Friday, February 4, 2011

Integritas visits Catholic Worker House

Building on last week's seminar on Catholic Social Teaching, this week the students in the Integritas program visited the Peter Claver Catholic Worker House in South Bend, a house of hospitality in the tradition of Dorothy Day. The Catholic Worker has a long tradition in South Bend. Currently the community has two houses downtown near the bus station for long term guests (a men's house and a women's house), as well as a day center named Our Lady of the Road. Dinner is hosted at the men's house every day at 6:30 p.m., and all are welcome to join the community. Our Lady of the Road hosts a free breakfast every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, as well as making showers available and washers and dryers for doing laundry. Every night at Our Lady of the Road, the Catholic Worker community also provides Weather Amnesty beds for up to ten men during the winter months, giving shelter to those who would otherwise find themselves on the streets on dangerously cold nights. All services are provided by volunteers and made possible by donations.

On Tuesday and Thursday this week, the Integritas students took the bus downtown to join the Catholic Worker community for dinner. The students came early to help prepare dinner for around 30 people. Their help was especially appreciated on Thursday afternoon, since Thursday is veggie day: several farmers from the South Bend Farmer's Market drop off left-over vegetables that didn't sell during the week, before they re-stock for the weekend crowds. The vegetables needed to be sorted (edible v. compost), washed, and prepared for storing, as well as for cooking in that evening's dinner. It was a good week for carrots, so we made a delicious carrot cake using six cups of grated carrot!

As the director of the Integritas program, I can't write about these visits objectively, because it was such a personal joy to see the meeting of two of my worlds: the Catholic Worker community is one of my favorite parts of South Bend, and a place I love to spend time myself, so introducing my students to the guests and staff of the House and watching them work, eat, pray, and laugh together was a beautiful experience. Several of the students remarked on how warm and welcoming the atmosphere of the House is, and they were glad that they had finally visited a place they had heard so much about at Notre Dame. There was plenty of teasing as some students struggled to recognize vegetables they don't usually eat, and friendly competition to see who could slice their radishes the thinnest or dice the most tomatoes. They maneuvered their way through an unfamiliar kitchen with surprising grace, and they maneuvered their way through an unfamiliar side of South Bend with equal grace- the side where people don't always know where they'll find a bed for the night, or when their next meal will be. But sitting around the table at dinner, the conversation sounded identical to what the conversations must have been in the dining hall on campus: who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl on Sunday?

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