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Hospitality at Casa Juan Diego

by Angel Valdez

In November 2017, after having completed two years in Honduras as a volunteer at “The Farm of the Child” (a Catholic home for children), I was encouraged to come to Casa Juan Diego.  Louise Zwick opened the door for me and presently I am very privileged to live at, and be a part of, this one-of-a-kind special Catholic Worker House.  Today I am able to look back and ponder some truly grace-filled moments.

On this Candlemas Day, I read “a light for revelation to the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:32) and “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Mat 5:16.)  St. Francis says we must be simple, humble and pure.  We should never desire to be over others. Instead we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake.  Now, after having quoted these three great saints, let me attempt to tell you a few special stories that have touched my heart as a Catholic Worker here at Casa Juan Diego.

Over the past two years, I have had the great joy of meeting and working with women and children from a myriad of different countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Congo, Yemen, Angola, Cameroon, and Nigeria.  At first it was quite overwhelming to hear their stories in so many different languages – French, Portuguese, Swahili, and Spanish.  Although there are vast differences between these cultures, I am learning that they also have a great deal in common. Some of these women and children have taken more than six months to arrive here and they have suffered greatly; they know full well about physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial pain. They grieve the losses of country, family, friends, climate.  They have no idea whether or not they will ever see their family or country in the future.  Fear of the unknown consumes them.

It is important that we make these guests feel welcome and as comfortable as possible, relieving some of their fears. When they arrive at Casa Juan Diego, I find that they are so grateful to just receive a clean room and shower and some clean clothes.  Frequently food doesn’t even seem that important to them as they are so depleted emotionally and physically from their long journeys.  However, in order to placate the incoming children, we give each of them a toy, such as a new stuffed animal; this is only possible because of the gifts and donations that come to us every day.

Daily Miracles

We see little miracles every day.  Sometimes our women just need time to purge and cry.

How blessed we are to have the volunteers who make themselves available to listen and give support.  And frequently, the timing is just perfect!  Let me share with you an incident that happened very recently. One of the women was begging me to let her use our coffee grinder to mash  up food for her baby.  No extra grinder was available so I had to refuse her.  She went on and on.  Within minutes the front door bell rang and when I opened the door there’s a gentleman standing there with two baby blenders that he wanted to donate.  I will never forget that mother’s screams of excitement and joy when I introduced her to that kind gentleman and told her what he had donated!

New Arrivals

On occasion I have accompanied our pregnant women to the hospital. In early January, one of the women from Honduras knocked on my door at 12:30 in the morning, advising me that she was in labor.  Off to the hospital we rushed.  What a delight it was for me to watch the birth of her 8-pound daughter at 5:30 am. Such joy for everyone!. As I drove back into our parking lot at 6:15 AM, there were already people in line for our clinic.  It was time for me to brush my teeth and start a new day!

Another great memory for me was when one of our ladies from Angola went to the hospital to give birth to her fourth child. The next morning her seven-year-old son thoroughly cleaned their room, mopping the floor.  He folded and put away their clean laundry and arranged the stuffed animals on his little brothers’ beds.  Then he came to the office and asked for a card.  When we gave him some construction paper and colored pencils in order to make a card, he shook his head and said that he wanted a Christmas card. I thought to myself, how appropriate!  This truly was one of our holy families here at our home.

Difficulty with the  Works of Mercy

One of my most difficult jobs at Casa Juan Diego is answering the constant ringing of the front doorbell with people requesting food, medicine, referrals to shelters, adult diapers, wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, etc.  It is not always easy to do these works of mercy. On a more positive note, that front doorbell also is rung by people with many donations.  Sorting donations can also be a difficult, “loving task” because there are many marvelous things that come to us (some not so marvelous).  We are most grateful for the variety of things we receive, and as Louise reminds us, “We are also doing a service for the people who do not know what to do with all their stuff.”  Daily I am reminded time and again of the Works of Mercy – both Corporal Works and Spiritual Works:

by Rita Corbin

Corporal Works of Mercy, Spiritual Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry

Instruct the ignorant

Give drink to the thirsty

Counsel the doubtful

Clothe the naked

Admonish the sinner

Shelter the homeless

Forgive injuries

Visit the sick

Comfort the sorrowful

Visit the imprisoned

Bear wrongs patiently

Bury the dead

Pray for the living and the dead


Daily we transport women to appointments such as with immigration, the YMCA, airports, Catholic Charities, Greyhound bus terminals, doctors, hospitals, schools, lawyers, clinics, etc.  Many touching, sad, and brave stories are revealed and shared with us, often as we drive.  It is an honor to be an integral part of this experience and with God’s help we pray that their healing is beginning.  We continually strive to keep our house safe and welcoming.


I also work in the clinic, where we see a multitude of undocumented people receiving medical and dental care.  Our patients are so happy to see the doctors, get prescriptions for medications with refills, and have lab/blood/ultrasound work performed when necessary.  Our volunteer doctors and volunteer staff are passionate about giving their time to the clinic.  The patients always leave feeling better because they know that we care and that their needs are important to us.

This year I celebrate my 75th birthday.  How thankful I am to God for keeping me healthy and sound so that I am able to serve.  God is good!

I will end with a quote from Dorothy Day:

The older I get, the more I meet people, the more convinced I am that we must  only work on ourselves to grow in grace.  The only thing we can do about people is to love them.”

Also, a special quote from St. Therese of Lisieux:

            “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”


Houston Catholic Worker, April-June, 2019, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2