"Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one
of the least of these who are members
of my family, you did it to me."
Matt 25:40

Greetings from the San Antonio Catholic Worker Community!!!

We hope that you all had a blessed Christmas and happy New Year. The SACWH was certainly blessed in 2013 by your help and concerns for our ministry. It was a year of ups and downs, anxieties and joys…but all ended well.

On Saturday morning December 14th, a group of city officials met with the neighborhood association and CWH representatives and reported that the city attorney deemed that the Texas Freedom of Religion Restoration Act, did indeed, protect the CWH ministry; that is, the hospitality services provided are an expression of our religious beliefs and our Christian spirituality. As most of you know, our mission statement is Matthew 25. “The CWH is here to stay; they are not going anywhere." These words were music to our ears. What was most surprising was the fact that several neighbors spoke passionately in our defense ... neighbors we did not even know. It was very comforting and joyous. However, we do realize that we are still not welcome in the eyes of some of our neighbors, particularly those living closest to us. We are saddened by this and still hope to continue to make accommodations that address their concerns without sacrificing services that improve the physical, mental, or spiritual well-being of our guests.

We have also been blessed by a growing number of resident and day volunteers. Most of you know James (2 years) and Aaron and Dennis (1 ½ years). You may not be as familiar with Vince who joined us in July and Anthony who joined us in December. Marlin, who was our first guest-volunteer beginning in June 2011, left for a brief spell but is now back! They are a great group of guys and hard-workers. Additionally, Adolpho, an elderly long-time guest, moved into Kim's apartment and the volunteers have been helping him with his medical appointments and surgeries. It is a great little community.

As far as day volunteers, Debbie, Abraham, Jack, Alicia, Pam, Brother Francis, Brother Roger, and Joan continue to help out on their regular days and more! Many thanks to Debbie as she served as “interim director” for 2 weeks in January and to Alicia and her husband, John. Because of them, you are receiving this newsletter. Thanks too to Chef Joan founder of the Chow Train, Todd and Abby, founders of the Community Table, Christina from San Antonio Academy, Steve Johnson, and St. Gerard's High School for all of their help and donations. We also have many new volunteers from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Selma…Mark, Mike, Jimmy, Ken, and a men’s prayer group that has been providing a monthly Saturday meal. These folks also provided tons of personal hygiene supplies, socks and underwear at Christmas time. Finally, we welcome Sister Jo from Holy Spirit who volunteers two days a week and has become a new member of the Board.

Of special mention, are the volunteers from St. Mark’s Catholic Church Mobile Loaves and Fishes; they number over 200 and provide lunches and suppers on weekdays. If you count their lunch desert pastries that we also use for breakfasts, then they really help with all THREE meals! Each day of the month there is a different lunch team and a different supper team… how leadership (Ann, Jochelle and Wendy) can keep up with it all, is mind-boggling. MLF has just been allocated a new facility and anticipate expansion of services. We hope to feature this amazing group next month when we can get photos of the new operation in action.

This month we would like to highlight a group of volunteers that has been coming everyday for the past two years. They are Trinity University students who live in community at Hope Hall to specifically learn about the challenges, and meet, befriend, and serve those who are experiencing homelessness. Hope Hall is the brain child of a student who will be graduating this Spring and then going on to medical school. Her name is Katie Ogawa. Because of her leadership and commitment to this project, she was recently awarded the "Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award" presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals!

Katie has been an inspiring volunteer for at CWH for almost five years! She first appeared on our scene as a high school member of her Albuquerque church’s mission trip to San Antonio and then again just before starting her college career at Trinity. This time she participated as a group leader in the Trinity “Urban Plunge” program. Her experience of living, praying, learning, and serving together during the Urban Plunge experience, helped nourish her already contagious, altruistic spirit so that many more Trinity students could participate - not just for a week, but over the course of their entire university career! Her passion to serve the neediest as a “dorm community” captured the interest of Trinity University leaders and gave birth to “HOPE HALL”. Thirty students representing a diversity of home towns/states, majors and career goals, came together to share Katie’s dream…a group of young people choosing to live together in community and to engage in the compassionate care of those who were experiencing homelessness. Hope Hall became a sign of hope to the neediest. The next year, the program doubled and 60 students joined the altruistic service-learning adventure.

It appears that Katie’s orientation or “formation” program for Hope Hall residents, result in their modeling the same qualities that Katie herself has demonstrated. They are cheerful, friendly, dependable, and hard workers; most importantly, they treat our guests with kindness, dignity, and genuine concern. Katie has been an excellent role model in mentoring the tremendous value of “healing” as opposed to “fixing”…seeing all lives as connected, equal, vulnerable and having the potential for mutual learning and healing. Below are a few excerpts from Katie’s acceptance speech which, by the way, "brought down the house".

THANK YOU! Thank you to the incredible friends and mentors I have found at Trinity University and at Catholic Worker House. Thank you all for having faith in me and inspiring me to continue to pursue my passion and taking the time to be here today. My actions and values have been inspired and supported by (you) and especially my mother... These are the ones who should really be celebrated as they have molded me into the person I am today. And of course, thank you to AFP for valuing and celebrating commitments to philanthropy.

Throughout my service, I have learned the power of a smile and the importance of sharing stories. From a young age I remember stuffing bags with toiletries, socks, and food during the winter and driving the bags around the city- handing them out to individuals experiencing homelessness. During my time at Trinity, I have truly felt blessed about the opportunities and positions I have been in. Throughout work in HOPE Hall or explaining the importance of giving, I aim to connect individuals with things they love and that mater. I love hearing stories from members of HOPE Hall about how they have grown. Just last week one resident told me, “I never thought about what would happen if you were sick and experiencing homelessness." As an aspiring doctor with a commitment to the underserved population, these questions constantly linger in my mind. How do we best deliver care and not simply meet the need. What infrastructure can be created to support and empower people? My questions go on, but as we all sit in this room today our passions and concerns greatly vary...

I am honored to be San Antonio’s outstanding youth in philanthropy. Living around college students, I know not everyone has the resources to financially support organizations. However, we all have a passion. I ask that you use your passion and your story to serve others, to be a philanthropist. I thank each and every one of you here today, those I know well and those whose stories I have yet to hear. I share a snipit of my story with the hope you will reflect on yours and share it with others. All of you in this room value philanthropy, and for you I give thanks.

Katie (under the light) with her Monday CWH volunteers

In closing I encourage you each day to… take a moment to reflect on your values, remind yourselves of your passion and remember that philanthropy starts today. It starts with you at whatever stage of life you’re at. The spirit of philanthropy can truly spread through us.

  • A gently used vehicle
  • A freezer
  • Coffee cups, coffee, creamer, sugar
  • Toilet paper
  • Travel sized toiletries, especially toothpaste

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