WEST JORDAN — Saint Joseph the Worker Parish honored its patron saint, the one-year anniversary of the building of their new church and Servant of God Dorothy Day during a two-day celebration April 30 and May 1.
Senator Karen Mayne, County Mayor Peter Corroon, other dignitaries and people from throughout the diocese came to learn about the importance of labor unions and meet guest speaker Martha Hennessy, Dorothy Day’s granddaughter. Also among the speakers were Judy Barnett, Utah AFL-CIO communications director and Ron Yengich, a defense attorney and Cathedral of the Madeleine parishioner.
"Our parish was started by displaced miners, farmers, migrant workers and laborers," said Father Patrick Carley, St. Joseph the Worker pastor. "We still are a working-class parish and the fundamental right of the worker is so deeply imbedded in our Catholic social teaching and our heritage."
Dorothy Day was born in 1897 and died in 1980 and is expected to be named a saint one day, said Anne Kurek, St. Joseph the Worker administrator and secretary. "Dorothy Day, herself, said ‘Don’t call me a saint,’ because she didn’t want to be dismissed so easily.’"
Day was dedicated to the needs of the working-class poor and the homeless. Peter Maurin, a former Christian brother and Day’s cofounder in starting the Catholic Worker Movement, convinced her to start a newspaper to publicize Catholic social teaching and promote steps to bring about the peaceful transformation of society. The Catholic Worker movement supported the works of mercy, and Day opened her apartment to 10 homeless women, which eventually grew into 33 Catholic Worker houses across the country.
Hennessy, the seventh of nine children born to Tamar, Day’s only child, said the family was always involved in the Catholic Worker Movement and would spend summers at the Tivoli Farm in New York. Hennessy, an occupational therapist, divides her time between her home in Vermont and the Mary House Catholic Worker in New York.
"Dorothy was a regular granny," Hennessy said. "She really kept things plain and simple and real, although she was feisty. I understood that she was a very special person. We could just sit and listen to her stories for hours; her voice resonated and she was so engaging. As I became a teenager, I became more uncomfortable with her piety and religiosity. I fell away from the church until I was 50, but inevitably there were all these tiny seeds that Dorothy had planted in my mind that were later watered with joy and pain. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for my mother and my grandmother."
Hennessy said the greatest lesson she learned from her grandmother was love. "Love is what will save us all; love is the only answer no matter what," she said. "Dorothy didn’t want to be put up on a pedestal, but she did remind us there’s a lot of work to be done and she invited us to participate in it. Dorothy and Peter firmly believed that you share your life with the poor; you dedicate yourself to voluntary poverty with those who are in involuntary poverty."
Day’s strength drove the Catholic Worker Movement and the idea of social justice in the early 20th century to the present, said Yengich, who has taught a class at the University of Utah on the progression of individual’s rights in the criminal justice system and the distinction between the Protestant work ethic and workers being expendable, and included the teachings of Dorothy Day.
"You can’t think about the oppression of people inside or outside the courts without speaking of Dorothy Day," Yengich said. "She sanctifies justice for everyone through her life."
Barnett said everyone must continue to fight for just wages, fair working conditions, adequate benefits and security in old age. "Since Pope Leo XII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Catholic Church has been a strong supporter of worker’s rights, including the right to organize," she said.