Bert Fitzgerald reads from Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness” in the Simone Weil Catholic Worker House in Northeast Portland earlier this year. Fitzgerald, a convert like Day, is helping organize a new parish-based economic model. (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)
Bert Fitzgerald reads from Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness” in the Simone Weil Catholic Worker House in Northeast Portland earlier this year. Fitzgerald, a convert like Day, is helping organize a new parish-based economic model. (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)
What makes life at the Simone Weil Catholic Worker House in Northeast Portland exciting is that we’re supposed to let Scripture tell us what to do. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the interdependence of the body of Christ that gathers for the Eucharist. This challenges us to practice the works of mercy toward Christ “hidden” among us, such as sheltering Christ homeless. But there is another vein of this challenge no less crucial for addressing Christ’s need: holding resources in common to make them available for the common good (Acts 4).

Most of us hold financial resources in a commercial bank, which is a corporate body with a logic of offering and circulation — one not structurally accountable to its members and those in need. For example, where I previously had my account, Bank of America, my deposits were invested in anything from fossil fuels to private prisons. The short of it is this: Your funds, most of the time, leave your community and are invested somewhere else, perhaps in something you are morally opposed to.

We at the Simone Weil House and In My Backyard (our supporting nonprofit) are inviting you to consider holding your resources differently, in a way that expresses our interdependence as members of the body of Christ. In partnership with a larger, existing credit union, we are building upon the credit union model from within, to create smaller, subsidiary communities in which financial offerings like 0% interest loans reinforce other aspects of Christian community life.

The first subsidiary community, or “node,” for this project will be the Simone Weil House itself. A larger Catholic credit union is making it possible for us, through the aggregation of incentive monies and Scrip gift card returns, to offer no-interest loans in our community, starting with those most in need. We can “honor,” as Paul would say, these members by offering portions of our deposits as collateral for share secured loans to those who might be denied. Over time, we can “redeem” each other’s interest bearing debt accrued within the other corporate body as we learn to offer our financial leverage for mutual benefit in the corporate body of Christ.

Our intention with this is to pilot and create an example of a structure actually most appropriate for the parish — reinforcing the theology of eucharistic communion as implying economic mutuality with particular concern for those most in need. These parish-based subsidiary credit union communities can be a source of relationship and solidarity, as they make resources available between church community and school community, between Spanish and English-language parishioners, and between church and neighborhood.

There are multiple paths for joining us in this movement toward Christian mutuality. In partnership with Notre Dame, we are offering “Liturgy and Communion Economy,” a free online class to explore parish-based economy. We invite you to join our own Simone Weil House credit union community, or begin the conversation about planting this in your own parish.

If you’re interested in any of these offerings, email simoneweilhouse@gmail.com or call -574-213-5468.

Fitzgerald, a convert to Catholicism with a master’s degree in theological studies from the University of Notre Dame, is a founder of the Simone Weil Catholic Worker House in Portland. Emma Coley, a recent Princeton graduate and a member of the Catholic Worker House’s intentional community staff, contributed to this piece.