Monday, December 21, 2015

Open These Doors

Current Dominican Volunteer Alandra Scott ministers with the Dominican Leadership Conference at the United Nations in NYC.
The Benincasa lay intentional community
         In the Benincasa Community we focus on all four pillars, but study has been particularly important for the community during this season of Advent. We were discussing study and how to frame social justice actions around the fruits of our contemplation and study. We ended up concentrating on a very hard to ignore injustice happening in New York City: the evident number of people who are experiencing homelessness.

As we began running the Blessed Sacrament Parish soup kitchen, studied and discussed, we felt called to action. We learned that the Archdiocese of New York is one of the largest landowners in Manhattan. With the amount of vacant space in the city there is enough shelter for all those who go without. I was surprised to find this out. In addition the archdiocese closed 40 parishes on August 3rd, 2015 just before Julie and I moved into the house. This was the archdiocese’s second round of church closings.

We looked into what parishes had been closed, why they were closed and what the diocese was doing with empty churches and convents. We found they were selling many of the properties for profit. Some space had already been sold to NYU, to transforming a homeless shelter into an arts and acting center, and into luxurious condominiums in Nolita. Pope Francis expects the Church to use its properties to serve the poor. He states; “Empty convents and monasteries should not be turned into hotels by the church to earn money… [The buildings] are not ours, they are the flesh of Christ, which is what refugees are.”

After learning all of this and spending time planning, we decided this was the direction to take for the first action. We invited others we thought would have interest and began brainstorming. We decided to call the action “Open These Doors,” and it coincidentally coincides with the Jubilee Year of Mercy when the Holy Father will open the Door of Mercy (the Holy Door in the Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican). The Door of Mercy will be left open for the duration of the Holy Year.

We found a list of the closed churches from the NY Archdiocesan website and created posters which read “Open These Doors for Refuge” with a QR Code that sends users directly to the website we created! We went to each closed church, put a sign on the door and took pictures of it. The action is mainly a social media campaign meant to draw awareness to the facts we had come to be cognizant of surrounding homelessness. We run a twitter feed, instagram and the website. On the website are facts about homelessness in New York City and a letter addressed to Cardinal Dolan alerting him to our action and a call for justice.

Photo from
On all social media facets we put up three pictures daily throughout Advent. First, we post the door with the address; second, a quote; third, a question or a call to action. The action concurs seamlessly with Advent, so was dubbed “an Advent action insisting that the church open all its vacant spaces for refuge.”

It has been and continues to be exciting to bring our study to life in a way that can hold large systems accountable to justice. As a community, we are continuing to transform our study into the New Year!

Follow the Advent “Open These Doors” action at

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