Editor's Report

At Mass for Young Adults, Dorothy Day’s Cause Will Be a Focus


As the diocesan phase of her cause for canonization draws to a close, Dorothy Day probably would have felt right at home at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral to mark the occasion.

The Mass, to be offered by Cardinal Dolan on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Wednesday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m., will also be his Advent liturgy celebrated with the archdiocese’s Young Adult community.

Last week, George Horton, who is one of the vice postulators of Dorothy Day’s cause, told me that she “loved young people,” and that many of those she met considered her “critical to their vocations in life.”

The Catholic Worker movement is sometimes regarded metaphorically as “a school for young people,” Horton said. If that were the case, then Ms. Day, who co-founded and led the Catholic Worker for 47 years, would have to be considered the chief instructor.

As a journalist and editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper, questions were her stock in trade, and one of her favorites, especially to young subjects, was: And who are you?

“People would reflect on that question,” said Horton, a longtime employee of archdiocesan Catholic Charities who expects to attend the Mass with his wife, Carolyn, who found herself on the receiving end of the very same question when she spoke to Dorothy Day by phone in her post-college years.

The archdiocesan Young Adult Outreach office has been fostering greater familiarity with Ms. Day. On Nov. 15, it promoted a Theology on Tap NYC evening at Immaculate Conception parish in Manhattan led by Sean and Monica Domencic of the Catholic Worker movement.

Topics featured Dorothy Day, community and voluntary poverty, and the notice posted on Catholic NYC asked those coming to consider bringing a blanket or two for the New York Catholic Worker community.

“We have a lot who know her (Dorothy Day), and others who don’t,” said Colin Nykaza, director of Young Adult Outreach.

At the Mass, Horton said Ms. Day’s granddaughter Martha Hennessy will give one of the readings, and members of the Catholic Worker movement will bring forth the offertory gifts.

He also said that one or two boxes of Dorothy Day’s papers and other personal materials soon to be transported to Rome will be symbolically sealed at the Mass.

Her writings were considerable in both substance and heft as more than 100 volunteers helped to transcribe her handwritten journals and diaries measuring 32 square feet, and often the writings were a source of “transformation in their lives,” Horton said. A team of Ignatian Volunteers then reviewed their work.

That type of cooperative spirit has long marked efforts on behalf of Dorothy Day’s cause, he said. Back in the late 1990s, Cardinal John O’Connor, then archbishop of New York, asked Horton to convene a group of people, many who knew Ms. Day personally, to ask for their thoughts about her becoming a saint.

“It’s been an incredible cooperative effort by various parts of the Church. This is one of the really gratifying things,” said Horton, who has coordinated the guild for many years. In addition to Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Edward Egan, and Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, a New York priest who is the other vice postulator, Horton cited various members of the Catholic Worker movement who have also supported the cause.

With Dorothy Day’s work with and on behalf of the poor as a guide, Horton said efforts have been made to hold down costs associated with the cause. “We’ve tried to keep the spirit of Dorothy Day in the process,” he said.

“I’m so proud of the whole Church effort that this has been,” he said.

Horton noted that the feast of the Immaculate Conception marks a special anniversary for Dorothy Day. In the early 1930s, she went to Washington, D.C., to cover a protest march for the poor. Later, she visited what is now the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where she asked God to show her what He wanted her to do in the Church.

Shortly after her return to New York, she met Peter Maurin, who helped her to begin to think about her role in the founding of the Catholic Worker.

Horton offered a different take on Dorothy Day’s reluctance to be called a saint.

“That was not her point. She loved the saints,” he said. “She didn’t want herself to be put up on a pedestal. She wanted us all to be saints. We’re all called to be saints.”


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