Find Your Own Calcutta

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The most important part of my life began nearly a hundred years ago, in a city I have never visited, with a woman I have never met.

Picture 1920s New York City: the prime era of renewal, jazz, and the beginning of the 20th century feminist movement. Amidst a spirited protest, Dorothy Day, a woman skipping along the cusp of the societal frontier, is marching in the street with her “Votes for Women” picket sign and probably standing nose to nose with a gruff policeman. Day cut her hair short, smoked and drank, and made a living off of her impassioned news articles and nude photo shoots. Her adventurous lifestyle resulted in an unintended pregnancy, and after her boyfriend abandoned her on the steps of an illegal abortion clinic, she decided to convert to Catholicism and reform herself.

Day still felt a calling to the life of political activism and especially to the defense of impoverished populations. So in 1933, Day officially founded the Catholic Worker Movement. The CW Movement is radically different from a charity: instead of funneling donations from the fortunate and distributing them to the disadvantaged, Catholic Workers give up their worldly possessions to live in communion with the poor in order to truly serve them. They believe that true poverty is living without the love of another human soul- so that is what Catholic Workers provide to those whom society has cast aside.

Two years ago, my family began to yearn for a greater way to serve Christ than simply going to church once a week and volunteering at charities every so often. Naturally, as the insomnia-riddled sophomore I was, my biggest concern was what I should do with the rest of my life. I think that my biweekly existential crises were God’s way of slowly, painfully nudging me towards my true vocation. You’d think he could just shoot me an email or something. Anyhow, when I asked my favorite priest how I could fulfill this calling, he told my family about this movement, which exists within over 100 independently functioning locations throughout the world. At long last, the Tulsa Catholic Worker House was born.

Voluntary poverty is the most radical value of this movement, especially within a capitalist society. My six-person family moved from a lovely two-story home to a cozy two-bedroom apartment, which we are currently reworking in order to accommodate homeless women and children. I only buy second hand clothes to avoid supporting the overseas sweatshops where most retail clothes are produced. The same goes for iPhones, hair products, and eggs (organic, free range only, of course!). I closely follow Dorothy’s principles of activism in the community. For me, that means spending each Saturday morning with my homeless and hungry friends downtown, driving to OKC to protest the death penalty, standing with protest signs outside the circus, and writing strongly worded letters to any organization that dares step on the toes of the people I love- some of whom just happen to sleep under bridges.

All of the social consciousness and political activism sounds very well and good, but what sets my life apart is the unconditional dedication to loving those who are the least loved in our society. My homegirl Mother Theresa, when asked by a woman if she could join the sisters in India to serve the poor, responded thusly:

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are…Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society – completely forgotten, completely left alone.”

This is the concept by which I strive to live. I wholeheartedly believe in finding and serving the Calcutta in my own community, in the tradition of the Blessed Mother Theresa and the Lord’s Servant Dorothy Day.

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