The Catholic Worker movement is composed of several Catholic communities founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The Catholic Worker aims to live its life by the way of the Gospel of Jesus, more specifically, the verse Matthew 25. Catholic Workers live out the mission of the Gospel by actions such as helping out the poor, campaigning for nonviolence, and promoting social justice. Each Catholic Worker house has a different mission, and their daily life is suited to the issues surrounding their local region. One of the most prominent Catholic Worker communities is the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. The LACW embodies several important characteristics that Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin personified: social activism, anarchism, pacifism, and service along with the tenets of Catholicism. Los Angeles Catholic Worker puts into practice the Works of Mercy, the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and the Works of peace in the tradition of the original Catholic Worker started by Dorothy and Peter.
Chris and Dan Delaney, a former nun, and a former priest, founded the Los Angeles Catholic Worker in 1970. They left their order to get married, and to found the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. The Los Angeles Catholic Workers consists of two locations, the Ammon Hennacy House of Hospitality, and the Hospitality Kitchen, notoriously known as the Hippie Kitchen. The LACW Hippie Kitchen is located at the corner of 6th Street and Gladys Avenue in the central city ghetto of Los Angeles, known as Skid Row. The House of Hospitality is about a fifteen-minute drive north of the Hippie Kitchen, on Brittania Avenue in the Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The Hospitality Kitchen and the House of Hospitality both serve different functions, but are united in their serving the Works of Mercy.
The two Los Angeles Catholic Worker locations are both excellent examples of fulfilling Jesus Christs work on Earth. The first location, the Hippie Kitchen serves a hot meal to the poor in Skid Row on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In addition to the soup kitchen, the LACW has a food van which serves a breakfast of oatmeal, boiled eggs, and coffee. Over the course of the day, the Hippie Kitchen serves about one to two thousand meals to the poor. The Hippie Kitchen also serves the poor by handing out blankets, and toiletry products such as lotion, soap, or tissues. The Hippie Kitchen also has a clinic staffed by a volunteer nurse that hands out over the counter medicine to those in need. Even more helpful, there is a free dental clinic every Friday, staffed by a local dentist. At the dental clinic, the LACW hands out toothbrushes and toothpaste to the poor, as well. One of the most interesting and notorious handouts is the shopping carts that the LACW bought for the homeless to use for their belongings, and as transportation. The LA Police Department is authorized to confiscate shopping carts stolen from retailers, and this includes confiscating a homeless persons belongings as well. Because of this, LACW decided to purchase shopping carts for the homeless, and therefore, since the carts belonged to the LACW, any found carts would be returned to them. With the handing out of the shopping carts, medical care, and food for free, the LACW Hospitality Kitchen lives out the Works of Mercy in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Tradition.
The Ammon Hennacy House of Hospitality is another aspect of the Los Angeles Catholic Workers commitment to the Works of Mercy. Joan and Tony Trafecanty purchased the House of Hospitality for the LACW in 1977. The Trafecanty still live adjacent to the LA
Another central idea to the Catholic Worker community is the
Lastly, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker puts into practice the Works of Peace. For example, LACW practices tax resistance. The LACW does not pay any form of income tax, nor does it associate itself with the government by filing as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The LACW is still running to this day solely because of private donations to the community. Because of their anti-government stance, these donations are also not tax deductible. The reason for this is because by being a government-recognized non-profit organization, this would involve a corporate hierarchy in the organization, as well as acknowledgement from the government. As an anarchistic community, the LACW does not want to portray any other image and show that they agree with governmental corporate structure, or the government in general.
The LACW stages many protests against what they feel is unjust. One of the most notorious protests was against the new cathedral being built in the heart of Los Angeles, by the archdiocese of LA. Cardinal Roger Mahony decided to build the church in one of the poorest parts of LA, and this angered the LACW. Jeff Dietrich and several of the LACW community members scaled the wall of the cathedral, sat on top of the bell tower, and unraveled a banner that read We reclaim the church for the poor. In addition to this, the LACW protests the death penalty and remains committed to pacifism and nonviolence. The LACW protests on the corner of Spring and Temple Streets on the fourth Monday of every month from four to five in the afternoon. The LACW along with the California People of Faith read the names of all those who have been executed by the death penalty since its reinstatement. In its commitment to non-violence, the LACW also holds two regular anti-war vigils. The first is held every day, Monday through Saturday, except for Wednesday on the corner of Alameda and Arcadia streets. The reason for this location is because it is close to the MDC Federal Prison and Union Station. On the Wednesdays that they are not protesting on Alameda and Arcadia, they are protesting the Iraq War two blocks south on Temple and Alameda. At eight in the morning, the LACW gathers here and goes around the Federal Building and reads the names of those who have been reported killed in Iraq in the previous week. Similar to the protests at the Federal Building in LA, there have been several staged protests at military bases, such as Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California. One of the protests involved advocating against the renewed development of the missile program known as Star Wars. Over the course of the LA Catholic Worker, the members of the community have been arrested for their demonstrations and activism. Their civil disobedience is key to inspiring change in how the U.S. Government performs. Jeff Dietrich is not afraid of going to jail for his protests; in fact, he has been to jail over thirty times. He is quoted saying that going to jail is part of the witness. In order to improve the lives of those in the community, the LACW has increasingly become more involved in protesting injustices not only in the LA area, but with government abuses committed worldwide. The LACWs central commitment to protesting injustice is to strive to protect and restore human rights: the rights of the poor here domestically and the rights of those around the world that will be violated by the U.S. Governments military actions.
Overall, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker is well known for its social justice activism. In regards to the Works of Mercy, the
Los Angeles Catholic Worker - www.lacatholicworker.org