Over $9,500 in donations flooded into a Catholic Worker house after the Cincinnati archdiocese withdrew $1,000 in grant money following the house's announcement that Debra Meyers, a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, would host a July 20 prayer service at the shelter.
The money promised by the archdiocese was supposed to go toward purchasing a new washer and dryer for the shelter, Lydia's House. The archdiocese said in a statement that the money would instead be given to an organization that supports the homeless, maintains Catholic teaching, and is congruent with the expectations of the archdiocese.
"The archdiocese seems to care a lot about what they are against," Mary Ellen Mitchell, a founder of Lydia's House, told NCR in a phone interview. "What we would like to figure out is what are we all for and work together on those things."
The archdiocese's retraction of funds was mentioned in multiple outlets, including NCR, an opinion piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer, a press release from ARCWP, and a post on Lydia's House's Facebook page.
In response, donors to Lydia's House popped up from around the nation, donating more than $9,500. With money coming into the house every day, Mitchell said the exact amount was unknown, but most of the support was coming from local Catholics in Cincinnati. The largest donation so far came from the ARCWP, whose $1,000 donation exceeded the cost of the washer and dryer.
With the response to what Mitchell called an unintentional fundraiser, the house has been seeking out other homeless shelters to share the donations.
"I think internally, we talk about it as a loaves-and-fishes miracle," Mitchell said. "We view it as the people of God providing for our needs. We've tried not to view it as a negative message of the archdiocese but rather as a positive message of how Catholics on the ground believe wholeheartedly in supporting poor women and children."
Mitchell said she hopes the archdiocese and Lydia's House will one day have a working relationship again but said she thinks the archdiocese would dictate the relationship.
"They're certainly the larger entity, but what we have in common is so much more than what we don't," Mitchell said. "It's typically a unifying thing to talk about family homelessness."
According to Mitchell, Lydia's House is ready to move forward and refocus on its mission to help the homeless through the generosity of the many donors.
"The biggest feeling that has come away from this at first was deep sadness that our relationship with people that promote women's ordination would cause the archdiocese to not have a relationship with us," Mitchell said. "But as we moved out of that, the feeling is such gratitude."
[Nicholas Sciarappa is an NCR Bertelsen intern. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]