‘Christmas miracle’ helps stranded family


By Emily Sinnwell, David Goodner and Scott Roser
For The Catholic Messenger

A transient indigenous family from Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota (Ogala Lakota Sioux Nation) showed up on the doorstep of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City on Dec. 9 searching for help.

Guests and volunteers from the Iowa City Catholic Worker community pose for a picture outside their 2,800 square foot Victorian house, which offers temporary, home-like housing to families and individuals in need.

They were living in their truck and trying to make it from Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to Pennsylvania. Their truck had no heat. It was tough to live in a truck with no heat, and that made travel more difficult with foggy, steamed-up windows and no remedy.

The Native man has one lung and pneumonia and was in rough shape trying to stay warm. His wife is also disabled but in better condition.


St. Wenceslaus called the Catholic Worker and one of our community members headed down to talk to the family. After a brief introduction, we agreed to fill up the family’s truck with gas and put them up for a night in a local motel. The cost of replacing their heating coil was north of $800 and not affordable.

After getting them settled, and returning with two boxes of food from our hospitality house, our Catholic Worker community member called a local group, Indigenous Iowa, and they paid for a second night in a motel. Another group, Veterans for Peace, paid for a third night. We also found a mechanic at Russ Northside Services who agreed to do the repair work on the truck for free.

These folks still have a lot of struggles ahead of them. But a couple of nights of warm showers, warm beds, R&R, laundry and hot food do wonders for the human spirit. And at least their truck will have heat again soon.

We thought you’d enjoy hearing about this collaborative effort of five different groups and institutions. The tag team of St. Wenceslaus, the Catholic Worker, Indigenous Iowa, Veterans for Peace and Russ Northside Services pitched in to help a family in need. That’s a pretty cool story. A small Christmas miracle if you will.

Many hands make the load light. Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes, two plus two equals five.

(Sinnwell, Goodner and Roser are with the Catholic Worker in Iowa City.)

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