Dorothy Day was working as a reporter for socialist publications in New York City when the faith and commitment of her three Catholic roommates made an impression on her. In 1927 she converted to Roman Catholicism herself. After reporting on a Hunger March in 1932, Day went to Washington’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray. She later wrote that she “offered up a special prayer…which came with tears and anguish, that some way would open up for me to use what talents I possessed…for the poor.”
The next morning, she met Peter Maurin, a Franciscan who encouraged her to bring attention to Catholic social thought and offer uniquely Catholic solutions to social ills. Captivated by the suggestion, Day financed the production and publication of a newspaper she called the Catholic Worker, whose first edition appeared in 1933. In the pages of the Worker, Day offered her unique synthesis of Catholic social thought. Her religious-political vision resonated in that era, and the paper was an instant success.
Soon Day was not just describing but acting. She opened two houses in New York for the destitute and the difficult, where those offering assistance and those needing assistance lived together in simple circumstances as equals. These establishments were partially funded by the wages of those who lived there, plus financial and in-kind donations from donors across the city.
Today there are 217 Catholic Worker communities located throughout North America and Europe. Each serves a particular neighborhood in its own way. More than three decades after Day’s death, her vision is still alive as a Christian social movement.
- Dorothy Day biography, learningtogive.org/papers/paper86.html
- Catholic Worker Movement perspective, catholicworker.org/dorothyday/ddbiographytext.cfm?Number=72