By Corine B. Erlandson
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) — Dorothy Day means many things to many people: A daughter of the Church. A saint for our time. A countercultural saint. The face of Catholic social justice. An icon of mercy.
All were among the ways Day was remembered during a conference May 13-15 examining her life and legacy as part of the events marking the 125th anniversary of the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne. The conference was co-sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor.
Day, who died in 1980 at age 83, is known as the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, with its houses of hospitality, The Catholic Worker newspaper and farming communes.
The movement started in 1933 in New York when Day and French intellectual Peter Maurin began publishing the newspaper and opened a house of hospitality for hungry, out-of-work people in the midst of the Great Depression. The movement continues today, with more than 230 communities in the U.S. and around the world, according to a Catholic Worker website.
Brandon Vogt, an author and blogger, spoke of Dorothy Day during one session as a faithful Catholic and activist and called her more than a social worker. “For Dorothy, an encounter with the poor was an encounter with Christ,” Vogt said.
“Dorothy Day was a true daughter of the church,” Vogt told the 120 people in attendance. “She puts a face on Catholic social justice.”
Robert Ellsberg, publisher of Orbis Books and editor of Day’s published diaries and letters, spoke of Day praying at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., in 1932, asking that God help her to use her talents to alleviate the sufferings of poor people. She returned to New York to find Maurin outside her apartment. He gave her a Catholic framework for the movement, Ellsberg said.