Koinonia Farm’s vision statement is “love through service to others, joy through generous hospitality, peace through reconciliation.” All of our guest rooms are named after people who have come before us and embodied these ideas. These peacemakers are from all over the world and from all different periods of history. This “great cloud of witnesses” and their stories encourage us to keep pursuing love, joy, and peace in our life and work.
Dorothy Day was born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York. She and her family moved to San Francisco and then to Chicago for her father’s work. During these early years, Day read extensively and encountered the Episcopal Church through her brothers’ participation in the choir. She began attending church and was eventually confirmed and baptized.
From 1914-1916, Day attended the University of Illinois. She began her work as a journalist during this time. Her earlier experiences with the extreme gap between rich and poor influenced her college years. After college, she continued writing and joined in protests. In 1917, she was jailed for her involvement in suffragists’ demonstrations.
Throughout the next few years, she traveled extensively, writing for various publications, and in 1924, she published her autobiographical novel The Eleventh Virgin. She ﬁnally settled down in Staten Island in 1925 to focus on her writing. She lived with Forster Battingham and, in 1925, she became pregnant.
“The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.”
Day’s daughter Tamar was born in 1926. In the months leading up to her birth, Day had become increasingly interested in the Catholic faith. Tamar was baptized in the Catholic Church shortly after her birth and Day herself was baptized later that year. Battingham left Day in the wake of this decision. She then traveled with her daughter and continued to write for a few years before coming back to New York in 1932.
Back in New York City, Dorothy Day met Peter Maurin. He became her mentor in the Catholic faith and the two of them quickly joined forces to create The Catholic Worker newspaper. The periodical debuted May 1, 1933 and within the year it climbed to 100,000 in circulation. From this partnership and newspaper, the Catholic Worker movement was born. It included hospitality houses, farms, soup kitchens, and other projects.
“What we do is very little. But it is like the little boy with a few loaves and ﬁshes. Christ took that little and increased it. He will do the rest. What we do is so little that we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did he fail. He met with apparent failure on the Cross. But unless the seeds fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest.”
For the almost 50 years, Dorothy Day worked with the Catholic Worker to protest injustice, speak against war and conﬂict, and to feed the hungry. After WWII, Dorothy Day published her autobiography The Long Loneliness. She continued speaking out against nuclear war and was in prison again in 1955 for protesting the civil defense drills in New York. Day visited Koinonia Farm in 1957. While sitting sentry duty, she experienced ﬁrst-hand the violence directed at the community and had bullets ﬂy over her head during a drive-by shooting.
In the 1960s and 70s, Day worked in support of the Civil Rights Movement and against the Vietnam War. She wrote the story of the Catholic Worker movement, Loaves and Fishes, in 1963. She traveled the country and even went to Rome to attend a Vatican II session in 1965. She picketed with Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers during the 1970s: in 1973 she was arrested and imprisoned for this work.
On November 29, 1980, Dorothy Day died. Her legacy lives on in the continued work of the Catholic Worker across the world. “Today 227 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms.”