Community News

by Vernon 'Ted' Walker

I am sure that most of you readers will be disappointed not to find Carla as the author of the Community News article for this issue (as am I!) It has been a running joke between her and me that I would write it once for her - and now after almost two years here, I am finally scratching my head and jotting notes. It is written, however, under somewhat sad circumstances - this may be the last via pacis issue (for a little while at least) that I will be an active part of the DM Catholic Worker community. I am drawn back east, closer to my family from whom I have been away for six years now. I hope you will forgive me for departing from Carla's usual format as I write some reflections along with the community news.

Vern 'Ted' Walker

It just so happened that soon after I moved into the community, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the House. Invited to speak were two former community members, Carmen Trotta and Joanne Kennedy, both currently living at the New York City Worker. What Joanne said was, for me, unforgettable. Describing her varying Catholic Worker experiences, she said that she learned the ins and outs of Catholic Worker doctrine while in LA, but what it means to live in community while in Des Moines. Yes, Joanne, I, too, have had an incredible experience here learning about and living in this community. Likewise, it is the uniqueness of this community relationship that my cousin, Graham, returns to for extended visits (coincidentally hitting the major holiday feasts highlighted by Carla's greens!) in an attempt to capture this quality on film for a documentary. He is having as much difficulty in film as I am having now with words. Can it be portrayed artistically this amazing experience or must it only be lived? This is a question that will challenge me the rest of my life. But allow me to go about answering this question indirectly by giving news in the form of thank you's.

Thank you, Fran and Mike Fuller, Mark Lindahl and all who have struggled with me blindly, save brief moments of illumination, through the weekly reading of Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. It has been both a challenge and above all an immense joy to lead a discussion on this fantastic novel.

Thank you, Frank, for being so steadfast, passionate and open with your beliefs. You are a model of courage like I have never known.

Thank you, Norman, for always opening my eyes to your wonderful perspective on the goings-on near and far, lessons learned during your daily reflections and how they ring true to problems half way across the world. I will undoubtedly be a faithful follower of your "Whereabouts" as I know many are!

Thank you, Eddie B., for living daily and embodying the strengths, struggles, and passion of the humble life. I will dearly miss our conversations on life and art, our walk and, of course, "shooting ducks" with you.

To our witness in Chiapas: Richard, congratulations on your marriage to Araceli. Claire, you continue to amaze us all. You are experiencing some priceless and unforgettable days living in a native community outside the main city of San Cristobal. Thank you so much for sharing your reflections with us. We also can't wait for your return home.

Josh and Jordan - Thank you for letting me sleep peacefully on most mornings. Julius, thanks for sometimes maintaining that brotherly peace! You are a light and joy in your mom's life. Josh, you will make your mom proud at Scattergood, develop and explore your art seriously, passionately, and you will discover amazing things about yourself and the world. Jordan, keep tearing up those books. Expect to write some "book reports" for me when I am swamped at graduate school!

To all extended community goes my most admirable thanks. Without you, the house couldn't run and our community would not be as joyful. Weekly/monthly hugs and laughs with all of you have kept me smiling through even my lowest moments. I owe my faith to you. One of my favorite parts of Brothers Karamazov is when Alyosha realizes that Jesus' first miracle was one of joy - the wedding at Cana of Galilee. "Not grief, but men's joy Christ visited when he worked his first miracle, he helped men's joy…" Each of your dedication to our community and work is just such a miracle to me.

Jerry, I will never forget your words of wisdom and sayings. I am sure to be using a few all the time especially, "They don't pay me enough to think." Irving, I discovered your secret to staying sane while living in a crazy community -- being up at 4 in the morning, the only time the house is silent except for G (the cat) hunting down the mice. I have found that to be the best time to recollect myself and prepare for a new day.

Finally, to Jackie and Carla: I do not know where to begin. You have accepted me not only into the community, not only into your home, but also into your family. This has been the greatest experience in my life. I love you both so very much. You have given me such strength, such respect for myself, that I am truly a new man because of your care. I will take your love wherever I go. But know this, know this as surely as you know my love for you: that I need you both to be in my life, I need you both to be with me even though I may be far away. I am truly scared for just as I am moving in order to reunite a family, I will be stretching another, the one we formed here. Life is so strange, wonderful, sad and joyful in this mysterious way.

With other experiences in my life, I have realized that, paradoxically, I cannot understand the full impact of the lessons I have learned until I have moved on. It is only by seeing myself in another environment that I discover how much I have changed. Yet it is always an incredibly tough decision to make a move as such. More so, I am convinced that such a decision is impossible to weigh and choose according to positive and negatives. Milan Kundera accurately explored this idea in his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being: "There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold."

I am not leaving this community knowing all there is to learn from these incredible people. I am leaving like a fool, but hopefully, a better fool than when I first arrived. And, in fact, despite the popular belief, I am not "leaving" the community, but merely extending it to New York. There is a man who is moving into the community tonight as I write this article. His name is Elton Davis, and he will be a new and much needed energy (to use a term some traveling friends of ours once used). Anyhow, he has already coined the most accurate slogan for this DM Catholic Worker community: "Ruined for Life!" Yes, ruined. Yet ruined, I believe, in this Gospel sense: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24

Forgive me once again for this jumbled community news article. It was written in the midst of some laughter and some tears. Please look forward (with me!) to the next issue and finding Carla once again behind the typewriter.