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

From a Sapling to an Oak Tree

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Recently I was doing some yard work at our Second Ave house in San Bruno when I stopped to look at the two large oak trees in the front yard. My thought was, “How did these trees get so big?” These oaks are so large and stately that it would be easy to assume that they have been around for generations. The truth is Kate and I planted these oaks 25 years ago as spindly saplings in one-gallon pots. At the time it would have been generous to call them trees. For years it was a challenge to keep them from being overgrown by grass and run over by the lawnmower. Over the years these spindly saplings grew into bushy awkward trees and finally, with some timely pruning, they have become stately trees.

Since we planted these trees shortly after we moved into the house, I often equate their growth and maturity with the growth and maturity of the Catholic Worker Hospitality House in San Bruno. Most of our supporters have known us only for the past five to ten years, after we were already a fairly mature organization. It’s easy to forget that we went through years of being an awkward organization struggling to find our way. Just as I mused over how the trees got so stately, I often wonder how our little Catholic Worker House grew from one house of hospitality and dining room to now having a homeless shelter and four houses of hospitality. It still amazes me. But with patience, perseverance, “pruning,” some luck, and a ton of support we have grown into a mature organization that, we hope, is a valued presence in the community serving those most in need.

Your generous and faithful support over the years has enabled our work to grow from a “spindly sapling to a stately oak.” We thank you for your past support and hope that you will continue to help us not only to continue our work of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and comforting the afflicted, but of dreaming of new ways to serve those in need in our community.


Peter Stiehler
Catholic Worker Hospitality House