November Newsletter 2017

“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)


Aida brings Catholic Worker guest, Ana, to the dinner at St. Anthony’s Dining Room.

Dear Friends,                                                                 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 with Larry at Lockheed Martin for our Good Friday Service. Lockheed Martin is the largest exporter of weapons in the US, and builds missiles that carry nuclear warheads.

Aida came to the Catholic Worker over 20 years ago (she is 86 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, and a solid prayer life. For 4 years she has been completely symptom free. Again, “God provides.

Aida, Jan and Larry working on getting the mailing out….

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.


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

Aida gives a warm welcome to everyone.

P.S. Just so you know…after Aida was diagnosed with Leukemia I told her that “You can stay with us at the Worker for the rest of your life.” Her response was, “I thought so.” Isn’t life wonderful?







  1. Food in any amount, especially for Thanksgiving.
  2. Household items: paper towels, light bulbs, a very good bed (anything but a king size), umbrellas, 8 ½ X 11 white paper, paper towels, detergent, & Kleenex.
  3. Shower program needs: socks, new underwear all sizes (men and women),sweatshirts and sweatpants, body wipes for waterless showers.Call Susan for details (650) 366-4415
  4. Homeless: bottled water, sleeping bags, warm blankets, jackets, tents and camping gear, etc. Call Doug (650) 366-4415
  5. English Language School: teacher assistants (no need to speak Spanish), call Pam at (650) 365-6019.
  6. Transportation: we can use cars, trucks, vans,  R.V.’s and bikes etc. It’s a big need.
  7. A house or money to buy a house for a new center for the poor. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
  8. CHRISTMAS GIFTS for families we adopt. We can also use gift certificates to Target, Safeway, Old Navy, Kmart and movie passes to Cinemark.
  9. Your ongoing love and support.



September Newsletter 2017

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone listens to my call, they will open the door to me. I will enter in and I will sup with them and they with me.”   (A song by Rev. Jack Olivier SS)

Dear Friends,                                                                                                             Sept. 2017
Something old, something new, that’s our topic. The old—we have offered scholarships to young people going to college for decades. Our motto is “Education is Freedom.” That’s not always true because some of the most educated men in the world got us into Vietnam. Nevertheless, we do believe in helping young men and women go to high school and then college. This year, with your very generous support, we have granted 9 scholarships ranging from $500 to $9000. Most were closer to $2,000

Nancy is a single mom raising two children and working full time. She is in her final year at San Jose State and we are helping her finish with a $9,000 grant.

Carolina is the first in her family to graduate from high school (Ronnie taught her in the 3rd grade) and the first in her family to go to college. We’re funding her $1,500 with a promise of another $1,000 if needed. This is for tuition, fees, books, transportation and food. Diana lived at the Catholic Worker House for 2 years during high school. We helped her last year with college and will help her again this year.

These are some of the scholarships we’ve funded. There are others we could help, but that depends on your donations. For example, there are three women in our halfway house for women coming out of jail. All of them are in school and each of them could use help.

Something new – Two days a week, Susan and Doug will open a shower program for the homeless at our English Language School. Our schoolhouse is not used in the mornings. So, from 9am to 11am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Susan and Doug will open the house for free showers for the homeless. They will also offer coffee, snacks, socks, underwear, toiletries and laundry facilities. If you want to help, call Susan or Doug at (650) 366-4415.

It has been clear to us for a long time that if we do not provide “affordable housing,” then the next crucial need for the very poor are bathrooms (toilets, showers and washing facilities). Showers are preventative medicine.

As the old and new happens, there are other events happening. We have been granted, via Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, $600,000 for the creation of a new Catholic Worker Center and hope to be able to establish this within the next year to year and a half. We have told our “angel” donor that we will try to come up with another $200,000 in order to make a purchase more affordable.  As Sr. Mary Marceline (my aunt), used to say, “God provides.”

With all of our hearts, we thank you for all of your support and we thank God for making all of life possible. God bless you.

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

P.S. A note about Sr. Mary Jane: She is very well. She just got a new hip and is pain free for the first time in a long, long time. By the time you get this, she will be out of the hospital and back at the Presentation Mother House at 2340 Turk St., S.F. Calif. 94118.


  1. Food in any amount.
  2.  Household needs: towels, detergent, tickets to events, cleanser, freezer bags (gallon), foil, shampoo, 8 ½ X 11 white paper, lap top computers and other electronic stuff, Kleenex, hand soap.
  3. English Language School: Teaching Assistants for one night a week (Mon, Tues, or Thursday) to help with either literacy classes for adults, or with Art and vocabulary classes for women and children, or homework club for elementary age children.

If you are interested, the hours are from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
Call Pam at (650) 365-6019

  1. A house or money to help buy a house.
  2. Scholarships: We have granted 9 scholarships so far and will offer at least 3 more (at $2,000 each) if we can.
  3. Homeless needs: tents, sleeping bags, socks & underwear, razors, shower substitutes (adults wipes), baby wipes, snacks etc.
  4. Transportation: cars, trucks, RV’s, bikes (locks & lights too.)
  5. Your ongoing love and support.


June 2017 Newsletter

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the king will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”   (Matt.25:37ff.)


Dear Friends,                                                                                                 June 2017
Susan Crane has been at the Redwood City Catholic Worker for over 5 years. Her compassion for the poor is marvelous. So many of our homeless friends who come to our front porch for food, clothing, and a good night’s sleep know Susan and she knows them. She describes one of our porch guests this way: “Roberto slept on our porch every night for about 2 months (this was 2 and a half years ago). At that time and to this day, Roberto had a part time job at a local deli. He is an artist (a dancer) and participated in Redwood City’s 150th celebration and has performed at Davies Symphony Hall in S.F. He is KIND , responsible, and poor. Periodically, he introduces someone to us (from the street) with the sure knowledge that they too will receive socks, shirts, toiletries, sleeping bags, bikes etc……During the winter rains, Roberto has spent 30 days in our county shelter while he was still working. He joins thousands of others in his futile search for “affordable housing.”
At our home for teens, in our home for day laborers, and in 5 apartments, we house about 25 to 30 people a night . This is a drop in the bucket. What we do is very little and it is what we do.
As the rich have gotten richer and the poor poorer, more and more people are living in doorways and in homeless encampments in Redwood City. Doug Herbek has been living and working full time at the Redwood City Catholic Worker for less than a year – he plans to stay indefinitely. Doug has been a lawyer, a monk and a Catholic Worker. In Redwood City, he spends his time taking food, sleeping bags, tents, dry showers, bottled water, bikes, hand sanitizers, toiletry kits and other items to homeless encampments. We know he’s made inroads because more and more of the homeless show up at our front porch asking for dinner or coffee or whatever we have thanks to you, our supporters…..God provides. These men (Roberto, Al Fred, Rob) and women (Ivy, Jennifer, Robin, Linda, Alicia – to name a few), come to us as the Body of Christ—broken. Dorothy Day was right when she said, “We must seek forgiveness from the poor for the bread we give them.” God help us, we live like Kings and I like to say, “We have already won the lotto.”

Hope you too find R + R this Summer.
Larry Purcell, Ronnie Georges, Sr Mary Jane Floyd,  Jan Johanson,  Aida Figueroa, Susan Crane, Doug Herbek, and J Arthur White.


The Lord’s Supper (1953) Fritz Eichenberg
(Today there would be many women and children in the picture.)


1. FOOD in any amount. Bottled water, individually wrapped dinners, or gift certificates to buy needs– (Target or Safeway) are great.
2. HOUSEHOLD NEEDS: fans, Kleenex, a very good refrigerator for the house for teens, shampoo, conditioner, combs. Tickets to events, cars, trucks, RV’s, computers etc. 3Homeless outreach: water, bikes, locks and lights, tents, sleeping bags, tarps, pads, reuseable shopping bags, food baskets with sturdy wheels for the elderly, gift certificates etc.
4. BACK TO SCHOOL: Back packs and supplies for elementary, H.S. and college, We will give $2,000 scholarships to another 6 or 7 students if you help us.
5. JOBS: Day Laborers are terrific workers – call Cesar or Juan Carlos (650) 339-2794 and they will find a great worker for you.
6. A HOUSE or money to buy a house for another Catholic Worker center. Call Larry (650) 366-4415.
7. Your ongoing LOVE AND SUPPORT – With all of the guests we house nightly, our expenses have skyrocketed. During the summer months most of our financial support goes on vacation. If you can help us, now is a great time.


“I was a stranger and you made me welcome”

“I was a stranger and you made me welcome”  (Matt. 25)

April 2017
Dear Friends,
My wife, Ronnie, has taught in Redwood City’s public elementary schools for the past 20 years.  This January, children in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades came to school crying because they were terrified that their mommy and dad might get deported.  Many parents draft wills and trusts designating an uncle, aunt or close friend to care for their small children in case both parents suddenly die.  Imagine being undocumented parents with small or high school age children who are U.S. citizens.  Imagine worrying about an immigration raid (ICE) that quickly leads to losing your mother and father.  Your children are at pre-school and no one comes to pick them up or your teenage child comes home to an empty house – these are very very real fears today for many of our neighbors.  One family (Ronnie taught their 3rd grader nine years ago) has filled out the papers designating Ronnie and I as the guardian of their three children if they are deported.  What a worry!!!!

Two other families who lived at the Catholic Worker for free for 2 years and 1 year respectively saved $23,000 and $14,000 each. These two very poor families  used all of the money they saved to purchase homes in Mexico in case they lose everything here by being deported.  This is their plan “B”.

Susan Crane has been a live-in Catholic Worker with us for 5 years.  Her compassion is legendary.   She has been going to meetings of Faith in Action to help develop a network of volunteers who would agree to arrive at nearby locations as ICE  conducts a raid.  “RAPID RESPONSE” hopes to get volunteer supporters (citizens) to help undocumented sisters and brothers by arriving within 7 minutes of an immigration raid.  Packets of information have been developed to help immigrants respond safely and legally to a knock at their door from ICE.  These same packets contain forms for parents to designate who will care for their little ones in case of an emergency  as well as a page of “Know Your Rights.”   If you wish to be part of “Rapid Response” or if you know someone who needs a packet of information, call Susan or Larry  (650) 366-4415.

REFUGEES: by Brian Bilston


They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way.     (NOW READ BOTTOM TO TOP)


  1. FOOD  in any amount.
  2. Household needs: laptop computers and electronic stuff for teens, firewood (split), a vacuum cleaner for Aida, carts and re-useable bags for the elderly who line up for food every Friday at the Catholic  Worker,  musical instruments, tools, paper towels, an electric fan, hand soap, Comet, etc.
  3. Transportation: After housing and jobs the next priority is “getting there.” We need bikes, cars, trucks and R.V’s. By the way, San Bruno Catholic Worker is building a second “Tiny House” on wheels and we need a church, business, or home to park it with a sewer hook up.
  4. Teacher Assistants for our English Language School–one night a week, Spanish is not necessary.  Our
    School is growing and now has 120 plus students.   Call Pam (650-365-6019).
  5. A House or money to buy a house for a new Catholic Worker center. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. 
  6. Work for day laborers. Call Cesar at (650) 339-2794.
  7. Your ongoing love and support and don’t forget to check out our website:

                               Holy Easter,

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

P.S. Mary Jane continues to live at the Presentation Mother House (415) 752-1602. Her address is 2340 Turk Blvd,  S.F. CA. 94118.   She is an angel among us.

February Newsletter 2017

            “I thank my God whenever I think of you…remembering how you helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present.” (Philippians 1)

Dear Friends,
Sister Mary Jane Floyd has been a teacher ever since she entered the convent at age 17. Over 40 years ago, she helped found the Catholic Worker House in Redwood City.  While she has had other jobs, M.J. has always been a teacher at heart. She is a pro. For the past 20 years, she has directed (along with other women) our English Language School. What a force!!! I call her the “steel butterfly.” She embodies the Gospel and we love her so much.

mjblossom  Due to a series of health problems, Mary Jane now lives at the Presentation Sisters’ Motherhouse. If it were up to Mary Jane, she would be back at the English Language School tutoring kids tomorrow. But, while her spirit is willing, her body just can’t do it. Please feel free to write or visit Sr. Mary Jane Floyd at: Presentation Motherhouse, 2340 Turk Blvd in San Francisco, Calif. 94118.

“I was stranger and you made me welcome.”   (Matt.25)

Notre Dame University in Belmont called and asked if one of their graduate students could live with us to finish her education. We said “yes.”

Fatimah came to the U.S. on a student visa. Allah is her God. Islam is her religion and the middle east was her home. Her full scholarship (room board and education) came from her government. By custom, simply because she is a woman, her scholarship depended upon her father’s approval. At some point, Fatimah’s dad arranged (as is the custom there) the perfect husband for her back home. When she refused to marry a stranger, her father withdrew approval and all support disappeared. Without financial assistance, Fatimah continued her education and owed the university $17,000. She wanted to enroll in January 2017 for classes, but was told she had to pay at least half of her debt in order to register for classes. If she were not in school, then she would lose her student visa and could be deported home. Five generous supporters of the Catholic Worker donated $9,000 to pay half of her debt and the university re-enrolled her this January (she can finish her Master’s degree by Dec. 2017).

Having taken care of housing and education, our next big hurdle was transportation to and from school. Many of Fatimah’s classes were at night and got her home after 10pm.  She needed a car. Other supports came to the rescue and put together a gift of a car for Fatimah, along with free maintenance.

As if that were not enough, the Romero Foundation (a very strong and effective advocate for vulnerable immigrants) took up Fatimah’s cause and have found and paid an immigration lawyer to handle her asylum claim. If she were to return home she would be in physical danger.

It takes a village to raise a person. . . we can’t do everything but we can all do something…act locally and think globally…arms are for hugging….all these phrases take on new meaning when a refugee is knocking at the door, crying in your arms, and seeking a home.

Have a Holy Lent,

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


  1. Food in any amount.
  1. Household Needs: lap top computers for college students, paper towels, tickets to events, tools (gardening and construction), sleeping bags, socks, a small dining room or kitchen table, a vacuum cleaner, power washer, vehicles and bikes, an exterior wooden door 69 ¾” X 28”   etc.
  1. Day Laborers: If you need gardeners, haulers, carpenters, painters, craftsmen or handymen call Cesar  (650) 339-2794.
  1. Homeless friends need: ponchos, long underwear, jackets, sleeping bags, socks, sweat shirts, etc. Call Susan or Doug (650) 366-4415.
  1. A house or money to buy a house. Call Larry for a hot cup of coffee (650) 366-4415.
  1. Susan Crane has been a live-in Catholic Worker for the past 5 years. Susan has spent more time in prison for non-violent protests to nuclear weapons than she has been with us.  A peace group in Germany has invited a delegation, which Susan is part of, from the US  to lead non-violent workshops and participate in their peace camp this summer. If you want to help Susan with her $1,100 budget send a check to the Catholic Worker and earmark it for Susan and help resist nuclear madness.
  1. While Sr. Mary Jane has been away, Pam Hitchcock has taken over M.J.’s role at the English Language School. Pam’s phone number is (650) 365-6019.  Currently, there are almost 100 students enrolled in our English Language   School. By the way, we have a bid to paint the outside of the school for $4,000.
  1. Your ongoing love and support.



50th Papal Message for World Day of Peace: Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace

Pope Francis  has released the 50th papal Message for the World Day of Peace, which is on January 1st.  “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace”  Pope Francis is calling for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform our lives and global politics, saying military responses to conflicts only breed more violence.

1.    At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders.  I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity.  Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”,  and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace.  In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity.  “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”.  He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.”  Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”.    In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.  I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values.  May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.  When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking.  In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

A broken world

2.    While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal.  It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.

In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment.  Where does this lead?  Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value?  Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?

Violence is not the cure for our broken world.  Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world.  At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.

The Good News

3.    Jesus himself lived in violent times.  Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21).  But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach.  He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives.  He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39).  When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence.  He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16).  Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation.  In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.

To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.  As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness.  This ‘more’ comes from God”.   He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.  Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”.   The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.

More powerful than violence 

4.    Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case.  When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another…  And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”.   For the force of arms is deceptive.  “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”.   Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint.  I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded…  She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”.   In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.

The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results.  The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten.  Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.

Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe.  The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action.  Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II.  Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”.   This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”.  Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.

The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.   I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”.   Violence profanes the name of God.   Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence.  Peace alone is holy.  Peace alone is holy, not war!”

The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence

5.    If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families.  This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family.  The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness.   From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.   An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue.  Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics.   I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there.  The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence.  They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters.  The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family.  “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship.  An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.

My invitation

6.    Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels.  Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount.  The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic.  Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.

This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities.  It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers.  It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost.  To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”.   To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society.  Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict.  Everything in the world is inter-connected.   Certainly differences can cause frictions.  But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.

I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence.  On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work.  It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.   Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.

In conclusion

8.    As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary is the Queen of Peace.  At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14).  Let us pray for her guidance.

“All of us want peace.  Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”.   In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to build nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

December Newsletter 2016

“Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar,
of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in
every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth
as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes
demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the
Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human
being among us.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “God Is In the Manger”

Christmas 2016

Dear Friends,           

Two thousand years ago in a small village, in an occupied country, a baby was born of an unwed mom and a slightly confused dad.  This Holy Family quickly became undocumented refugees in Egypt.  From these humble beginnings, a band of brothers and sisters arose with the grace of God.  So much has changed since then.

Two thousand years from now, if our species survives threats like climate change and nuclear annihilation, there will be even greater changes than we can imagine.  The arc of history has been and will be toward full equality between men and women.  Mortal enemies of yesterday (France and England,  Japan and the USA, Germany and Poland) are and will become one world.  The arc of history, if we are to survive, must lead to a world without war. (Note: in every war today, 2/3 of all casualties are innocent civilians). 

Feudalism ruled our world from about the 9th to the 15th century.  Primogeniture, surfs, lords, education only for rich male heirs were all common and accepted as the way things were and would be forever.  They are ending. Democracy is new.  Marrying for love is in its infancy. Women’s right to vote is less than a hundred years old.

So much has changed and will change.

The light of Christmas, born in a stable, is an invitation to each and all of us to be on the right side of the arc of history.  Women’s rights, civil rights, a world without war, equality for all with one God – this is our future, if we give ourselves enough time to travel there as brothers and sisters.  For now, in our lives and work, we try to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned and find Christ. (Matt 25)

Have a Holy Christmas,

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

P.S. If you believe that the above is pie-in-the-sky, then remember, cannibalism was once an acceptable way to survive.


  1. FOOD in any amount. 
  2. Household needs:  quart size freezer bags, tickets to events, bikes (locks and lights, too), lap top computers, ipods, cars, RV’s, brooms, a power washer, a handy man to fix little things, detergent, cleanser, Pine Sol etc.
  3. Day Laborers: If you need gardeners, haulers carpenters, plumbers, craftsmen or handymen call Cesar or Juan Carlos (650) 339-2794.
  4. Homeless friends need: sleeping bags, blankets, socks, ponchos, long underwear, tents, camping equipment, and warm jackets & sweat shirts.  Call Susan or Doug (650) 366-4415.
  5. A house or money to buy a house. Call Larry for a free cup of coffee. (650) 366-4415.
  6. Your ongoing love and support. This year we are helping 5 college students with  individual $3,000 grants.