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

Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Year in Review

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

We have never written a “Year in Review” piece at Catholic Worker Hospitality House, but I thought it would be a nice tradition to start, especially considering what a year 2020 has been.

While every year is filled with milestones, momentous events, and people coming and going, this year seemed to be flush with them.  And even though COVID was a major factor affecting our work this year, some of the major events at the shelter had nothing to do with the pandemic.

The first, and saddest, event was the loss of our long-time co-worker Christine Baker to cancer in early May.  In February, she informed us of her illness and impending operation.  When she went on sick leave we hoped that she would eventually return to work, but it soon became evident that she would not be returning to work and the only question was how much time she had left.  While we miss Christine everyday, her absence was especially noticed at our biggest event of the year, the annual Thanksgiving Dinner.  For over 15 years Christine was a major organizer of the event and my initial thought this year was, “How am I going to do this without Christine?”  The answer is simple – we adjust and go on the best we can.  It’s not the same without her, but other people have stepped up to fill the gap.

One of the people stepping up to fill the gap left by Christine’s passing is Mike DiCampli.  We have a long relationship with Mike spanning over fifteen years. We first met him as a guest at the dining room and shelter and for the past four years he and his wife Jennifer have been residents at our Second Ave. house.  When I started looking for someone to assist at the dining room and provide back up in case of my own absence, Mike was the first person to come to mind. He’s easy going and, considering his own past, is comfortable with and caring about those we serve.  I knew we would work well together as over the years we have often collaborated on house repair projects.  It has been such a help and comfort to me having Mike working with us.

Another loss we experienced this year was Judy Pena.  While Judy didn’t die, failing health has caused her to now reside in a care facility in Gilroy.  For twenty-four years Judy was a part of our life at Catholic Worker.  She was a long-time volunteer, worked as an overnight staff person at the shelter for a brief period, and when failing health prevented her from volunteering she was still a regular guest at the dining room.  For the past few years I would give her a ride home from the dining room every morning, whcih was always a pleasant time together (even if we had been arguing at the dining room).  Those of you who were familiar with Judy know that she could be a handful, but she was part of our community and is missed by all.

In February our long-time volunteer Lioba Moulton moved to Tracy to live with her sister.  For years Lioba would bring food to the dining room three to four mornings a week.  She definitely upped the quality of the food at the dining room, providing lots of hearty soup, scrambled eggs with hash, hot dogs, desserts, and other items she would either cook or receive in donations from the local Grocery Outlet.  While we greatly miss her food, we especially miss her loving presence which added so much to our dining room.

Dean, another long-time volunteer and former shelter staff person and resident at one of our houses, also had to stop working with us because of health issues that put him at great risk of contracting the virus.  But before he stopped volunteering, he came up with our new serving method. In early March we knew we could no longer be a sit-down dining room and had to serve food To-Go only. But how to do it?  My initial plan was to have guests come inside the dining room to the serving counter to get their food, but it was Dean who realized that was still unsafe.  It was his idea to have tables by the main door where one person at a time would come in (with mask on) to get their hot coffee, oatmeal, soup, sandwich, fruit, and what ever other food we had that particular day.  This has proved a safe and effective way to serve during the pandemic and is the model we used to host our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Again, we miss Dean’s presence at the dining room, but at least I still get to see him when I go by the Chapman house.

And then there was the COVID pandemic… Luckily none of the staff, volunteers, or shelter guests at Catholic Worker Hospitality House have gotten sick (or worse) with the virus.  And to the best of our knowledge none of our dining room guests have either.  Still, the pandemic has affected our work in many ways.

With the onset of COVID in March we lost practically all of our longtime volunteers. It made total sense for them to stop coming to the dining room as they were in the high risk group for COVID due to advanced years, underlying health issues, or both.  I found it touching when several volunteers told me they didn’t want to stop volunteering, but their adult children insisted on it.  My response was, “Look on the bright side, your children care enough about you that they want you to stay safe.  You should worry if they want you to continue getting in harms way!”

Still, we miss them dearly as most of our dining room volunteers had been part of our work for over ten years.  Part of what makes work fun for me is the people I work with.  I look forward to working with a different group of volunteers each day.  “It’s Wednesday, oh good! Lorraine, Barbara, Marie, and Dean will be in today. It’s Thursday.  Pitt, Terri, Lori, and Joanne will be in today.”  I now sometimes have a hard time remembering what day it is because we have the same volunteers everyday.  They all know that they are welcome back once the pandemic subsides and I look forward to their return.  But I realize some won’t be returning as advanced years (such as Lorraine in her mid-nineties) may mean the end of their volunteering days.  That is the sad part for all of us at the dining room.

But as is so typical of our work, when one group of volunteers fades out another steps forward.  Shelter staff now stay a little longer in the morning to assist until volunteers arrive; Danny and Emad are there everyday to serve and do dishes; Debbie still comes in once a week (the one old-time volunteer who didn’t have to drop off); and new volunteers have emerged to fill in the gaps.  Faces change, but the work continues.

Through it all your generosity has kept our work going.  Your kindness has enabled us to continue our existing work while responding to new needs and challenges presented by the COVID pandemic.  We thank you for all your support in 2020 and hope that you will continue helping us help others in 2021.

With much love and gratitude,

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House


Christmas Dinner

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

On Wednesday, December 23 we hosted our annual Christmas Dinner.  It was a lovely eventwith everybody enjoying a bountiful feast.  There was so much ham and a couple of turkeys for those who don’t eat pork; a variety of potato dishes; an array of special dishes (ambrosia, baked beans, candied yams); and so much cake and cookies. The meal was extra special this year as the ability to host it was in question considering the pandemic.  Luckily we found a good model at our Thanksgiving Dinner of how to serve a festive meal while being mindful of COVID concerns and restrictions. We give thanks to the generosity of so many donors who not only provided a bountiful feast, but made it possible for us to provide gifts to all our guests.  We could not have done the event without your generosity.   

Christmas Appeal

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

                                                                                                            DECEMBER 2020

Dear Friends,


The world we live in can be a scary place. 2020 has been a year where it’s been easy to be afraid.  The world is struggling with the coronavirus.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost; jobs and economic wellbeing have been lost; daily routines have been drastically altered; families have been separated; and isolation has become the norm.  Our country has gone through an incredibly divisive election and sadly those divisions don’t seem to be healing.  Global climate change continues at an alarming pace while many continue to deny its existence.  Institutional racism continues to be a scourge upon our country.  At the risk of stating the obvious, there is much to fear in our world today.


There is nothing new about a scary world; it is as old as time.  It’s even a common theme in the nativity narratives, when the world was arguably an even scarier place: fear of an angel’s appearance, fear of what God wants a person to do, and fear of political leaders.  All valid reactions, but in every instance the angel of the Lord comforts them with “do not be afraid.”  To Zechariah, “Do not be afraid, your prayers have been answered.” (Luke 1:5-17)  To Mary, “Be not afraid, you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1: 26-33)  To the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I proclaim good news of great joy.” (Luke 1:8-14)


We know, intellectually at least, that we are cared for by a loving God. Still it’s hard not to feel at least a little trepidation.  This year especially, being told, “do not be afraid” feels like when the angel told St. Paul not to be afraid during the storm at sea because nothing bad will happen to him before he gets executed in Rome. What!  That’s not exactly comforting.


But still, the message of the nativity and infancy narrative is clear and comforting:  God has entered the world in a special way.  If we make the effort, we can deepen our relationship with God and live in peace instead of fear.  The choice is ours.  The world and what we must do in it can be a scary place, but if we trust in God and try to live out mercy and justice, then all will be fine.


As always, we thank you for your generous support of our work with those in need during this very difficult year and hope that you will continue helping us help others in the year to come.


Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,


Peter Stiehler


Catholic Worker Hospitality House




Every year, two weeks before Thanksgiving I get into a tizzy, fearful that we won’t have enough food forour 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, enough volunteers, and over 130 guests enjoying the day.  Even without indoor dining the day was festive, joyful and full of thanks.  I was reminded 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 will only be providing hearty hot meals To-Go. Again, we hate making this change, as it seems hardly festive, but the safety of our guests and volunteers necessitate 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, 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. Wednesday, 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 this 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, 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.

Judy Pena Tribute

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

It is with much sadness that we bid farewell to another long time fixture of the Catholic Worker Hospitality House, Judy Pena. Judy hasn’t died, but her health has deteriorated to the degree that she is no longer able to live on her own and now resides at a care facility in Gilroy. Therefore, we will no longer be seeing her at the dining room.  Sadly because of COVID I will not be able to visit her, although I will be able to stay in touch by phone.


Judy has been a regular at the dining room and shelter for 24 years. Shortly after we opened our dining room we met her at a conference at Saint Bruno’s Church. When she learned about our dining room she said she just had to be part of it. Soon she was a daily volunteer serving food, chatting up our guests, and cleaning up after serving time. A couple of years later when we had a job opening at the shelter she was briefly an overnight staff person. While working at the shelter some of the guests thought Judy would be a pushover, they soon learned otherwise. Judy holds the record for kicking out the most guests in a single night when one Saturday night she told four rowdy guests to leave after repeated warnings to curb their behavior. Even after she stopped working at the shelter she was a regular volunteer at the dining room for another decade until her health prevented her from working. The place was so important to her that even when she could no longer work she would still come every morning just to socialize with the other guests. As her health declined I started giving her a ride home from the dining room every morning, which gave us some nice one-on-one time. She was always pleasant on the drive home, even if we had arguments that morning at the dining room (which was not uncommon).


Like the rest of us, Judy is no saint, and can be quite difficult at times (as many of her fellow volunteers can attest to). But throughout her life she was a person who volunteered her time to serve those in need, whether it was working with the United Farmworkers Movement to improve the lot of laborers in the fields, with the Franciscans at the Poverello center serving the urban poor in San Francisco, or at our little dining room. Judy was always of service and was open and welcoming to all. A humble and giving life covers a multitude of sins.



Judy, thank you for your years of service and loving presence. You are and will be missed.  The place won’t be the same without you.

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

Dear Friends,

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us and Catholic Worker Hospitality House will once again host a Thanksgiving Dinner for all our guests, but with major changes to account for the COVID pandemic. We normally host a festive sit-down meal for over 200 guests, but, sadly, this year we will only be providing hearty hot meals To-Go. We hate making this change, as it seems hardly festive, but the safety of our guests and volunteers makes it necessary.

In normal years we welcome any and all volunteers, realizing the great desire folks have to be of service for and with others on Thanksgiving. But this year we need to limit the number of people volunteering to serve food.

Where we do need volunteers is in food preparation.  Over the years our Thanksgiving Feast has been made possible by all of you who bring prepared food to share with our guests. Can you help us again this year? We are looking for people to bring one or more of the following:

  • Turkey, cooked and carved to serve ten
  • Mashed potatoes or stuffing for ten
  • Vegetable dish for ten
  • Pie, cake, or cookies
  • Individual Sized juice, milk, or soda
  • To-Go containers, napkins, plastic ware

If you can provide any of these items please call us at (650) 827-0706.

Food is to be brought to our dining room at St. Bruno’s Church, located at 555 W. San Bruno Ave., between 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Nov. 26).  The meal will be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m..  PLEASE call to tell us what you can bring so we can plan accordingly.

Thank you so much for your continued generosity.



Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House