Prayers answered for Magdalene HouseBy Stacy Trevenon-Half Moon Bay Review--Photo by Mark Jordan
sounds that Coastsiders heard Monday were not just gusts of rain-swept
wind, but sighs of relief from the Magdalene House Coastside Catholic
Worker in Half Moon Bay.
Monday was the day Mike and Kathy Niece,
who live in the Magdalene House and run its work sheltering homeless
families and aiding the Coastside's poor, learned they had raised the
$20,000 they needed to keep their house and ministry going through the
"There were smiles all around today," said Kathy Niece. "It was a big sigh of relief."
was a "tunnel vision" erring on the side of compassion that brought the
Nieces into crisis: Faced with a 2003 budget, but without funds because
their money went to the poor they were here to help.
came to Half Moon Bay in February 2000 to open a house of hospitality
in the Catholic Worker tradition: where they could fulfill the
scriptural mandate to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the
homeless and tend the sick.
For its first three years, it was subsidized by the Catholic Worker House in Redwood City.
2002, the Magdalene House served 250 families by donating food, baby
items, gave out blankets and sleeping bags, gave emergency rental
assistance, bought gas for needy families traveling through town and
accompanied a teen cancer patient and his mother through treatment and
The subsidies ran out this year. The Nieces had
been channeling funds into subsidizing two homeless families and into
rent and bills for the needy, instead of cultivating a solid base of
support, and needed $20,000 in hand by March 1 for the 2003 budget.
is their open-hearted love for the poor that led them to help with rent
subsidies, PG&E, certificates for McDonald's," said Larry Purcell,
one of the founders of Redwood City Catholic Worker.
"We overdid it," Kathy Niece said.
Word went out that the Magdalene House was in trouble, and sources from Coastside and Catholic communities answered.
December, the local Catholic communities in Our Lady of the Pillar
Church in Half Moon Bay, St. Anthony of Padua in Pescadero and Our Lady
of Refuge in La Honda took up a second collection in the week before
On the weekend of Feb. 15, the Coastside's Mexican
community held a third-anniversary fund-raising party for Magdalene
House. Local restaurants Trs Amigos and Joe's on the Coast donated
food, and local band Grupo Antequera and magician "Solin" (Gerardo
Catholic communities beyond the Coastside
also dug deep. On Feb. 22, Pacifica's St. Peter Catholic community put
on their third annual Spaghetti Feast, drawing more than 300 people
from Pacifica to Pescadero for spaghetti, solidarity, local
entertainers and a raffle.
Non-Catholic Coastside congregations
merged for the common cause. Holy Family Episcopal Church, the
Coastside Lutheran Church and the Coastside Jewish Community all
pitched in donations of food, clothing and furniture as well as cash.
"A lot of groups helped us out," Kathy Niece said.
Community United Methodist Church had already been working in tandem
with the Magdalene House, collecting food, diapers, infant clothing and
school supplies for children of those the Nieces helped. This year,
they opened their wallets a little more: Pastor Larry Thomas made a
direct appeal to his congregation, and collection plates ran over.
goal has always been to participate with other organizations. If you
work with other people, you have the greatest impact," Thomas said. "I
think of them as partners in the ministry we're all trying to do on the
The Methodist church's collections, rolled into a check
that Thomas gave to the Nieces Monday, was what "pushed us over the
top" in meeting their goal, Kathy Niece said.
"The good thing
about this crunch to raise money is all the people that have come
forward to help," Mike Niece said. "When folks heard we needed help to
keep going, the phone started ringing off the hook."
He added that individual contributions, some no larger than five dollars, "have been just as important as the big events."
Reaching the goal drew sighs of relief from the Redwood City Catholic Worker house, too.
had fiscal issues, and I hope those are behind us. I think their budget
is balanced," Purcell said. "Kathy and Mike's hearts are wonderful,
their compassion for the poor is spectacular, the work I've seen is
He added that by just existing, Magdalene House fills a mission.
goal is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and
ask why there are so many poor in the richest country of two-legged
creatures," Purcell said. "The ultimate goal is to clearly stand over
the value of money being more important than people. As our compass, we
use the scriptures. I think Kathy and Mike do those things
With this new breath of financial life, the
Nieces will continue with business as usual - with a new dimension of
outreach to build a fiscal base.
They are working now on planning ongoing fund-raising efforts, and outreach to the community, to build that base.
food and clothing distributions, handed out from the garage of the
Kelly Avenue house on Mondays and Wednesdays, and distribution of
produce on the fourth Saturday of each month, will continue
uninterrupted, Kathy Niece said.
They will also work toward their
dream of opening a community center for the coast's Spanish-speaking
community, that would provide meals and other assistance.
For now, Kathy said, they
will focus on trying to get
to pledge monthly support, even of small amounts. She said they also
want to get out and speak to more groups in the community, to gain
visibility, build relationships and "so that people can put a face to
Finally, Kathy said, they would like to build a
network of all the church and other groups that have supported the
Magdalene House, to do financial planning "so that we can stay on top
of it this time."