Thursday, 30 January 2014

A Day On The Farm





Members of the Farm Community sorting vegetables
St Mary of the Angels Worthing parishioners recently enjoyed a day out at a farm. Not that unusual a visit, but this is a farm with a big difference. The farm in question is the Catholic Worker Farm in Hertfordshire. What makes it different is that the farm is home to destitute women and children, often refugees entitled neither to benefits nor work permits. Founded by Maria and Scott Albrecht, members of the Catholic Worker Movement (CWM), the farm has received over 170 women since 2006, offering accommodation and advocacy. As Joanna Moorhead wrote in her “Guardian” article of January 2013 “the ethos of the arm is that everyone is part of the family”. The community also take an active part in the peace vigil outside Northwood Military Headquarters. Oh yes, and there is some agriculture too – a variety of fruit and vegetables grown as part of a green revolution for the community’s table.

So, what is the CWM and how did it come about? Founded in the USA in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, by Dorothy Day, its’ aim was to “explode the dynamite of Catholic Social Teaching” and thus bring about a “revolution of the heart”. Dorothy Day sought to change the world one heart at a time and make it a place where it is easier to do good. The work began with the publication of the ”Catholic Worker” newspaper in May 1933, followed by the establishment of houses of hospitality for the poor and homeless. The movement spread across the USA and then became international. There are now 213 communities worldwide committed to non-violence, voluntary poverty, prayer and hospitality for the homeless. This can be summed up by the concept of Christian anarchism elucidated so clearly by Tom Cornell in the May 2013 edition of the Pax Christi newsletter “Justpeace”.

There are four communities in the UK. The London Catholic Worker (LCW) community developed from Jubilee Ploughshares in 2000. Its’ works of hospitality seek the face of Christ in challenging situations by the application of the Gospels through the seven corporal works of mercy. The work was given concrete expression by the opening of houses of hospitality and feeding the destitute and marginalised in the capital. One such beacon of hospitality is Guiseppe Conlon House in north London. Opened in November 2010, the house, as the LCW website states, “acts as a centre for the ‘works of mercy’, especially for our work with destitute refugees”.

Banner Showing Corporal Works of Mercy

Our Lord reminded the faithful that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40) and promised rest for the weary and burdened (Mt 11:28). The CWM took these words and applied them literally in a harsh modern world. The work begun by Dorothy Day continues and grows and finds practical expression in many ways – including a day at the farm.

If you wish to find out more information about the CWM and, perhaps, show your support, you may do so by logging on to www.londoncatholicworker.org. The farm also has a website which may be found at www.catholicworkerfarm.org.

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