When he was homeless, Eric Hanley turned to the Catholic Worker House for help. There he found community and rediscovered his passion for serving others. “It’s really cool to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” he explains. “I am just so blessed to experience the love that is here.”
Eric Hanley: I mean, I always wanted to feel like I was working to build heaven on earth. Working for a mission, and working with people.
Then it dawned on me, like, I’m across the country and I’ve got nothing but what’s in my backpack.
At 22, Eric dropped out of college and traveled across the country. Eric found himself homeless and turned to drugs to cope.
Eric Hanley: So, I just started smoking pot to just cover up all my feelings, and like, if the friends I’m keeping are literally making me homeless, like, maybe the people who actually, like, give me the food that I need to eat, maybe they’re actually the people that care about me.
Eric turned to soup kitchens and churches for support.
Eric Hanley: I heard somebody from The Catholic Worker talk about serving the poor and faith in action. I was so captivated by the fire that she spoke with. I was like, I want what she has.
She invited me over for the potluck dinner. People were just people around the table having dinner with vastly different backgrounds, and I was just blown away. I just thought this is the Last Supper here on earth right now, and I wanna be a part of it.
Eric moved into the Catholic Worker to work as a caretaker and artist.
Eric Hanley: I’ve been blessed to learn about iconography, to make stations of the cross for our new chapel here at Our Lady of the Road.
I start with making the boards out of wood, shaving it off, and I’ve had to learn a lot of carpentry skills. That’s been really cool. I think of Joseph a lot. I think of Joseph teaching Jesus about carpentry.
Painting this picture and with every brush stroke to say a prayer and to bring this joy from another world into our own. It’s powerful to connect to these natural elements, these things that have been here longer than we have. It’s really cool to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
I know God will love me regardless if I have faith or not. That’s what keeps me coming back, is…I mean, He’s always there. You know? He’s always willing to welcome me back.
We’re adamant that the folks that are serving sit down and eat with the folks who are coming in, share a cup of coffee. It just helps everybody feel human again. The poor that are here really are just the lifeblood of our community. I feel like I am just so blessed to experience the love that’s here.