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New Beginnings for Mary's House

You may remember from previous newsletters that we've been looking for people to join us in the work of hospitality. I'm nearing 75, and have found both my patience and my energy waning - not a good thing for our guests. Originally we looked for "jimandsheliey clones" who would do what we've been doing, more or less as we've been doing it. Over time it became clear that those folks don't exist. Instead we have found new partners in what we all think is a spirit-inspired experiment to serve the most marginalized folks around.

For years now we've known the Guadelupan Sisters, who came to Birmingham in 2002 to serve the immigrant population. I've studied Spanish at La Casita, their center where they help with food, bills, ESL classes, immigration assistance - and more. They have often run into women who needed a place to stay in an emergency, and they haven't had a way to respond to that need. Last summer we began to think about a possible experiment: would it work for the Guadelupan sisters to welcome families into Mary's House for emergency stays? We have all been thinking and praying about this question for over six months now, and have decided to give it a try.

Mary's House will remain a Catholic Worker house, with the same structure (such as it is) and the same mission. We (Jim and Shelley) will remain heavily involved in the life of the house, and we'll continue the current commitments - the vigils, the retreats, this newsletter, and so on. Clearly, with this new venture additional avenues for service and nonviolent action may open up. We hope recognize them when they arise!

The main change will be that instead of Shelley living permanently at the house and being present to the guests, the hospitallers will now primarily be Guadelupan sisters. Four of the sisters will take this on as their voluntary work They will rotate in and out of the house for a week at a time, working closely with each other and with us. The other side of that change is that the guests will probably be mostly Spanish speakers, who don't understand the language at our local shelters and therefore don't feel at home. This will be a new venture for all of us, and we are taking some months this spring to think about how it will work, to consult with local groups and with other CW houses and related groups who do similar work. We hope to re-open the house for guests in June or July, with appropriate channels in place for the women to get whatever help they need, and a comfortable place for them and their families to stay while they're working it through.

Please keep us in prayer during this transition time, and please do continue to support us in this new venture. We've counted on your support for the 25 years that we've done this work, and never been disappointed. We are confident that will continue!

If you are someone who is able to speak some Spanish and English, who wants to live a simple life in the Catholic Worker style including both hospitality and action, and can envision living in Birmingham, we think there could be a place for you at the house here. Email us at and we can talk about it!

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