Catholic Workers at Maryhouse Help Feed Migrants With New Rooftop Garden

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

History is repeating itself at Maryhouse.

The items in the room where Dorothy Day lived and died have been frozen in time.

But up on the roof of the Lower East Side building, the Catholic Worker Movement is growing.

“There was a group of us that came together with just more of an interest in cultivating,” said Liam Myers, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement. “Like our connection to the earth, to plants, to what we grow, to what we eat.”

A new urban garden provides fresh produce for lunch Tuesday through Friday, served to more than 100 women and children. Many are newly arrived migrants. Myers harvests it and cooks with it.

“As we’re trying to feed people, as we’re trying to care for the poor, we’re just trying to be more attuned, knowing that better listening to the Earth is a way to better listen to each other,” Myers said.

The idea for the urban garden, home to herbs, leafy greens, and soon some vegetables, was started this spring. Pope Francis’ encyclicals planted the seed.

“We draw a lot of inspiration from Pope Francis. So the group also read Laudate Deum, which was kind of his update to Laudato Si,” Myers said. “And we think a lot about this connection between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

“I think that as we recover a sensitivity to our place in the earth, which Pope Francis calls us to do in Laudato Si, in no doubt today, we recover our humanity,” said Jim Robinson, a religious studies professor at Iona University.

Robinson volunteers at Maryhouse a few days a week. He says that connection to the earth is part of the lifecycle of the Catholic Worker Movement.

“It’s all an integral ecology, as Pope Francis puts it,” Robinson said. “So to be able to offer fresh kale or lettuce, that’s just like a beautiful and very tangible expression of our desire to reclaim, to remember our humanity.”

The garden is an old-school approach to a new way of thinking.

“Having the space to think about what ingredients are going in and to be able to grow some of that, we’re grounded in Catholic social teaching and we’re grounded in our faith too,” Robinson said.

In a place where radical inclusion flows freely, where Dorothy Day lived out her grassroots mission, faith still lives in this house and above it.

“Perhaps she would, like us, envision us to kind of carry on that work in that movement,” Myers said.

Many of the women and children Maryhouse feeds are newly arrived migrants who rely on the Catholic Worker community for food, clothes, and other resources.

More than 180,000 migrants have settled in New York City in the last two years.