In the heart of Kansas City…Holy Family Catholic Worker House

In the heart of Kansas City, on a busy street steeped with a rich and often tumultuous history, are two houses side by side. The three story houses are white with a dark green trim, reminiscent of the deep color of pine needles or, in the sun, the leaves on the rose bushes by the front porch. Appearing residential in every way, the houses are, in fact, the home to a somewhat unusual family unit.  “Holy Family House,” you see, was the name that would call these simple dwellings and their earnest residents to remember the promise they made to each other: To work for peace and justice by seeing the face of Christ in every forgotten and abused person; to love that person with unconditional love. Two houses. Hundreds of people coming together and believing. A whole lotta love.

Holy Family House has been a part of urban Kansas City for nearly 36 years. In the beginning was Angie O’Gorman, a woman full of passion for justice, and a heart for sharing dignity. In 1974 Angie and her companions were inspired by the words and actions of Dorothy Day, foundress of the Catholic Worker movement. Dorothy Day believed in working for equality by direct works of mercy, and she advocated loudly for the rights of those oppressed by an unjust system. The Catholic Worker movement is characterized by a deep spirit of personalism: walking with those in suffering, sharing resources and providing hospitality to people on the margins of society. In this spirit, Angie and her cohorts began Holy Family House.  Holy Family House embraces the Catholic Worker philosophy and the power of personal relationships as a means to transform the world.

Since its birth, Holy Family Catholic Worker House has been operated by a live-in community of volunteer staff.  Cycling in and out over time, these volunteers have committed to providing food, shelter, and a loving presence to the marginalized people of Kansas City. Brother Louis Rodemann became a live-in community member of Holy Family House in 1982, and he has been a steadfast presence to the house and the Kansas City community ever since. Brother Louis has remained a pillar of the house, and his deep dedication to homeless and abused people has inspired many for nearly 28 years.

Now, in the spring of 2010, we find the house is again entering a time of transition and growth as Brother Louis prepares for a year- long sabbatical. He will be leaving Holy Family House for a time, and he will not return in the same capacity. With sadness, but also with a sense of hope, the community is encouraging Brother Louis to pursue a personal period of renewal and regeneration. We continue to seek his wisdom and guidance as the house moves forward into the future.

As always, Holy Family House is looking to the community for help and assistance in our need. At Holy Family House we serve meals 6 days a week to people like Jackie, a single man who has been homeless on and off since his lay off from MO-DOT nearly 2 years ago. Jackie leaves City Union Mission at 5 a.m. everyday and takes the bus to 31st and Troost.  He then walks to Holy Family where he waits on the porch until we open the doors for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. After we close at 8:30 a.m., Jackie spends his days looking for work and housing and just trying to pass the time until the house opens again at 4:00 p.m. Finding a job is hard in these times, even harder for someone with no home to call their own, and Jackie has had difficulties like many others in his shoes. Nonetheless, Jackie is a hard worker, and is quick to volunteer his time to Holy Family House, often offering to wash dishes in exchange for bus passes or food. Jackie is outgoing, friendly and generous, a truly respected member of the “Holy House” community, and a formidable chess opponent. Jackie is only one of hundreds of guests who visit Holy Family. We ask Jackie how he finds the strength to keep going and he replies every time: “Only with God.”

We place the needs of our guests, people like Jackie, at the forefront, and we will continue to offer hospitality and meals to the homeless and forgotten of the city.  A planning committee comprised of 14 individuals closely associated with the house has been working diligently on a future plan for Holy Family House. At this time, the house continues to rely greatly on volunteers, especially the live-in staff and the long-term volunteers who have shown many years of dedication to the mission. We continue to welcome participation in the house through personal interaction with the guests, who call us back again and again to the mission. We are also actively seeking folks who may be interested in stepping into the role of a live-in staff. The live-in community is a special aspect of the Catholic Worker, and truly at the core of Holy Family House.  We welcome prospective volunteers or interested individuals to contact us about our discernment process, and of course we offer the invitation to visit the house and visit with our guests.

In the heart of our wonderful city, Holy Family House is changing and growing, yet the house stands firm in its commitment to service and hospitality. Come “taste and see.”

Contact holyfamilycw@gmail.com or call 816-753-2677 with questions or for more information.

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