The Future of Karen House: A Letter to our Supporters

Dear Friends,

A dream came true 42 years ago. Seven audacious women envisioned a Catholic Worker House in North St. Louis. They created community and invited guests to come stay with them. (The first guest was a woman named Karen). Karen House was born, dreamed into being.

The foundresses claim they didn’t think it would last. Mary Ann McGivern called it a flash in the pan. Virginia gave it two years, tops. All these years later that flash (as Mary Ann said last week) turned out to be gold. Virginia was 40 years off, and the dream has lived on.

The dream has continued, still audaciously, as thousands and thousands of people have filled Karen House with laughter and love and hope and grief and fear and longing and joy. We are writing because you are one of those people who have brought yourself and your time, talent, and love to Karen House. Without the untold numbers of guests, community, and volunteers, Virginia’s prediction would have been a lot more accurate. The extended community that exists around Karen House is nothing short of a miracle. A daily, living miracle. And we are so very grateful.

Even with the consistent and steadfast support of the extended community, the day to day sustainability of Karen House depends on a live-in community. For the past several years, we simply have not had enough people to fill this role. We have pursued many different recruitment attempts over the past year, and none have brought us the live-in community members we need to continue hospitality at Karen House. Many similar volunteer groups are experiencing the same issue.

We are very sad to bring the news that within the next year, we will be closing Karen House. Right now the house continues in the way it has over 42 years: kids laughing, running, and screaming up and down the hallway, people sharing food in the dining room, people getting clothes from the clothing room and food at the door. New volunteers still gape in wonder at the life we create at Karen House. It does not look like a place that is dying, in fact quite the opposite. So please, in the next year, continue to participate in the same ways you have–we will still need cooks and volunteers and funds for the continued hospitality.

Our hope is to transition the building to a like-minded group, hopefully one that provides hospitality. We will be meeting with any interested organizations, so please let us know if you know of anyone interested in the physical structure of Karen House (and who would have the resources to maintain the 100+ year old building).

We will continue to be in touch about the process and the planning. And of course if we get an influx of live-in community members, these plans will change. If not, we will have gatherings and commemorations as the time gets closer.

We understand that many people feel the same way we do about Karen House, that it is in many ways, a home to us all. As a former community member said, “Karen House has saved me more than once.” It has taken us all in and loved us all. As Dorothy promised, we weren’t “alone anymore”.

The particular incarnation of this dream, started so long ago, and may be transitioning. But the dream remains beautiful and full.
As does our gratitude for you.

With love,

Kevin Miller
Sheila Donnelly
Tim Pekerek
Elizabeth Quiros
Teka Childress
Virginia Druhe
Mary Ann McGivern
Mary Densmore
Daniel Ryskiewich
Kristina Vidovic
Colleen Kelly
Annjie Schiefelbein
Jenny Truax