Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker, Worcester, Massachusetts
After their original house on Castle Street burned in 1987, they spent a short time living with the Little Franciscans of Mary before moving to 52 Mason Street, where the community remains to this day.
Part of our work is sheltering homeless men and women. As I type this, one man and two women are staying with us. This is unusually small-scale hospitality for a Catholic Worker, but typically intimate; I share the breakfast table with these folks, and last night there was some recrimination about who is eating all the Corn Pops. (Me.)
The other part of our work is fighting for peace and justice. I like to say that we’re basically like the Super Friends, but with less powers. The Catholic Worker is a center of anti-war activity in Worcester, and down through the years has been a leading voice on local issues ranging from lead pollution to supporting Coach Williams. Members have organized lots of protests, done lots of jail time for civil disobedience, and gone on lots of peace missions to four continents.
The founding members of the SS. Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker. Back row: Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, Justin Duffy, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy. Front row: Carl Siciliano, Sarah Jeglosky, Dan Ethier.
The Catholic Worker is an anarchist movement. SS. Francis & Thérèse is not a non-profit corporation. The community receives no government money, and no financial support from the institutional church. (Although we get help from lots of individual clergy.)
The community in 2006: Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy. Photo by Mike Benedetti.
We support the work of the community by baking bread and begging. Members of the community also do freelance journalism, public speaking, and web design to pay the bills.
There is nothing in the way of hierarchy. The same folks who travel to exotic war zones also clean toilets. Four people are involved in the day-to-day decisions of the house, but dozens are part of the “extended community.”
Public reaction to the community has always been mixed. In 1997, when Dave Maciewski delivered medical supplies to Iraq in violation of sanctions, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette ran the subhead “Peace group beds down with Butcher of Baghdad.” On the other hand, about once a month I introduce myself to someone as a Catholic Worker, and the stranger responds, “Oh, Scott and Claire are my heroes!” In 2002, the T&G called Scott “Worcester’s most-traveled, most-jailed, and most notorious political radical since Abbie Hoffman,” which some would even consider a compliment.
My time here is coming to a close, but I would not be surprised if this community was still serving Worcester, and still pissing off meanspirited Worcesterites, in another 20 years.
We’re holding a Catholic Worker gathering July 2-4 in Worcester to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Details will be forthcoming.
You can call us at 508.753.3588, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.