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

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by Christine Baker

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says they have faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.                                                                                             –James 2:14-17                 


Dear Friends,

In late January Catholic Worker Hospitality House bid a sad farewell to our long-time volunteer Lioba Moulton who moved to Tracy, CA to live with her recently widowed sister.  Twenty years ago Lioba started delivering soup and sandwiches to our dining room once a week. Immediately, there was a marked improvement in the quality of our breakfast, which was definitely noticed and appreciated by our guests.  “Who made the soup today? It’s much better than usual.” Upon retirement, Lioba was soon coming to the dining room two to three days a week with soup, sandwiches, trays of scrambled eggs, hot dogs, casseroles for the shelter dinner, apple crisp and other dessert items, and whatever else she could get donated from her local grocery store.  Without having to go to work she was able to stay to serve the food she brought. In short time Lioba became an integral part of the dining room community.

Guests and volunteers alike will miss Lioba’s regular delicious food contributions to the dining room, but we doubt she is gone for good.  Knowing Lioba we fully expect her to occasionally show up with tasty food for our morning serving. Service is just such a part of who she is.

Catholic Worker Hospitality House is neither the first nor the only place Lioba has been of service. When her son was young, she was active in his schools, as well as his various extra-curricular activities; for decades she has been active at St. Peter’s Parish in Pacifica, particularly in the RCIA program; when she worked South of Market in San Francisco she would regularly make and deliver sack lunches for folks living on the street outside of her office building.  Lioba epitomizes a life of service motivated by a deep and abiding faith that is an integral part of her daily life. If faith without works is dead then Lioba’s faith is alive and well.

While we appreciate Lioba for all the food she brings us, we’ve grown to love her for the joyful, loving presence she brings to our dining room.  One would think that life around Catholic Worker Hospitality House would be grim and dour. We’re dealing with people who lack material resources, many of who are homeless, and many who might be dealing with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. It just seems like a recipe for a depressing environment.  But surprisingly it is a very joyful place. While we take our work seriously, the staff and volunteers are unusually happy and playful, which seems to rub off on those we serve. Lioba epitomizes this joyfulness. Where does all this joy come from? I think it has to do with the nature of being of service to others. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own petty concerns. But when we get beyond our own self-seeking and selfishness, when we focus on serving others, when we are engaged in something bigger than ourselves that doesn’t necessarily benefit us, then a certain joy enters our life. A joy that is infectious and transforming.

I know I’m preaching to the choir with this letter.  If you’re reading this you’re probably already actively engaged in a life of service to others, along with having a deep and abiding faith.  I’m also sure many of you have heard your own story in this letter, “Yep, that me. School, check. Church, check. Direct service to those in need, check.”  You know the benefits of service: strangers become friends, a broadening of life by experiencing new places, people and ideas, which leads to more engaged and full life.

As always, we thank you all for your ongoing support of our work with those in need.  Your kindness helps us continue being of service to others through the daily practice of the Works of Mercy.

In Loving Service,

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House




St. Bruno’s Catholic Church, St. Gabriel’s Hall

Friday, March 20 at 7:30 pm

Please join us for an entertaining and informative evening as LeRoy Chatfield will be reading from his book To Serve The People: My Life Organizing With Cesar Chavez and the Poor and sharing stories from his remarkable life over fifty years of service in the struggle for justice and equality. LeRoy is a former organizer who worked with Cesar Chaves to get union recognition for California farmworkers, managed the Northern California general election campaign for Jerry Brown in 1974, organized the California Conservation Corps, and built the largest volunteer charitable organization in Sacramento (Loaves and Fishes) to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, among many other activities. He is also the father of Catholic Worker Hospitality House co-founder Kate Chatfield.



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.




by Christine Baker



Dear Friends,

One of my responsibilities at Catholic Worker Hospitality House is to keep the various buildings we use for our various service projects looking nice and in good repair.  As we have been entrusted with bountiful resources to serve those in need, we have a duty to protect and maintain them. I have to admit I really like this aspect of my job as I enjoy the physical labor. It plays to what I feel are my strengths as I am task-oriented, like exerting myself and getting dirty, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when a job is completed.

Why do I do the painting and other maintenance around our various buildings?  Wouldn’t it be less demanding on my body and time to hire a professional? A big reason I do as much of the work as I’m capable of is that it saves CWHH a lot of money.  Paying for painting a house can easily run five to ten thousand dollars. Calling an electrician or plumber starts at $300 and easily gets into the thousands of dollars. That’s a lot of money that could otherwise go to serving those in need.

But there are deeper reasons why I do as much of the painting and maintenance work around CWHH as I’m capable.   One lies in the Catholic Worker belief in the basic dignity of working with one’s hands, of exerting oneself to create something useful and beautiful.   We’re inspired by the Benedictine motto of “Ora et Labora” – “work and prayer.”   Physical labor is seen as a necessary complement to a prayerful and reflective (or intellectual) life.  Work makes us whole. This is further echoed in a favorite motto of Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, “the workers shall be scholars and the scholars shall be workers.”  If we do one but not the other our life is out of balance and we are incomplete.

Besides the philosophical basis for laboring there is also the practical aspect that physical labor can unite us with those we serve and put us on more equal footing.  These projects break down the dichotomy of server and served that often exists in the world of social service. And furthermore, this work humbles me. In our daily work at CWHH I’m the authority. I set the rules and determine how things should be done.  My education, life experience, and position usually set me apart from those we serve. When it comes to maintenance or building projects I know enough to get started, but often it’s our guests who know how to do the project properly. I’m regularly humbled by my lack of ability and the skills of our guests.

This summer I took on the project of painting and repairing our house located at 672 Second Ave.  Of all the buildings we use for our various service projects, the Second Ave house is the most challenging and time consuming to paint.  It’s two and a half stories tall with shiplap siding (compared to stucco on the other buildings) and has a large front porch with lots of spindles.  Adding to the “enjoyment” of painting the house this year was the discovery during prep that some of the siding was in bad shape and the porch had rot in the decking and framing.

But the painting of the Second Ave house became a great example of how work unites and equalizes.  Mike, one of the residents of the house, was a painter before bad hips put him on disability. When we started preparing the house for painting he repeatedly corrected my slap-dash prep work: “Peter, you can’t just hose down the house and scrape off the big flakes of paint.”  “But I want to start painting, gotta finish this job.”   “Dude, if you don’t seriously scrape, sand, and caulk you’ll have peeling paint and leaks in two years. “ I learned to trust his knowledge and experience. So we took the time to properly prepare the house for painting. I may have the responsibility, resources and organizational skills to get the job done, but he has the skills to do it right.

The first day of painting was a joy, I was joined by three of the residents in painting the house.  Besides getting most of the house painted in a single day, we had a good time telling stories, and teasing each other.  At the end of the day when we were paint splattered and tired we stood back admiring what we had accomplished. It was a good time and we felt good about ourselves.

Regarding the questionable old siding, I turned to Mike for advice on what to do.  Could it be saved or would it need to be replaced? He assured me that if I did proper preparation, it would be good to go.  By now I knew enough to follow his advice, so I thoroughly nailed, scraped, sanded, and caulked the old siding before painting.  It came out great.

When it came time to preparing the front porch for the new decking Mike and I rebuilt one set of stairs.  I knew enough to have Mike do the “smart” work of cutting the stringers, while I did the organizing, shopping, and grunt work.  Our stairs turned out great. Again, at the end of the day, tired and dirty, we admired our work and felt good about ourselves. We even strained our shoulders patting ourselves on the back.

The dry rot on the other section of the porch required more expertise than Mike and I could muster, so we hired Rick, a guest at the dining room who is a professional carpenter, to do the work.  We sat back in amazement as he worked his magic, skill, and artistry. He did a much better job of repairing the porch than we ever could. Besides having an opportunity to earn some money and displaying his ample skills, Rick was able to give back to Catholic Worker.

Now fully painted with a refurbished front porch the house looks great (or at least better than before).  It came about because of many people sharing their gifts. When we deny people the opportunity to engage in common work and share their skills we are neither helpful nor loving.  A goal of the Catholic Worker Movement is to bring together people of varied talents and resources to make the world a better place – whether it’s through our dining room, shelter, or maintenance projects.  Some people have money, some have time, and others have practical skills. Individually, we may lack the ability to get a job done or accomplish a goal, but together we are able to do a job and do it well.

As always we are able to continue our work and witness because of your ongoing generous support of our work with those in need.  We give thanks for all your past support and hope that you will continue helping us help others.

In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House



Old-fashioned oats

Pasta sauce



Toilet Paper


Money for our ongoing expenses


June 2019 Appeal Letter

by Christine Baker

  June  2019

What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)


       What does a just society look like? In my opinion, it’s a place where all are treated with dignity and respect.  Nobody is discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or religious beliefs.  People are free from fear of want and have the opportunity to maximize their potential to live a joyful life.  It’s community, belonging, and acceptance.   It’s people with skills and resources sharing what they have to help make the world a better place for all.  With that in mind, a just society, to me, looks like a modest two-story house in a suburban neighborhood of San Bruno CA that is the home of Catholic Worker Hospitality House (CWHH) where I have worked for the past twenty three years.  

       In February of 1996 when Kate and I moved into the house at 672 Second Ave in San Bruno we thought it would be a traditional Catholic Worker house of hospitality.  We had purposely gotten a large house so we could provide hospitality to those in need.  We quickly filled the extra rooms with people in need of shelter.  In April 1996 we started a free dining room out of a hall on the grounds of St. Bruno’s Catholic Church in San Bruno.  For two years all went according to plan.

       Then the parish started having issues with homeless people sleeping in the church at night. (The church is open all night as it hosts Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament). At a meeting called by the parish to discuss the problem, we offered to operate a homeless shelter out of the same building where we run our free dining room.  In this way, the parish could honor and care for the body of Christ in their midst while adoring the spiritual Body of Christ.  The parish accepted our offer and we now had the opportunity to provide shelter to more people.  This helped Kate and I as well, for at the time we were expecting our second child and felt the need for a family space separate from our work. In 2001 Kate and I had the opportunity to purchase a small house in Brisbane, which proved perfect for our small family and made the big house on Second Ave. available for expanded work.  So what to do with the Second Ave house?  First we had a young family live in the house rent-free for two years while they saved money to purchase their own house.  It was satisfying to help a young family find permanent housing just as we had been helped.  After the family moved out we had the idea to offer recent college graduates an opportunity to live at the house and work with us.  It would help us expand our work and allow these young folks gain work experience as we had in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Four years later that idea ran its course and we started thinking about what to do next.

       Almost from the beginning of operating our shelter we had noticed the same folks cycling through our shelter because they were unable to find housing due to a severe lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area. For a couple of years we had been experimenting with subsidizing rent for a few folks with steady work or social security.  When that became financially unsustainable we thought, “Why not use the Second Ave. house for permanent affordable housing?”  So for the past thirteen years we have been using the house for that purpose.  Of all the projects we have done at Catholic Worker Hospitality House and of all the uses of the Second Ave house over the years, using it as permanent affordable housing has been the least “charitable” and the most “just” project that we have done.  

       Now, I really like our homeless shelter.  We treat our guests with dignity and respect, and do a good job of keeping it non-institutional.  I also know it’s often a life saving community resource that our guests greatly value.  But while a homeless shelter beats sleeping outside or in a car, by its very nature it’s not a nice place.  There is no permanence, guests have to be out during the day and sleep in a big room with eight other people with just a flimsy divider for privacy. Snores permeate the night. Then there are the set meal, wake-up, and lights-off times.  Even though we try our best, there is an inherent lack of dignity, freedom, and permanence in a shelter.

       Contrast that with our Second Ave boarding house, which is not just a place to sleep, but a home.  As long as they pay their very affordable rent and are a good roommate, residents can live there as long as they like.  At this point most residents have lived there from five to ten years.  Residents have the privacy of their own room, can come and go as they like, and eat when and what they want.  These simple things provide the foundation for a dignified, secure, and happy life.  Most of the residents of the house are grumpy old men who have not had the civilizing effect of women (wives) in their lives.  They rarely cook and eat meals together, nor do they watch TV or sporting events together, preferring to eat and watch TV in the privacy of their own rooms.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a sense of community in the house.  Most of the daily socializing occurs on the smoking porch.  There are the occasional backyard barbeques with friends and family to celebrate birthdays or whatever excuse comes to mind.  One of the resident’s regularly has his son and grandson to the house for heated dominoes games.  I know how much this means to him because in the years he was homeless he couldn’t “do the things a dad and granddad should do.”

       A common fear we all have is who will care for us after a serious illness or during our final days. This is especially true for people estranged from or without family.  I am moved by how these grumpy old men have repeatedly stepped forward to assist a roommate recuperating from a major medical issue or during the final days of a terminal illness.  While they won’t normally admit to feelings of affection for each other, their care shines forth when it matters most.

       I appreciate that the residents allow me to be part of the community of the house.  I’m at the house everyday as the garage and basement serves as storage and office space for Catholic Worker Hospitality House.  The guys welcome me on the smoking porch, invite me whenever there is a BBQ or party at the house, and occasionally join in the work of CWHH.  While they often tease me about being “the overseer,” over the years as we’ve daily shared our lives and work, the relationship has shifted from one of landlord-tenant to friendship.

       When I first dreamed of living out my faith by working at a Catholic Worker House I envisioned rough neighborhoods, grand actions, and dramatic background music.  But after thirty years of trying to live the life, I see it’s about daily doing small simple acts of kindness to bring comfort and joy into the lives of others. Whether that’s by providing a hot meal, a blanket, a place to live, acceptance, or a corny joke.  It’s about sharing what you have so all will have enough, maximizing prophetic witness instead of profits.  It’s about living justice wherever you are given the opportunity to serve. Whether it’s rough neighborhoods or average suburbs, people still need to be loved, treated with dignity and respect, and given an opportunity to live the best life possible.  Kate and I are forever grateful all for the resources and opportunities that have been given us to serve those in need in our community.  We hope we have been good stewards of these gifts and a witness to our faith by our daily work.  We give thanks for all of your past support and hope that you will continue helping us help others.  With your ongoing support, together we can continue striving to make the world a better place in small and large ways.

In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House





Sugar and creamer


Toilet Paper

Soup bowls and spoons

Money, for our ongoing expenses

April 2019 Appeal Letter

by Christine Baker

April 2019


            Be Compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Pardon, and you shall be pardoned. Give, and it shall be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment.  For the measure you measure will be measured back to you.     –- Luke 6: 37-38


Dear Friends,

I have a bad memory.  Now this can be both a blessing and a curse in our daily work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House.  The blessing is that it enables me to forget the misdeeds of certain guests at our dining room and shelter, instead of holding onto a grudge and refusing them hospitality.    But the curse is that I annoy my poor co-corkers, as I too often hear from them: “Did you let Mr. A back into the shelter?! Last time he was here he did x, y, and z and we had to kick him out” or “ I saw Mr. B was at the dining room today.  I thought you had banned him for doing q, r, and s repeatedly? My usual response is: “Oh, Jeez, I totally forgot.” I know that my actions drive my co-workers to distraction, but I would like to think that my forgetfulness is a form of passive forgiveness.  I believe strongly that we must forgive the misdeeds of others if we want God to forgive our own. And as I’m well aware of my myriad misdeeds, I try to give folks a second, third, or forth chance before I impose any sanctions on them.

Now passive forgiveness has its place, but there are times when we must practice active forgiveness.  I remember a time when a guest did something really bad and for years I couldn’t forgive and let it go.  I held on to it, let it fester, and, as forgiveness is at the core of our faith, I let it effect my prayer life.  How could I come before God to seek forgiveness and redemption when I was unwilling to give it to another? I don’t know if my lack off forgiveness affected the person I couldn’t forgive, but it sure had a negative effect on me. When I don’t forgive I separate myself not only from my fellow man, but from the love of God as well.  When I do forgive and let go, I’m able to move on and stay in communion with God and others.

I try to remember that we are all better than our worst action.  As Christians we believe that regardless of the transgression committed by the individual there is the possibility for reconciliation and a return to wholeness.  Our faith teaches that as long as the person acknowledges their wrongdoing, shows repentance, and does some sort of penance, we can welcome the person back into full communion with the community.  And ultimately, don’t we want the wrongdoer to be welcomed back into the full graces of the community? In our spite and anger we often say, “lock ‘em up and throw away the key,” but the world is a better place when our neighbor reforms, repents, and is welcomed back.

In my time at Catholic Worker Hospitality House I have seen numerous guests at our dining room and shelter who at one time were wild, out of control, or just plain bad.  But then something changed in their lives and they became a different person. Our challenge is: do we remember the out of control person or do we embrace and support the reforming person?  In the retelling it seems the transformation is instantaneous, one day they were bad and the next they were good. But in reality it’s a process, often a very long process with plenty of fits and starts: a decision is made to try to be better, baby steps are made, then a few more, until gradually over time the new way gains strength and the old bad habits fade.  Over the years we have seen the power of forgiveness work miracles in those we serve. I have seen numerous people who I personally thought were hopeless cases end up transforming their lives. It always starts with people forgiving themselves and starting to walk the road of personal transformation. Our challenge is to try to forgive past actions, believe in attempts at reform, and support and encourage where possible.  We always rejoice when we see such transformations.

In our daily work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House we do our best to embody the way of forgiveness; to assist with the healing of individuals, society, and, ultimately, ourselves.  We thank you for your support of our efforts at healing and reconciliation, even when it seems foolish and hopeless. Together we are “fools for Christ” who are doing our best to embody the Kingdom of God here and now.


In Christ’s Peace,

Peter Stiehler

For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House




Canned fruit

Coffee and creamer

Canned fruit

Toilet paper and napkins

Large and tall trash bags


Money, for our ongoing expenses



On April 1, 1996 Catholic Worker Hospitality House opened its doors for the first time, serving a ham and potato dinner to five thankful guests. Twenty-three years later we’re still going strong.  Five mornings a week we serve hot meals to 60-70 guests with over fifteen folks taking showers during the mealtime and every night we offer emergency shelter to eight individuals. We also operate two boarding houses where a total of fifteen individuals have permanent affordable housing.  We’ve been able to not only continue our work, but greatly expand it over the years because of your generous and faithful support. We thank you for all you have done for those in need in our community over the years and hope that you will continue helping us help others.