The Catholic Worker after Dorothy
Practicing the Works of Mercy in a New Generation
Liturgical Press, $19.95, 236 pp.
In Catholicism and American Freedom (2003), historian John T. McGreevy described the Catholic Worker as “the most important radical Catholic movement in American history.” At seventy-five, the Catholic Worker is certainly the most long-lived and written-about venture of its kind in American Catholicism. And while this lay movement’s charismatic founders, Peter Maurin (d. 1949) and Dorothy Day (d. 1980), are long departed, the Catholic Worker movement continues to grow in vibrancy and versatility.
That is the thesis of The Catholic Worker after Dorothy, Dan McKanan’s follow-up book to Touching the World (Liturgical Press, 2007), his study of intentional Christian communities that attempt to transform society. McKanan uses interviews with Catholic Workers from across the country; primary and secondary sources on the movement; and his own sociological analysis of how small faith communities define themselves, attract members, and prosper or decline.
Chair of the theology department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, but not a Catholic himself, McKanan was introduced to the Catholic Worker as a student by Robert Coles. McKanan acknowledges his new...