Empire Cracking: An Interview with the NY Catholic Worker

cwThis interview was taken by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann as part of a writing project for Geez Magazine entitled “She is Breathing: Listening for Another World and an End to Empire.” It was published in the Winter Issue.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann: What is the work that the NY Catholic Worker is doing that is so different from what our culture asks of us?

Joanne Kennedy: Off the top of my head, the paper is different – in the social media twitter-verse the relatively slow nature of our paper and it’s message of more love (and it’s existing for so long) is different. So old it looks new, anyone??

Amanda Daloisio: The work that we do daily- cleaning and cooking; caring for each other’s basic needs, is a gentle reminder of the Little Way. There is holiness to be found in the simplest of tasks and no work is beneath us if it can lessen the burdens of others. We uphold the dignity of manual labor but more than that- we know the joy that can be found there. So often those ideas bump into our upwardly mobile culture!

LWK: How does the work of hospitality and resistance fit into another world happening?

AD: If we conceive of the empire as a system dependent upon conformity to its ideals, however heinous, then hospitality and resistance are what cracks the empire! The very act of extending ourselves in service to another is to reject the fears and suspicions that uphold the system of us/them and transforms it into something entirely different. To place one’s body as a cog in the wheels of injustice is to dismantle the idea that we have nothing to offer; that nothing can change. And when we look around we realize that there are so many who are also pulling and pushing the cracks ever wider. In these spaces we glimpse and live and rejoice in the possibilities of this new world!

JK: The point of both hospitality and resistance – is the hope/sure knowledge that the world will become a place where it is easier to be good we just need to do our part by living the life God set us here to live – gifts and all!

 LWK: What is a story you hold onto as something new happening?

AD: There are images I hold dear, moments in which I have experienced beauty and kindness and truths boldly lived. When we clean off the dinner tables and carefully set the altar for Mass we join the sacred and the everyday in concrete and intentional ways. We come: ragtag and worn out, broken yet hopeful. We heed the call to come just as we are and in our coming and our sharing we are made a bit more whole. And the next day we join again, around the very same table, and break bread and share soup. It is humbling and awesome.

JK: Hard to pick a story – it’s a ton of little stories – the evidence of the work paying off. The donation that comes just in time. You know…the ailanthus tree pushing up through the NYC sidewalk!!

LWK: With a history as long as the NY CW, does it feel like the work and struggle is never ending?  Or is there something that feels different or new about this moment?

JK: Each moment in the universe is new, and anything is possible with God’s help, and the arc has been bending for awhile we just can’t always see the bend cause we are too small on the face of history.

AD: Amen, sister.


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