FINDING HOPE IN PRISON

The following is a reflection written by our sister house–the Guadalupe Catholic Worker co-founder Tensie Hernandez, who spent one week in federal prison for a nonviolent direct action last August at Vandenberg Air Force Base during a vigil commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This reflection was originally published in the Beatitude House Newsletter

By Tensie Hernandez

The marshal took one look at me and asked, “What is this you’re wearing?” “It’s my prayer shawl,” I said sheepishly, thinking he would ask me to remove it.

“Well, I guess it’s okay since you have a right to keep a religious article of clothing while we’re processing you,” he said while handcuffing me. I couldn’t have been any more surprised but grateful to have this shawl with me for the next six hours as I was transferred from holding cell to holding cell, waiting to be led to the Metropolitan Detention Center where I would be for the next seven days.

The shawl was given to me by my community the day before at a liturgy where I received their blessing and sending forth. It was the same community that also stood alongside me at the gates of Vandenberg Air Force Base on the 73rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, when we cried out for an end to the madness of nuclear weapons and their testing, and I crossed the green line. With the shawl around me, I felt the love and prayers from them and many others who affirmed the decision. The holding cells are, if nothing else, a place to wait. In the cold concrete cells, one enters into a certain space where the anticipation of what is to come along with the fresh memories of what was just lived come together in a kind of vortex that leaves one feeling hollow inside. It is an invitation to pray. And that is exactly what I did.

Arriving on the prison floor, I was greeted with the barking orders of the guard telling me to carry my mattress to the cell assigned to me. Immediately, a young woman prisoner ran over and offered her assistance in carrying the mattress. Having made it to the cell, another woman offered pants and a shirt as gifts so that I could remove the oversized jump suit that had replaced my street clothes and shawl taken from me minutes before. After initial exchanges and welcome from the three women in the cell, food was then offered. Within the first 15 minutes of being in federal prison, I was greeted with kindness, clothing and food; all offered by the ones this society says are despicable enough to cage like animals.

In a country where so much lip service is given assuring us of our collective freedom, those imprisoned are often considered pariahs. Incarceration is the trump card held by authorities wanting us to comply or else. But the prisons that cage our bodies can often be more secure than the ones that cage our spirits. The women in my cell had a certain freedom that could not and would not be confined. Many of the women, for example, had no one to give them extra money to put on their books and so they shared with one another. Elaborate meals were created with each putting in something from their commissary. I learned that you can even make Pozole (a traditional Mexican soup that’s usually made with hominy) using corn-nuts soaked in water! The letters that arrived for the few would be shared among the many and all would celebrate the pictures of the babies or other family members being passed around.

As I observed all of this, the richness of humanity overwhelmed me and inevitably I would start crying at the sense of wonder and awe in observing the Kin-dom of God created among the women at M.D.C! Often they would gather around me wanting to console me as they thought I was crying because I missed home. I hadn’t anticipated finding renewed hope in humanity in prison and yet there it was together with the noise, sensory deprivation and confinement.

It is no accident that Jesus was born in a stable; that our Savior shared space with the cows and farm animals and that he had only his parents and the shepherds to celebrate his arrival into this world. God’s genius of incarnated love in the place you least expect it – incarcerated! Unexpectedly, Advent arrived early for me. I’m sure Judge LaMothe who imposed this “punishment” had no idea she was gifting me with a window into the mystery of God; One who wants to be born in a stable, in prison, in soup kitchens, in refugee camps, in the fields with the farm-workers. The radiant star that guides us is suffering humanity. The bad news, it’s everywhere. The Good News, it’s everywhere!

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2019/01/17/finding-hope-in-prison

LMU Bellermine Forum Presents: A Play By Catholic Worker Dennis Apel – NOTE NEW TIME AND LOCATION.

Crossing the Line: Featuring Dennis Apel, co-founder of the Guadalupe Catholic Worker, and Deborah Tobola, founding artistic director of Poetic Justice Project

Dennis Apel is a longtime antiwar activist and the co-founder, along with his wife Tensie Hernandez, of our sister house Catholic Worker community in Guadalupe, CA. In 2016, Apel and LACW Jeff Dietrich, served four months in federal prison for “crossing the line” during a protest at Vandenberg Air Force Base marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and then refusing to comply with probation.

In “Crossing the Line,” Deborah Tobola weaves together a narrative using journal entries written by Apel during his imprisonment that were originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent. Formerly incarcerated actors from Poetic Justice Project help bring the story of this longtime peace activist to life in a play that is authentic and accessible.

WHEN: Thursday, January 31, at 7:30 pm – Reception from 6:30– 7:30 p.m.

WHERE:  Loyola Marymount University

William H. Hannon Library, Von der Ahe Family Suite, Level 3

1 LMU Drive

Los Angeles, California 90045

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2019/01/10/enjoy-a-play-by-catholic-worker-dennis-apel

Karán Founds-Benton Memorial

Karán’s celebration of life memorial will be held on Saturday, January 26 from 11 am to 1:30 pm in Mission Viejo. Please call Sarah at the LACW – 323-770-4168, for location and to RSVP on or before Friday, January 18, that Karán’s family can plan accordingly. Thank you.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2019/01/02/karan-founds-benton-memorial

2019 Summer Intern Program Applications Now Available

Applications for the 2019 LACW Summer Intern Program are now being accepted.

This year’s summer program will begin on Monday, July 1 and end on Sunday, August 11. Please submit applications no later than March 1, 2019. Thank you.

To download the application and learn more about our Summer Program see our INTERN OPPORTUNITIES page.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2019/01/02/2019-summer-intern-program-applications-now-available

LACW Attends Skid Row Memorial

On Friday, December 21, LACW community members attended the annual Homeless Memorial for all Skid Row residents who died over the past year. Although the names of those associated with the Hippie Kitchen were not printed in the program, Catherine read the names of our guests at the Hippie Kitchen, along with our own Karán Founds-Benton. With each person named Catherine gave a brief background of who that person was. It was a nice ceremony to remember and honor our departed sisters and brothers. May they rest in peace.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/26/lacw-attends-skid-row-memorial

An LACW Christmas Blessing

This is our tree this year, and below is what the season is about: Welcoming, honoring, and following the Son of God, Emmanuel (God with us), who is the Prince of Peace, our Exemplar, and fulfilling the work he began in spreading the nonviolent Kin-dom of God.

Merry Christmas to all along with many blessings, and, of course, PEACE!

May each of us tirelessly work that we may enjoy peace with justice at all times.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/19/an-lacw-christmas-wish

Christmas Holiday Schedule

Please note that Hospitality Kitchen (aka Hippie Kitchen) is closed on Saturday, December 22. However, the garden will be open with coffee and Christmas treats if you are interested in helping.

We will be closed Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25, will reopen on Thursday, December 27. We will also be closed on New Years Day, Tuesday, January 1, will reopen on Thursday, January 3.

Also, we DO NOT accept volunteers working for school service requirements or other forms of community service hours until the week after Christmas. We do not have space to accommodate the many people who wish to volunteer during this time period.

Thank you. Happy holidays. May your Christmas season be safe and filled with many blessings and much joy, happiness, and love.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/13/christmas-holiday-schedule

Angel City Chorale Performs At Hippie Kitchen

On Saturday, December 8, the Angel City Chorale made their annual visit to Skid Row to sing Christmas Carols in our dining garden. Everyone present from guests eating in the garden, to volunteers and community members, clearly enjoyed their uplifting performance.

This year, as in the past, they had a variety of songs from old classics to newer originals. And as is the custom, near the end of the concert they spread out among the tables and invited everyone to join in a sing-a-long. The entire concert was a wonderful treat.

We thank you, Angel City Chorale, for again making time to visit our garden and spread the holiday spirit. Blessings upon all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hope to see you again next year.

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/11/angel-city-chorale-performs-at-hippie-kitchen-2

LACW Attends Burial Of L.A. County Unclaimed Dead

On Wednesday, December 5, under gray skies and cool and windy conditions, LACW community members were part of a group of approximately 200 people who attended an interfaith graveside memorial service honoring 1,467 people whose bodies were unclaimed in 2015 and cremated. Some may have been people we served at our Skid Row soup kitchen or other houseless sisters and brothers, others were individuals whose families were too poor to claim them and pay the cremation expenses, while others had no known family to grieve for them.

The annual service, held since the 1890’s, is conducted at Evergreen Cemetery near our house in Boyle Heights, and is organized by our longtime friend, Fr. Chris Ponnet, head chaplain at L.A. County – U.S.C. Hospital. Over the past dozen plus years, the numbers of attendees has steadily increased from about fifteen people to nearly two hundred this year.

Prayers were offered in English, Spanish, Korean, and Fijian, along with a Muslim text by representatives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths. A Native American woman chanted, and a man played classical music on an oboe in between prayers. Some people brought a single flower, others bouquets of flowers, yet others some sort of offering, with sage and incense being burned.

While the rich and powerful have lengthy ceremonies with lots of attention, accolades, and honor, receiving international coverage, the poorest of the poor are also remembered in a simple service attended by strangers who care enough to uphold their dignity as God’s children not to be forgotten.

Photo by Matt Harper



Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/09/lacw-attends-burial-of-l-a-county-unclaimed-dead

46th Annual St. Paul High School March For Hunger

On a beautiful, sunny, and pleasant Sunday, December 2, the LACW had its only annual fundraiser, the St. Paul High School (in suburban Santa Fe Springs) March For Hunger. The walk is actually a Marathon as it is slightly more than 26 miles.

This is year 46 for the walk that included nearly 400 students, faculty, alumni, and eight Catholic Workers who joined in at the spot where we gathered, except for Kaleb Havens, who did the entire walk.

We are exceedingly grateful for all the walkers, St. Paul High School, and the money they raise to operate our soup kitchen. A big THANK YOU! and Many blessings. See more photos HERE.


Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/06/46th-annual-st-paul-high-school-march-for-hunger

December 2018 Agitator

Here is the DECEMBER Catholic Agitator

In This Issue: 

CHRISTMAS 2018 APPEAL

  • It’s Like Eden To Me by Jeff Dietrich
  • Karán Founds-Benton – R.I.P 
  • A Little Prophecy by Karán Founds-Benton
  • Meet A Guest Volunteer by Kaleb Havens
  • Skid Row Friends by Matt Harper
  • The Work They Do Is Fulfilling by Mayer Cook-Tonkin
  • Arlington West Memorial by Benny Mattis
  • Learning To Love By Serving Others by Romario Quijano
  • J.C. The Iceman by Kaleb Haven
  • Spigot by Karán Founds-Benton


Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/12/02/december-2018-agitator

LACW Karan Founds-Benton 1955 – 2018 R.I.P.

The LACW will have a memorial service for Karan at this Wednesday’s liturgy at 6pm (November 28). We have not yet heard from her family about funeral arrangements, but will post them here when matters are finalized.

It is with great sadness that we announce that our beloved LACW community member Karán Founds-Benton joined the Heavenly Cloud of Witnesses on Sunday, November 25, 2018. Karán recently gave up her three-year battle with stage four cancer, and with the approval of her doctors, stopped all treatment, except for pain medication. In mid-November she moved out of Hennacy House and went into hospice care with her family. Karán died peacefully in her sleep. She was 63.

When first diagnosed with cancer she was given approximately six months to live. Rejecting the usual chemo therapy and radiation treatments, she chose alternative forms of treatment and lived far beyond anyone’s expectations. She had a bucket list that she was dedicated to completing before passing, and was able to fulfill nearly all of her wishes and dreams.

A former teacher, Karán joined the LACW in 2013 after spending time at an Iowa Catholic Worker and immediately became active in a variety of projects including our clothes distribution, toiletries inventory, and footcare. She also was a periodic lay celebrant at our weekly liturgies.

Karán was dedicated to our war, nuclear weapons, and drone resistance efforts and was arrested several times up until one month before she died. Karán was also a poet, actor, and writer. She recently had a book of her poetry published and was working on a novel. Karán also loved singing, playing guitar, listening to symphony music and opera.

Along with the LACW community, Karán leaves behind a daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. Thank you, Karán, for the love, comfort, joy, and happiness you brought to the many lives you touched in various ways. You will be deeply missed. R.I.P.

KARAN FOUNDS-BENTON – ¡PRESENTE!

 

Permanent link to this article: http://lacatholicworker.org/2018/11/25/lacw-karan-founds-benton-r-i-p