Radical Catholic Journalist Launches Peace and Justice Week at 8th Annual Dorothy Day Lecture

By Angelica Niedermeyer, Staff Writer

The 8th Annual Dorothy Day Lecture gathered a panel of Catholic women journalists and a member of the Dorothy Day Guild, who discussed the intergenerational effect of Day and her ongoing process of canonization. 

The Day lecture commenced the Manhattan College annual Peace and Justice Week titled “Contemporary Pathways to Peace and Justice.” The event was held on March 29 virtually, moderated by Kevin Ahern, associate professor of religious studies, with an introduction of the speakers by junior and student journalist Anna Woods. 

The speakers who discussed Day, the renown American Journalist, social activist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, included Melissa Cedillo, National Catholic Reporter, Colleen Dulle, associate editor at America Magazine and co-host of the “Inside the Vatican” podcast and Eileen Markey, reporter and assistant professor of journalism at Lehman College of the City University of New York. 

As for an update on the canonization of Day, George Hortan, a member of the Dorothy Day Guild said, “I hope that you all had a chance to view the great moment on Dec. 8 when we celebrated over 20 years of work in gathering the evidence for Dorothy Day’s cause. We look forward to Dorothy being named venerable within 1-2 years. Some of us hope that might even be sooner, if [Pope] Francis gets wind that it’s all there and ready for him to make a decision.”

Day, a New Yorker, was born on November 8, 1897 in Brooklyn Heights and died on November 29, 1980 in NYC, spending most of her personal and work life on Staten Island. 

She became known for her Catholic journalism work in social justice and for the poor. According to The Official Website of the City of New York, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced in March 2021 that the new 2022 Staten Island Ferry was going to be named after Day in response to all her work.

Speaking to Day’s mission spreading, Ahern said, “It’s important that it’s not just about her, but it’s about her reading of the gospel and the works of mercy. Every week there’s some other article in a secular major news source about Dorothy Day. She’s clearly capturing the imagination of people.” 

The next step to sainthood is looking for a miracle.

“There, you can be of help to us. If there is anything that you have asked of Dorothy, please let us know about that,” Hortan said. “The problem of the miracle is a major step we have to accomplish before she’s named blessed.”

Day held many roles in her life; she was a holy woman, a radical, a pacifist, an anarchist and a working mother. 

“Her vocation as a journalist is one that has not been explored as much as I think it could be,” said Ahern.

In May 1933, Day co-founded and released the first issue of the Catholic worker newspaper alongside Peter Maurin, which would later start this radical movement. The panel’s journalists shared their embodiment of Day’s desire to see the world as a reporter first finding God through hearing people’s accounts. 

“When I think about her career as a journalist, I think about obviously her commitment to truth,” Markey said.  “Dorothy Day has been very informative to many of our lives and the ways in which we understand Catholicism. But it was her role as a journalist that led her into the places where she then understood God in the way she spent most of her life proclaiming.” 

Each journalist had their own personal connection to Day which inspired them to excel in their vocation.

“I can’t relate to all of her, but there are so many specific things that are so human and I think that that’s the reason that she is adaptable to secular papers,” Cedillo said.

As the Catholic church decides whether or not she will become a saint, Day is still seen in a controversial light as she is known for having an abortion after a failed relationship.

Cedillo then brought up the following questions: “How do we not admire folks for being radical in the past? How do we challenge ourselves to not wait until someone has passed?”

Day has made an ongoing effect on Catholic media with her radical views and progressive work as a woman journalist especially, in the 1930s. 

“She was fearless. She was on the ground actually meeting people, boots on the street and all that, which is exactly who you want to be as a reporter,” Dulle said. “I think it’s way too easy, especially in the age of COVID to kind of be more distant. She was so committed to being up close with the people who were affected by the policy decisions made in the halls of power, but telling the stories of the people who were affected by them.” 

Day, with her constant effort to learn, attended many protests standing up for the minority and what she believed in.  

“I think that is what is most inspiring about Day, is this idea that we don’t wonder where she stood on issues. It did not make us trust her more or her reach the idea of truth any less,” said Cedillo.

Day’s effect on the media today takes form in the journalistic want to witness and tell the truth. The panelists brought up the current media industry and its reliance on opinion whereas Day and the Catholic worker newspaper showed how to be objective. 

“As Pope Francis has invited us to do, there needs to be intergenerational dialogue. There is so much for us to learn from each other,” Cedillo said.

To help promote Day’s sainthood, there are ways to help.

“There are a lot of volunteer opportunities to join the guild, to participate in this experience,” Hortan said. “If you go to http://www.dorothydayguild.org you’ll be able to access a lot of information and the opportunity to join us in this process.”

Editor’s note: Anna Woods, who is mentioned in this article,  is managing editor for The Quadrangle.