I was recently lucky enough to spend a few hours with Mark and Louise Zwick, who run the Catholic Worker house inspired by Dorothy Day in Houston. Casa Juan Diego is a remarkable operation, celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in December. Serving many of the poorest and most needy in the Houston area, especially immigrants, Mark and Louise have ten houses in all, housing forty men and several dozen women and their children, many of them ill or severely abused when they arrive. They offer not only shelter and food but medical and dental attention in clinics staffed by volunteer medics. Approximately 800 families are served with take-home food, and along with a wider community all are helped to negotiate the intricacies of state and government programs that the Zwicks know inside out. This is Catholic social teaching in practice.
It started back in 1980 when the Zwicks, coming back from an inspiring few years in El Salvador determined to become saints, spent a couple of hundred dollars buying and converting a house that soon burned down. Undaunted they continued to acquire cheap property and open their doors to those in need. Volunteers came forward to help, and somehow they always had just enough money to keep going. They do not go out asking for money (they’re much too busy, and perhaps a bit too shy), but the Casa does have non-profit status, and I can assure you that any donations would be put to excellent use. Visit their website to find out more about them and to explore their resources on Catholic social teaching.