Paper Abstract

“If Peace is to be Built”: Personalism and Spatial Identity in Catholic Houses of Hospitality

My research project seeks to understand Dorothy Day’s spatial identity in Houses of Hospitality as developed through the implementation of Personalism. The Catholic Worker ideology of Personalism is rooted in the ideal of equality and rejects the notion of social distinctions between individuals. Moreover, Personalism challenges the economic and political climate of society, which in doing so dismantles the notion of hierarchy, or the belief that some people have more value and worth than others. Personalism vehemently opposes the development of capitalism. Through the implementation of Personalism, the Catholic Worker re-appropriated physical spaces once dominated by capitalism, into Houses of Hospitality, or physical spaces that function to benefit the economically disadvantaged. To understand Personalism in relation to Day’s spatial identity within Houses of Hospitality, my research proposes the following questions: (1) How did Day understand Personalism? (2) How did Day imagine herself in the physical space of Houses of Hospitality? and (3) How did Day create meaning of her work, life-style, and service as it developed in the physical space of Houses of Hospitality?


“To Live in The Hearts We Leave Behind is Not To Die” (written by Father Jack to Dorothy day)


Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney

Revising The Revision

Hello Again!

With the year coming to an end, it seems like there is so much that needs to be done.  I can barely keep my mind straight!  And yet, the chaos is thrilling.

This past week, my fellow Ramonats and I received feedback on our rough drafts.  In my opinion, receiving feedback on any rough draft is daunting.  It is a combination of underdeveloped thoughts and rapid ideas.  In the moment of writing those thoughts and ideas seem to make sense.  But really, they are only the beginning.  Which is to say, that they are the foundation.  With each revision the thoughts and ideas become more coherent.  It’s all about being patient with yourself and with your paper.  You cannot rush yourself.

Oh…by the way…I don’t mind the process of revision.  In fact, I slightly enjoy it.  That’s right, I said it (and no, I’m not receiving extra-credit for having said so).

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from 
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney

The First (of many) Draft(s)

I can’t believe it’s almost April!  In just over a month, I’ll be graduating….which is weird…doesn’t college go on forever? Or maybe that’s just my own wish 🙂

I must admit that writing my first draft was a difficult process.  I’ve been so distracted.  It seems like my mind has been wandering; I’ve been thinking about the future, running back and forth from home, and just trying to keep it all together.  Of course, writing a first draft for any paper is never an easy process, but in combination with my wandering mind, it felt like even more of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I was able to finish the draft and get my thoughts on paper! This alone was an accomplishment.

I was often frustrated during the writing process because my ideas shifted as my paper developed. This made me second guess myself more than I ever have during my undergraduate studies.  Perhaps, I’m putting too much pressure on myself.  Having just been accepted into graduate school, I’ve begun to feel an extra weight on my shoulders. I’m over-analyzing every sentence and every word choice.  I’m rethinking every idea I have and every source I use.  I feel as if there is more expected of me now, that I need to live up to the standards of a graduate student.  I know this is my own mind playing games…I need to focus on where I am and what I’m doing.  I can’t let my writing suffer because of any insecurities I may be dealing with.

I just need to be confident.

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney


Chocolate, Outlining, and Ice Cream, Oh My!

Hello Friends!

Over the past couple of days I have ate more chocolate and ice cream than I thought humanly possible.  Yes, I was stress eating.  You caught me.  BUT…

*Drum roll please*


—————-> the-economics-of-catholic-hospitality-outline <—————-

Full disclosure: I loathe the experience of writing outlines.  It feels tedious and repetitive. However, I must admit that the Ramonat Seminar has made me a believer in the power of outlining. Not only did it help me organize my thoughts, but it also made me realize what information I was lacking.  Because of this, I was able to frequently reassess the direction my outline was taking and subsequently veer it back on track.

Having finished my outline, I’ve begun writing parts of my paper as they develop in my mind.  I am still nervous about writing the entirety of my paper, but perhaps this feeling will change as I continue with the writing process.  Regardless of what is to come with the writing process, I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far!

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney

The Final (guest speaker) Countdown

I cannot believe that we just hosted our last guest speaker for the Ramonat Seminar.  Where has the time gone? It feels like just yesterday that I was beginning my journey alongside my fellow scholars friends.  Honestly, our seminar has become a family.  Thinking about the end of the year is entirely bittersweet.  But, I suppose I shouldn’t get too sappy yet, huh? There’s still work to be done!

Okay so where was I? Ah, that’s right…our final guest speaker: Robert Ellsberg.  What made this experience so special was that Robert knew Dorothy Day.  He lived at the same House of Hospitality in New York as Dorothy Day.  He worked alongside her daily.  He is our window to Dorothy.  It is not often that an opportunity like this presents itself.

During our conversation and throughout Robert’s talk, I felt as if I knew Dorothy Day.  For me, that was an incredibly humbling experience.  It was as if the woman we have been studying for months was coming to life right before my eyes through personal accounts and stories.  I found myself connected to Dorothy in a way I hadn’t thought possible at the beginning of the Ramonat Seminar.

I fancy Dorothy’s witty banter and persistent beliefs.  I admire her tenacity and strength.  I appreciate her tireless activism for peace and justice.  I am inspired by Dorothy with each passing day.  To me, this is the greatest gift of all.  For I can try to live my life with the spirit of Dorothy within me.

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from 
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney

Winter Update

Although it is still cold, windy and snowy outside, my winter hiatus from research has come to an end.  Honestly though, it feels good to be back.  I missed sharing my thoughts and opinions on the material discussed during the Ramonat Seminar.

This semester, my blog will focus on research ideas, thesis development, and source location for my impending paper.  I have to admit that I’m a tad nervous about the process. But luckily, I have brilliant peers, encouraging professors, and you (yes you) to help me along the way.  So let’s get started.

Thus far, I have developed the following (rough) thesis:

The Catholic Worker is re-appropriating space through its Catholic Worker Farms and Houses of Hospitality. In doing so, The Catholic Worker is attempting to dismantle capitalism.  This includes, any capitalistic tendencies and ideologies that are associated with the Catholic Church.  It is as if the Farms and Houses strip the Catholic Church from its ties to capitalism.  In doing so, the Catholic Worker Farms and Houses of Hospitality represent a purer form of Catholicism.

In order to strengthen my thesis and provide evidence of my claims, I have been searching for primary sources from Catholic Worker Farms and Houses of Hospitality in the Midwest.  Even more specifically, in Illinois and Wisconsin.  Recently, I discovered the Catholic Worker Collection at Marquette University.  Within the collection there are Dorothy Day Papers, Catholic Worker Community Recordings, and Audio/Visual Holdings. In a couple weeks, I will be traveling to Marquette University to engage with the materials in the Catholic Worker Collection.  Below are a few examples of the materials I hope to research:

Series W-30, Clare House of Hospitality, 1977-present
Series W-50, St. Jude Catholic Worker House, 1981-2016
Series W-58, St. Elizabeth Catholic Worker, 1979-2004

Each series contains newsletters, press clippings, logbooks, correspondences, and volunteer information.  Through these materials it is my hope that I will gain a better understanding of both the lifestyle of individuals that reside at the Catholic Worker Farms and Houses of Hospitality along with the inner-workings of the organizations. Additionally, I am planning on visiting Houses of Hospitality that are located in the Chicago-Land area.  In doing so, I will have a more personal connection to my research.

Talking about my potential plans is making me excited for the journey that is soon to come and I cannot wait to share my findings with you over the next couple of months!

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from
Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney

‘Tis the Season

As I sit, writing my final blog post of the semester, snow is tumbling from the sky outside of my window and the wind is turbulently swirling between buildings.  It is a beautiful, chaotic scene and I have a front row seat.

I’d like to think that this semester is similar to the picture I’ve just painted for you.  Often, my posts have been a jumbling of thoughts that I have tried to stitch cohesively together. But, I’ve never been good at sewing.  And so, over the past couple of months, you’ve had a front row seat for my ramblings.  It is my hope that at some point you found my words beautiful, even if they happened to be simultaneously chaotic.

This semester has tested me in ways I was unprepared for–both emotionally and academically.  Yet, I have grown because of it.  My fellow Ramonat Scholars are all brilliant individuals and I am humbled to call each one of them my friend.  My Ramonat Professors are unlike any other.  They have encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone, to challenge my thoughts, and to recognize my potential as a scholar.

Now that I’ve gotten all of my sappiness out about this semester, we can begin our journey together toward next semester–where all the magic happens.  That’s right, it’s research time ladies and gentlemen.  Thus far, I’ve developed a working concept for my research to center around: the autonomy of space.  Specifically, I want to analyze how the Catholic Church obtains authority of a physical place and then creates it into a space of worship.  To narrow my analysis, I will define spaces of worship as Catholic Worker Farms and Houses of Hospitality.  This will allow me to understand how the process of authority differs between rural places and urban places.  Additionally, I want to look at the benefits and limitations of each.  How do they function?  Who are they helping?  Are they engaging in Catholic Social Teaching?  It is my hope, that through this research, I will be able to draw a correlation between the type of place, the form of the space, and the impact it has on the community and/or those who reside there.

This is of course, a working idea.  I can 100% guarantee that it will change as I engage more substantially with varying archives and research materials.  But I can also 100% guarantee you that in six months, as I go to present my research, you’ll want a front row seat. Simply because, I have never felt so determined and passionate about a research project before in my academic career.  And so, I can only imagine where my enthusiasm will take me.

Wherever it does, I hope you'll stay tuned for the future Ramonat Ramblings 
of yours truly,

Colleen Kenney

Space & Race: An Outline For Geographical Justice

Dear Friends,

Can you believe it’s almost November?  Because, I can’t.

It seems like time is slipping right past me.  Before I know it, I’ll be presenting my research in April.  Which means that I should probably start hashing out my ideas, huh?

Quite recently, I’ve become intrigued by the notion of ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ space in urban environments.  Moreover, through the writings of Henri Lefebvre, a French Marxist philosopher and sociologist, I have become interested in how


Henri Lefebvre

our perception of what (or who) belongs within a certain set of boundaries results in the categorization of spaces as being just or injust.  Lefebvre’s spatial theory was formulated through an encounter between his critical reflection on the general condition of modernity; his research about the processes of urbanization; and his project of urban spaces for the transforming society.

With Lefebvre’s theory  in mind, I can’t help but think about Chicago and the different ‘boundaries’ that exist within the city.  But how did these ‘boundaries’ even come into existence?  And were there any institutions that greatly contributed to this societal transformation?   Additionally, given the diversity of religious traditions in Chicago, it would be interesting to examine the spatial role of the Catholic Church. Perhaps, in doing so, I can discover where Catholicism is most prevalent and visible (i.e. in spaces of justice or injustice).

I also want to situate my discussion of Catholicism and spatiality in the context of race.  In other words, I want to analyze the interestection of religion and race.

I must apologize for the brevity of this post (in addition to its sporadic nature).  However, it’s difficult to organize my thoughts surrounding this subject matter.  It’s complex and messy.  But I know that with time, I’ll better understand urban geographical justice.

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from yours truly,

Colleen Kenney


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True Or False: The Only Solution Is The Land.

Well hi there!
It’s been way too long since we last spoke.

Don’t you worry though, I haven’t been ignoring you.  In fact, I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while now–it’s been quite the challenge for me.  It’s not that I don’t know what to write, I just don’t know how to put all of my thoughts and opinions together. But in true Ramonat Rambling fashion, let’s just get to it.

This past weekend, my fellow scholars and I packed our bags, bought the necessary car-ride snacks, and headed seven hours away from Chicago to the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm in La Plata, Missouri.  The White Rose what?  That’s exactly what I said too, which means…it’s time to break it down from start to finish.

If you think back to my very first blog post, the name Dorothy Day might ring a bell in your memory.  If not, or if you’re new to the world of Ramonat Ramblings, don’t fret!  Here’s a quick summary to get you up to speed:

Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin

Dorothy Day was an admirable social advocate, Catholic convert and journalist.  In 1933, the first issue of The Catholic Worker newspaper was published by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.  The newspaper’s mission was to spread the Catholic teaching of social justice. With time, the message of social justice developed into houses of hospitality and communal farms for Catholic Workers.


Catholic Workers live a simple lifestyle within their community by serving the poor, and resisting war and social injustice. In urban areas, Catholic Workers reside in houses of hospitality that are grounded in the Gospel, prayer, and the Catholic faith. In rural areas, Catholic Workers reside on farming communes where they live solely off of the land.  Even though the Catholic Worker Movement began in 1933, it’s still around today (and growing).

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this video:

According to Peter Maurin, who wanted to restore the communal aspect of Christianity, referred to these farms as “Agronomic Universities.”   Agrarianism is a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values.  It is from this philosophy that Peter Maurin developed the belief that,

“If we are to build a new society in today’s world, where so many are dependent on Empire to meet our basic needs, it is imperative that we learn how to grow our own food, build our own homes, think critically, treat one another com-passionately, and deepen our commitments to a spiritual tradition – in short, to experience the fullness of what it means to be human.”

If you’re at all wondering how your daily life compares to what Peter Maurin calls, “the experience of what it means to be human,” you are not alone.  In all honesty, I thought about this question the whole way to the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm.  I kept asking myself, “Am I not living with fullness?  Is my urban lifestyle problematic?” (life hack: asking yourself these questions over and over will drive you crazy).  After about seven hours of this Q&A session with myself, my fellow scholars and I finally arrived in La Plata, Missouri.  It was late at night and pitch black outside, causing us to stumble as we walked behind John and Regina, the founders of the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm.  In that moment, I was completely unsure of what we had just gotten ourselves into.  However, I also remember thinking about how nice it was to see the stars.  And so, I was both weary and in awe at the same time.  This contradiction of feelings remained with me for the whole weekend.

With the sun’s arrival on Saturday morning, I could finally see the farm:



I can’t deny the beauty of the farm or the tranquility that I felt at times.  For once, trees were our skyscrapers and hay was our cement.  The city we called home transformed itself right before our very own eyes.  So too did our daily responsibilities.  Because the White Rose Catholic Worker Farm was without electricity or running water, John and Regina spent their days gardening, building, and prepping for winter.  And so, I spent Saturday doing my part to help by chopping wood.  At first, I was really excited…no one chops wood in Chicago.  However, as I continued to work, reality hit me.  I wasn’t just chopping wood for fun.  I was doing it to make sure John, Regina, and their daughter Johanna could be warm during the winter.  This isn’t something I worry about–I just turn on the heat.  But for John and Regina, this was one of their many sacrifices for the greater good of society. In other words, the intentional simplicity of their life, while seemingly hard for us to comprehend, was their way of giving back to God by protecting the Earth.

I was both humbled and touched by their devotion to God.  I found myself wanting to give 100% to everything I did that weekend.  Physically, I accomplished that goal.  But mentally, I was 50% there and 50% stuck in an internal debate.  There was just something about ‘voluntary poverty’ that didn’t sit well with me.  I couldn’t get past the amount of privilege an individual or group of individuals must have in order to be voluntarily poor.  I recognize that John and Regina were doing so because it was their way of making a difference.  I want to make it clear that I am in no way condemning them and their lifestyle.  Instead, I’m bringing to our discussion a point of consideration.  Moreover, I want you to think about voluntary poverty and ask yourself if it is morally just. Individuals live in poverty because they cannot escape poverty.  Because of this, are there any consequences of  voluntary poverty?  It’s a tough question to answer.  On one hand, you want to acknowledge the efforts of Catholic Worker Farms, but on the other hand, you can’t help but point out the social issues.  I admit that nothing is perfect.  However, where is the line drawn between what is helpful for the self and what is helpful for others? What I mean by this is as follows: how much does a Catholic Worker Farm provide affirmation for the individual residing on it and how much does it actually create a noticeable difference within society?

I’m still determining what I believe to be true and part of me thinks this will be a life-long debate.  If you have an opinion, share it in the comments section!  I can’t accomplish this on my own!

Stay tuned for more Ramonat Ramblings from yours truly,
Colleen Kenney

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Back to Back (of the yards)

GUESS WHAT…(insert dramatic drum roll here)…It’s finally FALL.

Ah yes, the season when leaves capture our attention with a change in color, coffee shops begin to make everything pumpkin flavored, mother nature eases up on the scorching heat of summer, and the Ramonat Seminar takes a tour of Back of the Yards.  Back of the what? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Although it was published in 1906, for most of modern society, Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle serves as our only understanding of Chicago and its stockyards.  And while The Jungle is an important novel within the canon of literature for our current school systems, it was of much greater influence during its publication.  Moreover, Upton Sinclair published The Jungle as a means to expose the working conditions in the meat-packing industry in Chicago.  Shortly after the novel’s publication, many individuals demanded sweeping reforms in the meat industry.  Even President Theodore Roosevelt was sickened by the narrative within The Jungle.  So much so, that he demanded Congress pass a law establishing the Food and Drug Administration while also setting up federal inspection standards for meat.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, so let’s back track and answer some crucial questions that you may be asking yourself.  Such as:

Q: Where was Chicago’s meat packing industry located within the city?
A:  On Christmas Day in 1865, Chicago’s Union Stock Yard and Transit Company officially opened its doors.  With this, came an established set of boundaries (Pershing Avenue, Halsted Street, 47th Street, and Ashland Avenue), separating the stockyards from the rest of the city.  These boundaries can be seen within the map provided below.

Image of Map No. 4 of Chicago Showing the Geographical Relations of the Largest Industries

Q: What were working and living conditions like at the Stockyards and the Back of the Yard?
A: The best explanation of working conditions in the Stockyard is written by Charles J. Bushnell within The American Journal of Sociology, 1901.

Bushnell states: “When we try to account for these conditions and turn to some of the physical causes of the disparity, we do not have to look very far.  In the first place, the Stock Yard district is very badly paved, where there is any paving.  most of it is of wood, in a very bad state of repair, so that riding over the district on a bicycle is a difficult and uncomfortable process.  This wood paving, of course, absorbs considerable impurity from the drainage and from the air.  In the Hyde Park district, on the other hand, except on Wabash avenue and streets immediately adjacent, the paving is largely of macadam or asphalt. But in this district almost all of the streets are paved, while in the Stock Yard district many of the streets are for miles in rainy weather scarcely better than mud holes.  A glance at the health department reports shows that the amount of sewering per mile of streets is also considerably less in the Stock  Yard district than in Hyde Park.  Of course, this is partly to be accounted for on the ground that there is more unoccupied land in the former district than in the latter.  The housing conditions of the two districts are so diverse in point of quality as to be at times almost incomparable.  Anyone who rides observantly throughout the Stock Yard district, and then throughout the district east of it, cannot fail to be struck with the general appearance of squalor, dirt, and general dilapidation in the former, and of comparative neatness, cleanliness, order, and beauty in the latter.  Many of the houses in the more thickly population portions of the Stock Yard district are Image of Some Social Aspects of the Chicago Stockyards. Chapter II. The Stock Yard Community at Chicago

built in the rear of those fronting the streets, and the sanitary conditions are correspondingly bad.  Another element vital to the interests of health of the community is that of food.  Aside from the mere question of quantity, or luxurious delicacy, of the food, the quality of the food of people in the Stock Yard district is neither as nutritious nor, on the who, as well prepared as that in the other district.  A mere glance into the lunch boxes of the school children is sufficient to satisfy any candid mind of this fact.  It may very truthfully be said that the families of the district near the yards do not, as a rule, know how to buy or to prepare food in the most economical and nutritious way.  Poor cakes, jellies, and unwholesome pastry will frequently form a large part of the luncheons of the school children, who seem to have almost a special craving cultivated for such things;
Image of Some Social Aspects of the Chicago Stockyards. Chapter II. The Stock Yard Community at Chicago

and a study of the budgets of some of the most typical families of the district reveals much the same condition of affairs.  But perhaps the most striking physical evidence of the bad sanitation of the district comes to light in connection with the city garbage dump situated in this locality.  The dump, which for many years was a standing by-word in the district, was located on and near Roby street, between Forty-fourth and Forty-seventh streets.  Views of this dump are shown in the accompanying photographs.  It is not to be wondered at that, with this vast amount of refuse cast within a stone’s throw of some of the citizens’ houses, the death-rate of children should have been in the past years very high in this locality.” (Bushnell 300-302)


As you can see, the living conditions in the Stockyard neighborhood (aka Back of the Yards) were far from ideal.  Given that the majority of the neighborhood were immigrants, the living conditions were secondary to the family’s need for money and survival.  So while poverty, overcrowding, and illness plagued residents, it was more important to have a job than to complain about the living conditions.

The following chart by Charles J. Bushnell within The American Journal of Sociology, 1901 depicts the immigrant population.

Image of Comparative Population and Nativity Statistics of Hyde Park and Stock Yard Districts of Chicago in 1898
The following photos by Robert Hunter are an example of the living conditions.

Image of Tenement Interiors in Chicago

Image of Tenement Interiors in Chicago

I recognize that was a lot of information to throw at you all at once, but just hang in there! If you’re anything like me (i.e. I constantly need to recap what I’ve learned) the following video provides a great (and at times more in depth) overview of the Chicago Stockyards.  It also includes an interview with Dr. Dominic Pacyga, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  Did I mention that Dr. Pacyga gave us the tour of the Back of the Yards?  Pretty cool huh?  That’s not even the best part!  Dr. Pacyga actually grew up in the Back of the Yards and worked at the Stockyards while growing up.  Needless to say, my classmates and I were incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Pacyga tour us around the stockyards.  It’s not often these days that you can hear first-hand accounts of events from someone who actually experienced it.

I have to admit, it’s hard to conceptualize the fact that all of this happened.  During our tour of the stockyards, it was entirely evident that they are nothing like they used to be. The way I’ve come to understand this phenomenon is that the place of history will always remain because you obviously cannot erase the past, however, the space in which history occurred has, and will, continue to develop.  Moreover, the concept of ‘space’ comes into existence once it has been associated with historical significance.  And so, while the stockyards are physically different, the physical area remains.  It’s almost as if history is always with us.  Cool, right?  That’s what I thought too.

I'll be back soon.  Until then, keep on ramblin'

Yours Truly,
Colleen Kenney


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