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A Catholic Place and You Don’t Have a Couple of Miracles at Hand? Well, maybe.


Jesus and Casa Juan Diego
by Angel Valdez

Not so long ago, we received a call from a hospital in southwest Houston. When the social worker said, I need a miracle, we responded, “We don’t do miracles.” Shocked, she exclaimed: “What, a Catholic place, and you don’t have one or two miracles on hand?”  Well, what is it that you need? “We have a mother who had a baby yesterday,” the social worker said. “She also has a one-year-old and a four-year-old and has nowhere to go. She is undocumented, has one year in the United States. “

It wasn’t exactly a miracle, unless one considers the fact that Casa Juan Diego still exists after 40 years a miracle, but we said yes, and welcomed another new family. Other guests helped with the children and in making our new guest comfortable.

Not Despair, but Works of Mercy

With all the turmoil in the past year and the past month and the pandemic, one could despair. We have chosen instead to focus on the fourteen Works of Mercy. We remember Dorothy’s words:

Fr. John J. Hugo used to remind us that ‘He who says he has done enough has already perished…’ and ‘You love God as much as the one you love the least.’ I recall his words often. He has been a great influence on the lives of our Catholic Workers.”– Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, Oct./Nov. 1978

Living the Eucharist: Literally Loaves and Fishes (Not too many fishes…)

When the Lord saw 5,000+ people in need of food, he multiplied the few loaves and fishes at hand into food for all and with the help of his disciples gave the food to the people.

The need for food during the past months has been never-ending. The possibility of providing take-home food for those who come to our doors does seem, at times, miraculous. We buy food when needed to supplement, but food appears each day to feed the hungry.

One person buys thousands of pounds of pinto bean to help the poor of Casa Juan Diego, another person buys tortillas each week, and one person sends fresh produce each week, not to mention the Houston Food Bank which has provided large quantities of food for many months. Lacking another source, Casa Juan Diego buys the rice.

Sometimes exhausted, Catholic Workers, part-time volunteers and our guests each day and every day prepare the bags of food to be distributed. As soon as they are prepared, people arrive for the bags of food and more must be prepared.

Our clinics

We are hoping to open our clinics again soon. We have been doing medicine refills for months, sending patients to the lab when necessary, but will hope to see patients in person soon, when vaccines take effect.

We are an also a pharmacy for some emergency rooms.

Frequently, people come to us with prescriptions in hand, asking for help in purchasing them. We do, unless it is an astronomically expensive medicine, like some cancer medications. They have been to the emergency room, but were not given medication, just a prescription, and cannot afford to buy the medications.

Reimagining our guest bedrooms

A volunteer couple, after cleaning and preparing a bedroom for a new family of women and children, saw that the bedrooms were showing the wear and tear of many years and many families having lived in them. The couple has been coming each weekend to paint, and we have searched out some new furniture (such as narrow chests of drawers for the rooms to replace now dilapidated ones) with the help of our readers. One of our guests who is skilled has helped by preparing each room for painting.

What About the Children? What About the Families?

“Could you help me get my children to me in Houston?” Even in a few cases in which the government is willing to send children to a sponsor, the children cannot leave detention and go to the family or family friends unless someone pays for the plane fare, not only for the children, but for a social worker to accompany them.  When a mother called last week asking for help with the cost of flying her children to Houston, with the help of our readers we were able to assist with the cost of almost $1,500. ICE had told the mother that they could come with her sponsorship, but she would have to pay the transportation. When the children, ages 9 and 7 years old, arrived, the family brought them to meet us. A joy. They were small and thin.

We have been able to accept a few families from a family detention center when ICE has called. We have to be cautious about giving shelter to new people because of COVID, but in these cases ICE has had the people tested and sent them to Houston through the transportation of their own contractor.

We have been praying for the families, now homeless, waiting in Mexico in the hope of court dates in the United States, as well as for the many children deported alone and whose parents have never been found after families were separated by our government. This reflection from Ezekiel reminds us that not only are people of good will horrified by this treatment of refugee children, but the Lord himself will seek out the lost and punish the sleek and strong who have scattered them. May he find the children and their families and comfort them in ways unknown to us:

   Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. As for you, my flock, this is what the Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-18).

May the Lord comfort all those migrants who are lost and scattered and alone or alone with their families, for it appears that only a handful of human beings are caring for the multitudes.


Houston Catholic Worker, January-March, 2021, Vol. XLI, No. 1.