She is a Catholic activist in her own right, and recently visited Iowa State to speak.
Martha Hennessy is a soft-spoken woman, but her actions certainly are not.
She spoke on Monday in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union, giving a speech titled “Inspiration for the 21st Century Radical” in which she discussed her life within the Catholic Worker movement.
Hennessy’s grandmother, Dorothy Day, was a cofounder for the newspaper the Catholic Worker. Day helped create this paper in 1933. The newspaper focused on “the dignity of every person,” just as the movement continues to do today.
There are currently 185 Catholic Worker Communities in the world. These communities contain Catholic Worker houses, which strive to help the community, the poor, and according to the Catholic Worker movement website, “resist war and social injustice.”
“The beauty of the model [of the Catholic Worker movement] is in its tolerance and it’s diversity,” said Hennessy, who currently volunteers most of her time to Maryhouse, a Catholic Worker house, in New York.
Aside from her work with aiding the poor, Hennessy has also given much of her time to protesting. Though there are multiple issues that Hennessy stands behind, she focused on the issue of torture and the Guantanamo Bay prison camps in her speech. Hennessy has served time in jail for her participation in nonviolent protests.
Hennessy’s life may be focused on her faith now, but that’s not how it always has been. “I was caught up in the human errors and inadequacies of the church … I have been out of the Catholic Church for most of my adult life.” Hennessy returned to the church and the Catholic Worker movement in 2004. “It brought awareness and awakening to my life.”
A class from Ames High was in attendance, as well as many students currently enrolled in several of the religious studies courses here at Iowa State.
“I thought it was very interesting,” said Sarah Langel, freshman in kinesiology and health, “I never really realized the work that [the Catholic Worker’s] do.”
Also in attendance was Alice McGary, a worker at the Mustard Seed Community Farm, a type of Catholic Worker house that grows food for local food pantries in Ames. “I resonate with all of the basic beliefs of the movement,” McGary said, who herself has been involved with the movement for 14 years.