worker House is Purcell’s sister-in-law, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo of Atherton. (Purcell is married to Eshoo’s sister, Ronnie, a teacher in the Redwood City School District.)
“It’s a story that’s nothing short of remarkable,” says Eshoo, who grew up in what she describes as a strongly Catholic family. “Those that are not remembered, or not seen by so many people, they are front and center to Larry. I often say he’s the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met. But he doesn’t have his head in the clouds.”
In fact, Purcell can be downright hard-nosed in his expectations of residents at the Catholic Worker House. The rules require a plan – for example, Aurora Thibault is working on community-college certificates in bookkeeping and payroll administration. Those who don’t stick to it – teens who skip school or those who repeatedly return to substance abuse – are shown the door.
“You either do it, or we’ll find somebody who wants to do it,” Purcell says. “This is too valuable to the people who live here to support crapping out.”
Besides Eshoo, other supporters include Jim Hartnett, chief executive officer of the San Mateo County Transit District.
“They live the talk of God,” Hartnett says. “They believe there’s a core goodness of people, and in doing good things. And they live that by what they do every day. And Larry is a great example of that in what he does with the individuals and the families that live at or transit through the Catholic Worker House, or are helped outside of that.”
Dennis Pettinelli, a financial planner in Redwood City, has been active with the Catholic Worker House for 25 years. He says his reason is simple: “If there’s a situation where just a little boost can help somebody, that’s what they try to do.”
Adds Bill Somerville, a key supporter who heads the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation in Oakland, “There’s a lot of trust, and it’s paid great dividends.” Purcell has never written a proposal for the estimated $1 million that the foundation has contributed to the house over the years. He simply has called Somerville and described the need. From Somerville’s perspective, it’s been all about the house’s effect on the community.
“Impact is something positive happening for a better world,” he says. “Larry is the impact. Funding him is creating a better world.”
This story was originally published in the September print edition of Climate Magazine.
The anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have passed, but
the threat of nuclear death has not. In that spirit, the following guest
article, by Patrick O’Neill, is passed on to you. Patrick is a Catholic Worker
and was arrested for a non-violent protest against nuclear weapons.
“My neighbor in Garner, North Carolina, Janie, sent out a
nice July 4th greeting in an email to the folks who live on our dead
end street. ‘Greetings neighbors,’ she wrote, ‘Thinking about and feeling
GRATEFUL, for our MILITARIY HEROES. . . BLESSED AND NOSTALGIC about this 4th Of JULY. PROUD of our GRAND OLD FLAG. THANKFUL, for our SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.! HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!’
Janie’s husband, Bill, is a retired U.S. Marine
veteran. They often fly the flags of the
branches of the armed forces on a clothesline in their yard on other patriotic
days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Janie knows I am an anti-war activist. I stopped by her house recently to show her
my federal probation ankle monitor and let her know I would likely be going to
federal prison as a result of my recent protest against the Trident submarine,
a component of the US nuclear arsenal, and arguably the most insidious weapons
system every built. I really like Janie
and Bill, and I think they like me. I
like the fact that we like each other, even though we have diametrically
opposed views of our nation and its military. In truth, our families have far more in common
than the few areas where we disagree. I
understand Janie’s enthusiasm for ‘Independence Day,’ because, since her
husband risked his life on the battlefield and his sacrifice could have left
her a widow, she and Bill have a lot invested in their nationalism.
Also important is the fact that the majority of our service
members – especially those placed in harm’s way – are working class people who
often join the military for economic reasons.
It is telling that few of our citizen soldiers are from wealthy families
and even fewer of our service members are the children of politicians. As a father of 8 children, none of whom have
any inclination to pursue a military career, I harbor great suspicions of the
motivations of leaders of a nation state in which almost no politicians have
children fighting in the trenches of the wars they promote and fund. (Could it
be they know something we don’t know?)
My opposition to militarism stems primarily from my
religious beliefs. As a Christian, I
think Jesus meant it when He said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you.” Killing other human beings just because the government tells me
to do so, is not an option for me as a Catholic pacifist. But, even if I believed a military was
necessary to make our lives safer or more free, I could never support the
madness that is modern warfare, where weapons of mass destruction wait on
hair-trigger alert to destroy entire cities and quiet drones secretly drop
bombs from the sky – “only on the bad guys.” Our world is always just seconds
away from nuclear annihilation, a legacy I am ashamed to leave for my children
and grandchildren. I shudder to think
what the future will be like for the generation of humans to come.”
Editor’s Note: Patrick O’Neill is a member of the Catholic
Worker in North Carolina. Along with
Carmen Trotta, Clare Grady, Steve Kelly
S.J., Liz McAlister, Martha Hennessy and Mark Colville, he demonstrated at
Kings Bay Naval Base in Georgia on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. In his statement
for trial, he wrote: “With a deep sense of humility, the Kings Bay Plowshares,
a group of seven devout Roman Catholics, relying on sacred scripture and prayer
for guidance, have attempted to follow the teachings of Jesus by challenging
the idolatry of a human-made idol called Trident. With hammers, blood, spray
paint, Catholic lectionaries, rosary beads and other symbols of our faith, we
entered Naval Station Kings Bay to beat swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4) and
smash idols – false gods that are excoriated in the Old Testament: “Whoever
sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to
destruction.” (Exodus 22:20)
P.S. Susan and Larry (along with 9 others) go to trial Sept.
30th for protesting nuclear weapons at Lockheed in Sunnyvale.
FOOD in any amount.
Household needs: Backpacks filled with school supplies for elementary to college age students, paper towels, razors, toothpaste, Simple Green, Tylenol, laptop computers for high school and college, DVD’s for children and youth, bikes, locks, etc. We continue to need bikes, cars, and trucks for the poor. After housing, education, & jobs. . . then transportation is the next biggest issue.
The Homeless: tents, sleeping bags, socks, deodorant, towels, body wash, foot powder, toiletries, etc. Call Susan (650) 366-4415.
Thanksgiving and Christmas: gift cards to Target and/or Safeway. Christmas gifts for familieswe adopt. Call Larry or Susan (650) 366-4415.
Each year we distribute numerous college scholarships of $1,500 to $2,000 per student. The more we receive from you the more we share with the very poor. Housing and education will continue to be our main priorities. Call Larry.
house or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker center. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
Day Laborers (men and women), if you need a worker, call Cesar at (650) 339-2794.
Random: Larry is trying to buy a new small pickup truck. A Ford Ranger costs $25,800 out the door and Larry has raised $20,000 for this. Call Larry (650) 366-4415.
The Language School needs someone to listen to students read English, Mon. and Wed. evenings from 6:30pm to 8pm. School starts Sept. 9th. Call Pam (650) 515-9969.