June 1994 – Peace House Makes a Stop at the Worker p. 1
PEACE HOUSE MAKES A STOP AT THE WORKER
For a few days in June, the Des Moines Catholic Work was privileged to host Karl Meyer and his Peace House.
Karl is a carpenter and the father of three grown children. He’s been associated with the Catholic Worker movement for over thirty-seven years and has been a close friend and supporter of the Catholic Worker throughout the Chicago metropolitan area for as long as anyone can remember. Karl has been a hero of mine ever since I heard about him when I first became a Catholic Worker.
He first met Dorothy Day in the summer of 1957 in New York City. At the ripe old age of twenty, he joined Dorothy Day, Ammon Hennacy and others at the NYCW protesting the city’s annual nuclear air raid drills. He was among those who were arrested, tried, convicted and sent to jail for not cooperating with the drills. This was the first of many acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in which Karl participated throughout the past thirty-seven years.
He did jail time for trespassing at a nuclear missile base in Nebraska in 1959. Karl was a part of the 1961 San Francisco to Moscow Walk for Peace. An active protester throughout the Vietnam War, he was a member of the Committee for Nonviolent Action in Saigon in 1966.
Karl spent much of the 1980’s working with the Pledge of Resistance opposing the U.S. Government foreign policies in Central America.
A war tax resister for the last thirty-four years, he served a nine month prison sentence for his refusal to pay his Federal Income Tax. A leader in the War Tax Resistance, for twenty-seven years he has been speaking, writing and counseling against paying the federal income taxes.
He has worked closely with such veteran nonviolent resisters a Marion and Ernest Bromley, Juanita and Maurice McCracken. Fr. Dan Berrigan, S.J. was his spiritual director before Fr. Dan was a pacifist.
A couple of years ago, Karl sold everything he owned and moved into his mobile Peace House. He has been traveling all around the country educating people about the value and history of nonviolent direct action for social change.
The Peace House is a custom-made camper on the back of a small flatbed truck. It contains a small library of books and tapes on nonviolence. It has a small meeting room that can accommodate twelve adults.
Is also serves as Karl’s home, equipped with a full service kitchen. Karl has been living in his Peace House on and off for the last two years. He carries his own carpentry tools and offers his services to the Catholic Worker Houses and needy folks he meets in his travels.
The Des Moines Catholic Worker’s houses were direct benefactors of Karl’s four day visit. He installed a much-needed ceiling fan, fixed doors, did work in the bathrooms and also did a couple of other odds and ends. Karl did such a good job that Carla offered him a full year internship at the DMCW.
Karl led a roundtable discussion after our June 10th Friday night Mass. He captivated the crowd with stories of his life and times in the Catholic Worker movement.
His best advice to people who want to be in the CW movement for the long haul is to stay small and do what you can. He told us we shouldn’t be afraid to change the way we offer hospitality to accommodate the needs and limits of our community.
I especially enjoyed the time I spent with Karl in the attic of Ligutti House after his talk. It bought to mind many other such nights when guests and friends would end their nights in the attic, sharing a beer or two and talking into the late hours of the night.