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

Christmas Appeal: Remembrance, Hope, and Faithfulness

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

December 2021

Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter, as I often do, during the morning serving at our dining room. Why here and now? When I am surrounded by the clamor of our guests being served, the playful banter of friends dining together, and tables and chairs being put away at the end of the serving day I am reminded of what drew me to this work and why I continue in it after so many years. In our newsletters this past year, we have been commemorating 25 years of love, service, and, hopefully, faithfulness to those in need in our community at Catholic Worker Hospitality House. We’ve reflected on what brought us here, why we do what we do, and how our work has grown over the years. As we close out our year of remembrance we hope that it has not been mere navel-gazing or self-congratulatory pats on the back, but rather an opportunity to remember God’s great love for us and what joy is to be found in the daily practice of the Works of Mercy, particularly to “the least among us.”

While I feel it’s important to remember why we serve those in need, for most of the 25 years of writing these letters I have struggled to avoid being repetitious and have attempted to keep these letters fresh and relevant. Our December letter has always posed the greatest difficulty. How many times can you relate the usual themes of Advent and Christmas to current events at Catholic Worker Hospitality House and in the world before they lose their power?

I have written on the season of Advent being a time of renewal and new beginnings; on the importance of people of faith being a beacon of hope when all seems lost; of how Catholic Worker Hospitality House tries to be a light in a time of darkness; how God’s coming into the world through the birth of Jesus at Christmas challenges us to see God in all humanity; and how Jesus’ humble birth calls us to be humble and live simply, even if it’s viewed as a threat to the powers that be.

Upon further reflection, these are great themes that bear reiteration. We are repetitious lest we forget, become complacent, and lose hope. With that in mind, we will honor God’s great love for us by continuing to seek renewal in ourselves and our work to better enflesh the Kingdom of God here and now in our community; we will strive to be instruments of God’s grace by serving those most in need in our society through the direct daily practice of the Works of Mercy; and we will seek to be a light of hope for those experiencing a time of darkness in body and/or mind. We will do our best to always be grateful for all we have been given: for God’s presence in our lives, for all the love in our lives, for all we have been given, and for the opportunity to serve. The list can, and should, go on and on for we can never be too repetitious when it comes to gratitude. But mostly we remain thankful for God’s great love for us in so many ways, particularly during this holiday season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Despite all our failings we are worthy of this love and must pass it on.

And as always we give great thanks for all your past support of our work with those in need in our community and hope that you will continue helping us help others. We simply could not do this work without your kindness and generosity. All of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House wish you and yours a happy holiday season.

Merry Christmas,

Peter Stiehler
For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House



In keeping with the letter’s theme of repetition, I reprint, with slight modifications, the reflection I wrote about last year’s Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s as apt this year as last year.

Every year, two weeks before Thanksgiving I get into a tizzy, fearful that we won’t have enough food for our guests. But every year there is plenty. Every year I fear that something will go dreadfully wrong and the meal will be a disaster and every year it’s a beautiful event. This year, due to the coronavirus, my fears were doubled. I hate not being able to serve a sit-down meal. How are we going to make the day festive when the best we can do is hot meals To-Go? Well, once again my fears proved unfounded, as our Thanksgiving Dinner was a lovely event. We had plenty of food and volunteers, and over 130 guests enjoying the day. Even without indoor dining the day was festive, joyful and full of thanks. I was a reminder of why our Thanksgiving Dinner is my favorite event of the year. I definitely need to be more mindful of the angel’s admonition of “Do not be afraid, everything will be alright.”

We thank all of you who provided food and supplies to make Thanksgiving a special day for all our guests. We couldn’t have done it without you. Now it’s time to prepare for Christmas…..



We will be hosting a Christmas Dinner for our guests, but with changes to account for the COVID pandemic. As with our Thanksgiving Dinner we hope to serve a sit-down meal, but may only be able to provide hot and hearty meals To-Go. Again, we hate making this change, as it seems hardly festive, but the safety of our guests and volunteers necessitate it (and Diocesan rules demand it). That said, can you help us host our annual Christmas dinner for our guests by cooking part of the meal?

We need:

  • Ham, cooked and carved
  • Potato dishes
  • Cookies, pie, or cake
  • individual milk, juice, or soda

Please bring food donations between 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Thursday, 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 gift cards as the ideal gift for another COVID impacted Christmas? They would provide Christmas cheer for our guests and enable them to purchase the items they need and want. It would also limit your exposure to crowds this holiday season. We suggest gift cards to grocery stores, Target, restaurants and coffee houses. If you still want to purchase a tangible gift, may we suggest one of the following: sweatshirt, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, socks, or underwear.

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