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Eminent Catholic Historians to Gather at STU this Friday

In November of this past year, on the recommendation of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted unanimously to move forward with the canonization cause of Dorothy Day. She exemplifies, he said, “what’s best in Catholic life.” Day co-founded The Catholic Worker, a movement dedicated to the realization of  the Church’s mission of social justice. 

Born in 1890, after a long and complicated spiritual journey of over 30 years, she converted to Catholicism.  When introduced to Peter Maurin - a French Catholic philosopher - Day discovered the social message of the church and was able to combine her piety with her passion for social justice in a movement she called  The Catholic Worker.  In 1933 she published a newspaper of the same name as a direct counterpoint to the popular Daily Worker published by the Communists and distributed widely among the beleaguered workers and unemployed of the Depression eras.  Her paper proclaimed that the Catholic Church also had a social plan, one far better than the Communists offered.   She also opened a house of hospitality where the unemployed and homeless could  find a warm meal and a place to lay their head.  

Because of Maurin’s influence, Day also started a Catholic Worker Farm, published Maurin’s ideas and Catholic Worker activities and workers’ views in her paper. As word of this new Catholic social movement spread, earnest Catholics opened Catholic Worker farms and houses of hospitality across the nation.  Today, the paper she founded continues to be sold for the original price (a penny) and there are  227 Catholic Worker communities that remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms. 

On March 7-8, Catholic Workers and Catholic Worker scholars will gather at St. Thomas University to discuss the legacy and sanctity of Dorothy Day. The conference - funded by Trustee Wini and Joe Amaturo and developed by St. Thomas history professor and scholar on Catholic social doctrine Dr. Frank Sicius - will include people who knew Dorothy personally, including Martha Hennessy (her granddaughter), people who worked with her in New York such as Tom Cornell (who lived at the Worker house in New York and edited the Catholic Worker paper for many years), and Karl Meyer, who lived in The Worker House in New York before starting a house in Chicago.  The conference will also host important Catholic Worker scholars such as Robert Ellsberg, editor in chief of Orbis Press, who recently published selected sections of Day’s diaries.  Eminent Catholic historian David Obrien, who has described Dorothy Day as the most important American Catholic of the twentieth century, will also speak at the conference. St. Thomas University which was the final academic home of William Miller, Day’s biographer, also houses Miller’s papers, which he collected while writing both a biography of Day and a history of The Catholic Worker.  Many of these papers, which include original letters of Dorothy Day as well as typed sections of her diary, will be on display during the conference in the university library. 

For more information and to download a registration form, go to www.stu.edu/dorothyday.

Click here to view the full schedule of events