Friday, June 8, 2012

Tucson sabbatical adventure

I have been in Tucson for since Tuesday.  As part of my sabbatical leave, I wanted to spend some time working with the poor.  Like most clergy, I spent a lot of time talking about serving the poor, but don't actually do much of it.  I considered a number of ways to do this--go to a third world country, etc, but finally decided to do something in Arizona.  I meet a Franciscan friar, Br David Buer, from Tucson at the Desert House of Prayer last year who told me about Poverello House, a "respite house" for homeless men that he helped to get started.

Since PH doesn't have a place to stay (except for the manager), I am living while here at Casa Mariposa, an intentional faith community consisting of mostly young people interested in spirituality and peace and justice issues.  There are about 8 of them living in former railway worker barracks right in Old Tucson. It was begun by our youngest Episcopal Vicar in Arizona, the Rev. Kate Bradsen and her partner Carol.  They take in guests like me as well as people who have been released from detention or who are seeking political asylum.

The work at PH has gone well.  Each day, ten men come by reservation from 8-4.  The house is small and can only handle that many.  They have breakfast, do laundry, take showers, and relax in the air conditioning, we also serve lunch (usually provided by a local eatery) as well as a sack lunch for dinner.  The day is spent reading, watching tv, or rolling cigarettes and smoking outside.  I help in whatever way I can--I have washed more dishes in a few days than I think I have in my whole life put together!  I also do laundry and clean toilets,  do a little help with cooking, and of course just chat with the "clients."  Each one has an interesting story to tell.

In addition to working at PH, my "mentor" Br Buer has made sure that I learn about those working with the homeless and other justice issues in Tucson.  We attended a meeting of the Samaritans, who do water drops in the desert, attended a vigil for migrant victims, went to a rally at City Hall in support of keeping the price of bus passes low, and folded newsletters for an anti-war group.  By coincidence (or Providence) I just happen to be reading a biography of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Workers Movement, so I have become thoroughly "radicalized."  Tomorrow I will meet with some Third Order Franciscans and on Monday, go with the Samaritans on a water drop near Ajo, AZ.

My time with the Casa Mariposa folks has been great too.  In so many simple ways they are living out their faith by their simple lifestyle and passion for the forgotten people of Tucson.  As good as the food has been here (vegan mostly), I am going to treat them all to dinner tonight, they deserve it!

12 comments:

Jane Gharibian said...

Thank you for not just talking the talk, but actually walking the walk. Also, my thanks for doing this work in Arizona. With the political climate here, where as much as possible is being cut from programs that even marginally benefit the poorest in the state, we need an example of aid to the poorest here among us. You are, at the least, an example for the Episcopal Church community.

Vicki Hesse said...

Many blessings on your ministry. Thank you for posting - very inspiring!

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