5 minutes with...Mark and Louise Zwick of Casa Juan Diego

September 18, 2012

Did you know?

  • The food and clothing centers at Casa Juan Diego, 4818 Rose St. serve 300 people each week.
  • They host English classes for guests of the houses.
  • There is a liturgy in Spanish Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
  • They provide assistance to paralyzed or seriously ill immigrants living in the community.

 

Other houses

  • Women's House of Hospitality: Hospitality and services for immigrant women and children, especially serving pregnant or physically battered women and their children or those whose husbands have been deported.
  • Padre Jack Davis Men's House: Hospitality for immigrant men new to the country.
  • Casa Don Bosco: For sick and wounded men.
  • Casa Maria Social Service Center and Medical Clinic: Located at 6101 Edgemoor.


HOUSTON — Casa Juan Diego was founded in 1980, following the Catholic Worker model of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, to serve immigrants, refugees and the poor. Since its opening, it has grown from one small house to 10 houses. 

Funded by voluntary contributions, the houses have several services, including assistance to paralyzed or seriously ill immigrants living in the community, medical care, English classes for those living in the house and hospitality and services for immigrant women and children, especially serving pregnant or physically battered women and their children or those whose husbands have been deported.

Casa Juan Diego publishes a newspaper, the "Houston Catholic Worker," six times a year to share the values of the Catholic Worker movement and the stories of the immigrants and refugees uprooted by the realities of the global economy.

Mark and Louise Zwick run Casa Juan Diego, located at 4818 Rose St. in Houston. 

Texas Catholic Herald: Where are you from originally? 
Zwicks: We were originally from Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

TCH: How did you end up in Houston and starting Casa Juan Diego? 
Zwicks: We traveled to El Salvador with our children in 1977 to live with the poor. We had saved enough money to allow us to take the risk with our children. A priest welcomed us, but he was deported three weeks after we arrived as a civil war began. The war came as a great surprise! Experiencing the life of Catholic Salvadorans struck us and got our attention. The more we shared, the more we needed to change. We were living our Catholicism in a different way. We went from living room Christianity to living with the poor. Our experience there encouraged us to give our lives to service.

Upon our return to the United States, we joined Volunteers for Educational and Social Services, an organization under the auspices of the Catholic Bishops of Texas. We worked for two years in McAllen, Texas, in a parish.
We were then called to work at St. Theresa Church in Houston, where we discovered refugees from the wars in Central America sleeping in used car lots on Washington Ave. 

TCH: When and why did you decide to become Catholic workers? 
Zwicks: We were inspired by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin and their vision of living the Gospel. As refugees poured into Houston in 1980, we were able to respond by founding the "Houston Catholic Worker" in very humble circumstances at first. A blessing and a challenge — there are no salaries at Catholic Worker houses. The community helped.

TCH: What are your current projects?
Zwicks: Casa Juan Diego and our satellite Casa Maria, with the help those who live in the houses of hospitality and the Catholic community, serve many immigrants and refugees with a place to stay, food, clothing, two medical clinics and a myriad of other services. Presently we are called by on the hospitals of Houston to care for the sick and injured, the paralyzed, and the disabled who are not eligible for government help. There is no aid for the undocumented who have worked here for many years if they have accidents or become ill.

TCH: What has challenged you?
Zwicks: Performing the works of mercy, trying to respond to the needs of so many people, is very challenging. It is also very rewarding. 

TCH: What hobbies do you have? 
Zwicks: We publish a newspaper, "The Houston Catholic Worker/El Trabajador Católico de Houston," and have written two books, "The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins, and Mercy Without Borders: The Catholic Worker and Immigration," both published by Paulist Press.

TCH: What do you do for fun?
Zwicks: We stay married and keep up with the Catholic Worker community here as well as those who help Casa Juan Diego. We [also] read and watch documentaries. 


For Donations 

  • For donations of food or clothing, visit 4818 Rose St., Houston, TX 77007.
  • To send a check as a donation or other correspondence, mail to P. O. Box 70113, Houston, TX 77270.