From Casa Juan Diego, Headquarters of the Houston Catholic Worker

Mark and Louise Zwick are the founding directors of Houston Catholic Worker in Texas, a local affiliate of the Catholic Worker movement founded in New York City by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933. 

Mark and Louise Zwick are the founding directors of Houston Catholic Worker in Texas, a local affiliate of the Catholic Worker movement founded in New York City by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933.

We are glad that you are coming to the United States. Your visit will encourage Catholics who sincerely want to live the Gospel, Catholics who have been discouraged, those who understand that the Gospel is first for the poor, and people of good will who seek the common good. We hope your challenges will be heard and hearts will be changed.

At Casa Juan Diego we have been receiving immigrants and refugees in our Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality for 35 years. Rather than curse the darkness when immigrants and refugees began pouring into Houston, we decided to serve them. We publish a bilingual newspaper, the Houston Catholic Worker, to tell their stories, address the causes of migration, and reflect on a Catholic response.

The immigrants are a hidden presence, often reviled, but quietly welcomed by employers for their inexpensive labor. We deeply appreciate your concern for them.

Often the migrants do not arrive. Many are kidnapped for ransom or fall to their deaths or are killed on the journey. Too many migrants who come to the United States seeking refuge from violence and to work to be able to feed their children are deported back to their countries. Women and children, as well as men, are detained under very difficult conditions before they are deported.

We receive those who have arrived safely. Daily, people in need who have nowhere to go come to our doors.

Housing people is our hardest work, since people are with us 24 hours a day. Sometimes 100 people are with us day and night and they may become ill, have babies, or have disagreements.

We provide food to hundreds of other families each week. Volunteer doctors in our medical clinics serve the undocumented poor.

We have a cooperative, where people can hire our immigrant workers.

We have two secrets that help us in our work. The first is Matthew 25 in the Bible, which tells us that what we do for others we do for Jesus. We are not serving José or Juan or Luis or Saba or Beatriz or Gloria, but Jesus himself in the disguise of the poor.

The second secret is that of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who founded the Catholic Worker movement. They inspire our work from heaven. This secret to Casa Juan Diego is voluntary poverty. All Catholic Workers give their work as a gift.

We are pro-life. We especially reach out to pregnant immigrant women. There are always babies at Casa Juan Diego. But we also serve the ill, the injured, who have nowhere to go.

Our biggest headache, our biggest challenge now, is the sick and injured person who has no insurance, no disability, and no way of getting help. Each day we are presented with immigrants who are seriously ill — mentally or physically — who have broken limbs or no limbs, or even more, broken heads or broken backs. Or they have been shot in the head or the back by thieves, have had a stroke, or been in a major car accident, and have no one to receive them. The paralyzed person, the very ill, cannot work, and the person who cares for them cannot work.

There is an epidemic of neglect. All of these people who can no longer work have been abandoned by society.

Each day, the hospitals of Houston call us to pay for the cost of housing the sick and injured so they can discharge them from the hospital. Families call or visit us when one of their loved ones has been in an accident and is now paralyzed.

We are able to help many because of the Catholic Worker volunteers who come to join in the work and the generosity of countless people who support our efforts.

May your presence and your words reach those who have much and those who govern and inspire them to create an economy without so much inequality. We especially hope your concern toward immigrants and refugees will resonate throughout your visit and lead to a just immigration reform that will help to end the destruction of immigrant families that is taking place through deportations.

—by Mark and Louise Zwick

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