If there is such a thing as a “typical” Catholic Worker House, you’re likely imagining an intentional community of volunteers and/or staff, living with those whom they serve. An ideal CW Farm would include the same, with a strong focus on working the land. After all, this is what Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin had envisioned. Be that as it may, the Appalachian Catholic Worker is a solo act, whether unconsciously contrived or providentially prescribed. I’ve combined some eremitic monasticism with outreach ministries and half-hearted attempts at gardening in the woods. I realize this may cause our co-founders to be on rotisserie in their graves and disappoint some of you who might be looking for a more “traditional” CW community in which to live and serve, but it’s been working for me thus far, so I’ve just been going with it.
I can admit, though, that it hasn’t come without its challenges or surprises. After I came to West Virginia in 2000, I had to bounce around, care-taking or renting farms, with no place for me or my ministries to call “home.” Finally, in 2007, with the generous offer to purchase a chunk of his own land at no interest, I was able to set up a tiny house next door to Bill Reichenbach. Since then, my programs have spread out over our combined properties. I host the people, and Bill cares for the land and buildings. Without his overwhelming generosity and belief in what I do, I would likely still be floundering. So, despite his eremitic attempts, Bill is a core member of my nebulous Catholic Worker “community.”
As I just made apparent, I have broadened the definition of “community.” This one consists of Bill and me, who live here full-time, many people who come and go, and many who have never been here: other Catholic Workers, neighbors in the hollers, friends across the country, and supporters worlds away. In fact, if you’re learning about me/us/this for the first time… POOF! Congratulations! You are now part of our extended community! Welcome! Despite whether you visit or not, what your purposes are, or how you become involved, it is our hope that your experiences with the Appalachian Catholic Worker feel all-inclusive and lead you to greater self-understanding, worldly love, and a oneness with creation and its Creator.
For more information on the history and other influential extended community members, see the 10th Anniversary issue of the Inner Voice.