Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hospitality, resistance, the Catholic Worker

On Monday and Tuesday, we visited the Guiseppe Conlon Catholic Worker House in Harringay, North London, and the Catholic Worker Farm in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of London.  Both the House and the Farm take in guests - the House offers shelter, food and community to about 17 men who are refused asylum seekers - men from all over the world.

Guiseppe Conlon House is at the back of an old church in a Turkish neighborhood, almost invisible from the street.  Father Martin Newell welcomed us, told us a bit of the Catholic Worker history, talked about the grounding of their work in Catholic Social Teaching, and led us in a Eucharistic celebration.  As a community, they are "ecumenical, pacifist, communitarian and anarchist in the spirit of gentle personalism."  They fed us with the same generosity and community spirit that they offer to their guests - and at least we did help with the cleaning up: Father Terry Moran, CSJP-A on the left and Katrina Alton, CSJP Candidate and soon-to-be novice on the right, with one of the core community members.  Katrina has been part of the Catholic Worker community and has participated in some of their acts of resistance, including a protest at the Ministry of Defense headquarters for which she was arrested (see the posting of September 5, 2012)

At the farm, we met with Scott Albrecht, who shared with us some of the ways his history has led him and his family to choose life as Catholic Workers.  The farmhouse and a couple of acres are leased from the farmer who raises cattle on the farm; the Catholic Worker community has a grand vegetable garden, with plenty of kale, zucchini, chard, beans, tomatoes and potatoes for the community dinners.  Their guests are women and children, again women who are not easily able to get asylum. We were wonderfully fed on lamb stew, tomato soup, and green salad, and we returned home - in sunshine at last - full of admiration for the work of these Catholic Workers, work without salary and with many worries about having money to pay the rent and the light bill, work shared joyfully with friends and guests.

In the top photo above, Scott in front of the fireplace in the 14th century farmhouse; below, the vegetable garden.


  1. No Harringay isn't a Turkish neighbourhood. It's in a typical north London neighbourhood with a population of about 7% Turkish (as of 2001 census - 10% 2011?) and a high street that's developed as a destination shopping and entertainment centre for the Turkish community from London and beyond.

    1. Thanks for the correction - I was going from the very visible presence of Turkish shops and restaurants on the street