Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker, Worcester, Massachusetts

posted by Mike on April 26th, 2006

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Saints Francis & Thérèse Catholic Worker community in 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.

Founders of the Saints Francis & Therese Catholic Worker community
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.)

Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy, Scott Schaeffer-Duffy
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 theresecw@gmail.com.

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12 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On March 21, 2007 at 17:19 yolanda nieuwkerk lerner said:

    Hello to Sarah Jeglosky! I knew you in Kennebunkport and wondered where and how you were. You look just the same! How is your family? Ever get to Maine in the Summer? – feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you are! Yolanda

  2. On May 15, 2007 at 08:16 catherine bentwood said:

    Good morning catholic workers, looking for copy of article on basically “overcoming fear of going to jail” (male activist – perhaps first name Art- jailed after action at fort benning(?)7 to 10 years ago) published in either your newsletter or the catholic radical. Sound familiar? Can you help? Would like to reprint for our newsletter -thank you – cathy NHPeaceAction

  3. On January 2, 2008 at 16:10 Joe Cocucci said:

    Scott and Claire: Congratulations on the Hecker Award! Thanks for your service of the Gospel! Love and prayers, Joe

  4. On October 3, 2008 at 15:02 Alex Palombo said:

    Congratulations on your award! It’s wonderful to see the house has done so well, and has done so much good for others in the community.

  5. On January 12, 2014 at 00:35 James Barclay said:

    Claire, remember Fr. Marvin Mottet? All I did was mention his on Walter Crockett’s Facebook and I got this wonderful letter from Davenport, IA saying Marvin was now and has been a Msgr. and is still carrying it on so much so he just got recognition for his peace efforts. I do so love that man. he taught me a great deal about responsibility and perseverance and dead center honesty in the light of lies and hysteria. I wasn’t the best example of a Catholic Worker, but he loved me and supported me. When I took the plane back to Worcester to go to school he was the last person I saw and the one who hugged me. I keep thinking of him. and Bernie and why it is all is so important. Congratulations on the Hecker Award. Sometimes people do notice the righteous works you have done. As the Dalai Lama said: “What you do may not seem worthwhile and never be recognized by anyone, But it is very important that you do it.” With love to everyone. Happy New Year!

  6. On September 14, 2015 at 21:01 Kevin said:

    Is anyone from Massachusetts going to the climate actions in DC next week around the Pope’s visit, or the public Mass in Philly?

  7. On October 23, 2015 at 23:22 Tran Cao said:

    To the Saint Francis and Theres Catholic Worker,
    Hello. My name is Tran Cao and my youth group would appreciate the opportunity to help out. We can help cook, donate some of our food, and get a chance to broaden our horizons. We are willing to help out on Saturday afternoons. Our youth group age ranges from 12 to 23 and about seven to fifteen people in our group. Thank you for taking time from your schedule to read my email.

    Sincerely,

    Tran Cao

  8. On April 5, 2016 at 09:24 James Barclay said:

    DearOnes, Having come to your site via some research I noticed your reactions to the “Panhandler Crackdown”. If anyone is at fault it may be mine in that in 1996 I got the idea to press the First Amendment issue of my folksinging in Worcester’s streets with the License Commission, former mayor Jordan Levy License Commissioner, and its refusal to give me a permit; I felt none was needed. I got with the Worcester ACLU and old friend and then ACLU rep Ronal Madnick who agreed we should fight the issue. My whole aim was to completely rescind, if not wholly eliminate that section of city code that prohibited some restricted street activities; There had not been a street singer in Worcester since 1943. I also enlisted the help of former Boston busker and friend Michael Barrett (who also reopened the old “Club 47” in Cambridge where we both used top perform in the 1960s). Michael submitted his legal brief from his case with the Boston City Council Legal Dept. and I added to it what I could. We submitted our appeal to the Worcester License Commission and gave copies of our research findings, evidence and brief to the Worcester City Legal Dept. In August of that year (1996) the Commission and we met and my appeal was successful. Shortly after that the entire section of City Code making such public demonstrations restricted was eliminated as blatantly unConstitutional. As far as I know these restrictions are still gone. In the 2000s panhandlers started their activities here. There was a safety concern since some panhandlers were actually and aggressively stepping out into the streets and dunning drivers and their passengers. Some used the old New York tactic of window washing at stoplights. There were some driver/panhandler altercations.
    For safety’s sake the City made a few new rules,constitutional or not, which banned panhandlers from such unsafe activity and panhandlers could not ‘lay claim’ to certain corners as they do in other cities. Today, most of these panhandlers are part of group units that drop off and pick up these people. I do not know if this is a commercial thing, or not. I do know that it is unconstitutional for officers to make a street performer move on grounds that such activity can be done elsewhere (as they used to with me for awhile). They also cannot seize property of the person and the person cannot be arrested or held on such “elsewhere” grounds. The original petition and agreement did recognize a noise limit of 50db at a 6ft. distance for amplified performance or activity and no such activity could inhibit pedestrian travel or access. Along with myself I had in mind the evangelists who used to preach on the Common on Saturdays. We had sung together on many occasions. I never did ask what they thought of it all. As far as I know the papers and other documents used in the effort reside at the Worcester ACLU. So, if anyone looks for blame he or she can get a hold of yours truly. Added: I also communicated with the city of San Jose, CA who was, at that time, having their own dealings with a heavy influx of supposed “street people”, many of whom were actually ‘homeless’ computer software and hardware engineers who had jobs with high tech companies, but had no place to be but in a homeless shelter- a phenomenon that disappeared once the ‘hi-tech bubble’ burst about the year 2000 and these people went to other cities and towns for work (Houston, Phoenix, Portland, etc.) A good accounting of the matter was in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, esp. 8/16/96 and that next Commission meeting. I was, all in all, satisfied with the experience, though I am no happy with some of the happenings since then. YOu could ask Ronal about it. I am sure he can give you a great rundown. I should give a good shout out for two lawyers, one an immigration attorney here in the city and one from the Boston ACLU whose names I cannot recall. So, there you have it. If you have need to write back, please do. I trust your family is well and very happy. You’ll always have my love.- Without Wax, Jim Bawrclay PS: Forgive my terrible spelling and punctuation.

  9. On May 2, 2016 at 21:15 Kevin said:

    Is anyone going to Fr. Dan Berrigan’s wake and/or funeral in New York?

  10. On July 26, 2016 at 15:21 Calvin E. Dube said:

    Greetings from Lewiston, Maine
    Thank you for an outstanding newsletter on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of St. Therese & St. Francis House! I often think of you as we go about our work with inmates seeking out our help…some so desperate and lost. The Catholic Radical is a great inspiration in guiding us through the challenges and obstacles in living out the Gospel in the best way we can. We have an official Board of Directors formed in January 2016 and have been working hard to expand community networking in building our base resources. Blessings and prayers to you all as you celebrate in hope and renewal…Calvin E. Dube 145 College Street Lewiston, Maine 04240 207-333-9247 Also, I am very blessed to have a signed photograph of Daniel Berrigan when he visited me at the soup kitchen many years ago!

  11. On January 1, 2017 at 05:53 d.o. said:

    “..a person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and does not focus on building bridges is not a Christian.” – Pope Francis on Donald Trump

  12. On May 8, 2017 at 16:27 Jank Strongblood said:

    Dear Claire (and Scott):

    Thank you for boarding me at the Catholic Worker House in Worcester, MA, when I had nothing, and when I was still working on behalf of God, developing my life’s work for him in Worcester. Little did you know, I was referred to by Jesus as “The Comforter”, whom he would one day send to help out the planet. You all thought I was some kind of Muslim, which is the game I had to play with you all to stay safe. I’m actually here to help the Catholic, the Protestant, and yes, even the Islamic. My great book of faith is now online on lulu.com, Tirahi Nimba, which is a new and modern faith scripture book that extends Christian theology and new thought beyond all its known limits and failings. The URL is http://www.lulu.com/shop/jank-strongblood/tirahi-nimba-the-religion-of-space-science-and-the-future-scriptures-and-teachings/paperback/product-23174622.html. Note, my first name is actually “Jank”, which is Minoan for Hercules People. I’m a descendant of those people, among others, and you will find that the book is the light and hope of this world. I am San Jose State tribe, and at a Dean’s Scholar convocation, when I was young, a Junior, the speaker told us, “You are the hope of the world.” And, yes, that’s what I became. And Caroline Myss told me, “You must become the Light.” And that I did. I am the Lord of Light’s author. Enjoy the new book. It is all that the Catholic could ever hope for, including the original story of Christ, which was not in Israel, but in Parsi territory in 600 B.C. He was not crucified, either, and he was a friend of Zoroaster. Give it a read, and you’ll find out what the original faith of Christ was all about, in its entire and original form and family. Best Wishes, Jank Strongblood.

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