Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of Our Continuance

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of Our Continuance

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of Our Continuance

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker: The Miracle of Our Continuance


Compelling and prophetic, Dorothy Day is one of the most enduring icons of American Catholicism. In the depths of the Great Depression and guided by the Works of Mercy, Day, a journalist at the time, published a newspaper, the Catholic Worker, and co-founded a movement dedicated to the poorest of the poor, while living with them and sharing their poverty.

In 1955, Vivian Cherry, a documentary photographer known for her disturbing and insightful work portraying social issues, was given unprecedented access to the Catholic Worker house of hospitality in New York City, its two farms, and to Day herself. While much has been written about Day, the portrait that emerges from Cherry’s intimate lens is unrivaled. From the image of the line of men waiting for soup outside St. Joseph’s on Chrystie Street to pictures of Day and others at work and in prayer, Cherry’s photographs offer a uniquely personal and poetic glimpse into the life of the movement and its founder.

In this beautiful new book, more than sixty photographs—many published here for the first time—are accompanied by excerpts of Day’s writings gleaned from her column “On Pilgrimage” and other articles published in the Catholic Worker between 1933 and 1980. The result is a powerful visual and textual memoir capturing the life and times of one of the most significant and influential North American Catholics of the twentieth century. The aptly paired images and words bring new life to Day’s political and personal passions and reflect with clarity and simplicity the essential work and philosophies of the Catholic Worker, which continue to thrive today. The Introduction and additional commentary by Day’s granddaughter Kate Hennessy provides rich contextual information about the two women and what she sees as their collaboration in this book.

In 2000, twenty years after her death, Archbishop of New York John J. O’Connor of New York City opened the cause for Dorothy Day’s canonization, and the Vatican conferred on her the title of Servant of God. The Catholic Worker continues to flourish, with more than 200 affiliated houses in the United States and overseas. The miracle of this enduring appeal lies in Day’s unique paradigm of vision, conscience, and a life of sacrifice that is one not of martyrdom but of joy, richness, and generosity—vividly portrayed through these photographs and excerpts.


It is difficult to imagine American Catholicism today without Dorothy Day. Compelling and prophetic, she captures the imagination through her vision and work for a world, as she was fond of saying, “where it is easier to be good.” Dorothy Day spent her life not only championing the poor but also, guided by the works of mercy, feeding, clothing, and sheltering the poorest of the poor. She did so in a way as simple as it is breathtaking, while living among them and giving up her own longing for peace, privacy, and comfort.

Dorothy Day was born on November 8, 1897, in Brooklyn, New York, third child of five to Grace Satterlee and John Isaac Day. Raised in a newspaper family, she started working as a journalist at the age of eighteen. After the birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa, in 1926, Dorothy converted to Catholicism, and in 1933, influenced by Peter Maurin, a French peasant and day laborer with a Catholic program of social action, she launched the Catholic Worker newspaper. The paper’s mission was to speak to the growing numbers of homeless and unemployed at the height of the Great Depression. This quickly turned into the creation of a house of hospitality in the tenements of lower Manhattan as it became clear that Dorothy and Peter not only had to speak of the social problems of the day, but they needed to help the people they were addressing in any way they could. The opening of the house of hospitality was closely followed by the purchase of a farm as a way to provide work and food.

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