Catholic Worker Hospitality House of San Bruno - Providing meals and shelter in San Bruno, California.


by Christine Baker



Dear Friends,


The liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas are a time of hope and renewal in the face of a dark and despairing world.  God promises that if we choose to renew our lives and follow the way of peace and justice he will transform our lives and, in the process, society.  That transformation begins when God enters into relationship with creation in a special way through the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem. How strange that such an everyday event can have such world changing consequences.

But it sounds too good to be true.  And many of us can’t really believe this promise.  “I mean, come on God, look at the state of the world!  How will it ever be a place of peace and justice? Do you really think I can be transformed?  Do you know what kind of person I am? What I’ve done in my past and continue to do? No way can my miserable life be transformed.  And in no way am I worthy of your transformative presence in my life.”

Yet we are worthy of God’s presence in our lives and we can be transformed if we only trust in God’s promises. I have seen it many times in our work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House.  I especially think of Bret, a long-time guest at the dining room and shelter, whose life has been dramatically transformed in the past few years.  For the first fifteen years we knew him he was a hopeless drunk — constantly in and out of rehab, but never seeming to find that elusive sobriety.  He would come stumbling into the dining room blind drunk or sheepishly come by looking for shelter when trying to dry out. We always did our best to help him since he is such a nice guy, but his apparently fruitless struggle was heartbreaking.

Then one day Bret showed up at the dining room after a two-year absence and his transformation was stunning. He was a new man with two years of sobriety and a full-time job—a product of the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous, the gift of his newfound relationship with God, and plenty of striving on his part.  He came to us that day looking for a place to live and, as luck would have it, we had an opening in one of our boarding houses. We moved him into the house hoping it would work out, but knowing his long-time struggles with alcohol we were a bit leery of his chances of success. For the first few months we all held our breath hoping he would be able to maintain sobriety and keep his job.  Every month when he came to pay rent he would ask me when he had to move out, I kept telling him, “This is permanent housing. As long as you pay rent and are a good roommate you have a home.” After years of shelters, rehab programs, and general housing insecurity a permanent home seemed unbelievable to him. Over three years later Bret still lives in the house, has kept the same job, and hasn’t gone out on a bender.  To me, this is a testament to the power of the Christmas promise–a true Christmas miracle.

In no way does Catholic Worker claim any credit for Bret’s success – it’s all him and God working together.  Our role over the years has been to help meet his basic needs for food and shelter, as well as moral support when he was struggling with his addiction; and to provide a place to live, and more moral support, once he transformed his life.  However, life is not a bed of roses for Bret — he still lives paycheck to paycheck and still struggles with sobriety, as well as with all the mundane issues of life that confronts us all. The difference is he’s now a free man and reasonably happy.  In a world where there is so much despair and hopelessness, Bret is a shining example of how a life can be transformed. His story gives us encouragement to continue in our work.

This summer Bret asked if he could pay rent in installments for a couple of months as he was hoping to make a dream trip to New York City.  My response was, “No, but I will give you a month’s free rent. I am so impressed with what you’ve accomplished over these past few years that I want to honor it by assisting with your dream vacation.”  Needless to say, Bret had a great trip to New York City.

We were able to be there for Bret and continue to be a source of comfort and encouragement for our other guests because of your past generous support of our work.  We hope that you will continue helping us help those in need in our community. Your generosity enables us to be a beacon of love and hope in a dark world.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,



Peter Stiehler

For all of us at

Catholic Worker Hospitality House




Can you help us host our annual Christmas dinner for our guests by cooking part of the meal? We need:

–Ham, cooked and carved, enough for 10 people

–Potato dishes

–Milk or juice

–Cookies, pie, or cake

Please bring food donations between 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Monday, December 23. We will be serving the meal between 11:30 – 1:30 p.m. that day. Food can be brought to our dining room at St. Bruno’s Church, located at 555 W. San Bruno Ave. in San Bruno. Please call us at (650) 827-0706 if you can bring anything or if you have any questions.  Thank You!



If you’re interested in providing a gift for one of our guests, may we suggest the following: sweatshirt, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, socks, or underwear. Whether homeless or housed, our guests spend a lot of time in the cold and would appreciate any of these items. Gift cards are also very much appreciated, especially for places where folks can pass the time: coffee houses, restaurants, movie theaters.

We thank you for your generosity in helping to make this holiday season special for our guests.