In our life and work together we strive to encounter and challenge the barriers of sexism, racism and classism that are within our own hearts and in our social structures. Because our community includes African Americans, European Americans, Latinos, women and men, rich and poor, we deal with these issues on a daily basis. Living at the Open Door, therefore, requires a willingness to work for change in our social structures and in ourselves.
Our servanthood takes two basic forms. First, we are servants to those in prison, especially those under the sentence of death. In the name of Jesus we visit our condemned friends and witness against the death penalty in this state. Second, we serve the homeless and hungry on the streets of Baltimore.
Some of the specifics of our ministry include advocacy for the homeless, visitation and letter-writing to prisoners, work with families of prisoners and anti-death penalty advocacy.
In all our work, we are called to practice hospitality and friendliness. We are not here to simply provide services, but to share God’s love, mercy and compassion with our oppressed brothers and sisters. The following excerpt may be helpful in understanding hospitality:
This is the ideal of hospitality: being sister to sister, brother to brother, children to the same Parent. Not scientific social work-hospitality. Not haughty superior dealing with problems with hospitality. Not condescending judge dealing with errant accused-hospitality. No, hospitality is derived from the Latin word for guest. It expresses a relationship between equal people: host and guest. It is bound by the rules of courtesy and human companionship, and ruled by the law of charity.
“There are always men and women who need hospitality, for one reason or another. There are, in an imperfect world of imperfect men and women, always those who need a calling back to life, a restoration of personality. There are always those lonely people, in all times, in all places, who need the knowledge of being respected as men and women, of living with other men and women with dignity, of sharing their own burdens with others and bearing some of the burdens for others.
“Hospitality reminds people that they are sisters and brothers, children of God, dependent on others and capable of being depended on by others.
“It is not a specialized work, requiring scientific training. It is something for everyone to practice according to the measure they are able to do so.
“The charm of hospitality, because it is peculiarly human, appeals to all people. It is not surprising that often God should use the hospitality people give each other as an instrument of God’s grace.”
-John Cogley, The Catholic Worker, October 1947