Tom’s guests today are two social justice activists who have lived and worked among some of Baltimore‘s poorest and most disadvantaged people for nearly 50 years.
Brendan Walsh was a seminarian from The Bronx, and Willa Bickham was a nun from Chicago before they changed course, married each other, and started feeding and housing the poor -- in Baltimore. Bickham and Walsh were married in 1967 and in October of the following year, they opened Viva House in Southwest Baltimore (or Sowebo, to city residents). Since then, they estimate that more than a million people have come to them asking for help: shelter, food, financial assistance, or maybe just a little TLC.
Viva House is part of a network of places around the country that are part of the Catholic Worker Movement. Viva House serves two meals per week to about 200 people from the neighborhood and elsewhere; they give away hundreds of bags of donated groceries every month; and they agitate for non-violence. In their new book, Brendan Walsh writes: “Long ago, our society lost a fundamental understanding of the common good and the necessity for human solidarity.” Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham have stood in solidarity with their neighbors in Sowebo, their fellow anti-war activists around the world, and the notion that the common good is worth standing for, worth fighting for, and worth bearing witness to. Their book is called The Long Loneliness in Baltimore; Stories Along the Way. Walsh and Bickham will be reading from their book at the Enoch Pratt Library on Jan. 24. For details about their reading, click here. If you would like to volunteer or donate food for Viva House, or if you would like to buy the book, "The Long Loneliness in Baltimore," please call Viva House at 410-233-0488.