Casa Latina Catholic Worker: CrossRoads at the Casa

Casa Latina Cactholic Worker House in Louisville, Ky.
By Stephanie Kornexl
Like old friends, the Casa Latina Catholic Worker and CrossRoads Ministry have mingled over Thursday evening potluck meals for more than a decade. The relationship between these two groups goes back so far, no one can seem to pinpoint when it all began.

Alex Flood, the retreat director at CrossRoads Ministry, recently sat down to an interview to share more about its connection to Casa Latina and talk about the work that Crossroads does with young people interested in taking part in an immersive inner-city retreat.

CrossRoads, an outreach of St. William Catholic Church, has a retreat house located on West Oak Street, which hosts up to 2,000 retreatants each year.

For those unfamiliar with CrossRoads Ministry, can you explain what you do?
“We’re a retreat ministry first and foremost, and we’re countercultural in that our mission is not based in direct service. Rather, we focus on building relationships; that’s at the core of what we do.
“We spend our time at non-profits and social service agencies, forming friendships with the people we meet. We believe that by getting to know someone ­— by entering a relationship, by learning someone’s story — we can break down the barriers that society has put up.
“We do that by spending time wth people who are marginalized and stereotyped. That includes immigrants, refugees, people of color, people with developmental disabilities, people living in poverty and/or homelessness, people experiencing addiction, and anyone else who’s been boxed up by stereotypes.
“Jesus made a conscious effort to spend time with all of the people society said were different, or ‘less than:’ the outcasts, lepers, women, non-Jews, tax collectors, extremely poor. Over and over again he sought out the company of those whom society had labeled and pushed to the side, and he made a conscious effort to enter into relationship with them. I think that’s one of the guideposts by which we choose where we go and who we’re with.
“We operate with a ‘people first’ philosophy, recognizing that all people are human beings first — people that transcend the labels and categories imposed upon them. All people possess inherent dignity and worth. This is the message Jesus communicated and lived by, and it’s the message we hope young people will learn to live by after CrossRoads.

Who typically attends a CrossRoads retreat?
“The majority of people who come on retreats are high school students from the Louisville area. “We work with nearly every Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Louisville. We also work with younger folks. In the last 4-5 years we started doing Confirmation retreats for young people, predominantly 8th graders, from parishes within the archdiocese and beyond.
“CrossRoads’ community also extends beyond the boundaries of our city. In our 17 years, we’ve been able to form partnerships across the region. We work with colleges and universities, such as John Carroll University, Marquette University, Loyola of Chicago, and Washington University in St. Louis. We also host high school students from Cleveland, Nashville, Milwaukee … and other areas.
“CrossRoads welcomes all young people from confirmation age to college age, from far and wide, to attend one of our justice-based urban retreat experiences.

What’s a typical experience look like for a student on retreat?
“We offer retreats ranging from 6 hours to 8 days. Regardless of the length of the retreat, they all have the same sort of flow in that we start our days with intentionality and prayer. We think about where we’re coming from, where we’re going, and what we’re looking for. Then we spend the bulk of our time interacting with folks at social service agencies. We might go to a community center like Park Hill Community Center down the street or the Kling Center, or St. Vincent DePaul soup kitchen where we sit down to eat with guests. We just spend all of our time with people in an attempt to enter into relationship. And then we end our days here [at the CrossRoads retreat center] with a closing discussion, processing, prayer, and ritual. One of our most popular retreats is Follow Me, an overnight 2-day retreat. It’s an intense and immersive retreat. We go to 4 different agencies in about 30 hours. Our week-long retreat, CrossWalk, is even more intensive. We’ll have a group of people who spend every day at the same agency so that they can begin to form more personal, authentic relationships with the people they meet. So, we offer ways to delve into relationships in different ways, but all CrossRoads retreats have the same rhythm and focus.

What kind of impact or impression do the retreats leave on the students who attend?
“As a former retreatant, I’ll first speak for myself. When I was on a retreat as a 16-year-old I met one young person who really stuck with me. His name was [James] and he was the son of a single mother living in St. Vincent DePaul’s temporary housing. He had severe learning disabilities and had an infant baby sister. I think he was 3 or 4 when I met him. We played and did silly stuff together. At the time it resonated with me as ‘here’s a kid in a bad situation and I’m a kid in a good situation’ but it was one of those things that continued to work on me after that week. I’m sure that whoever was facilitating the retreat wondered if I got anything out of it because I never said anything profound in the chapel. But what I do know is that as I got older and learned about my own privilege; I started thinking about ideas like the birth lottery and [became aware] that the way that I live my life, the way that I spend money, the way that I voted, how I pray, and the way that I spent my time directly affected people like James and people in his situation. And so, he went on to inform me in ways that were not really evident on the surface in that particular week.
“Our hope is that not only do the kids recognize their oneness with someone who is struggling with addiction or experiencing homelessness, but also realize the ways in which they can devote their life to helping people.

What is the CrossRoads connection with Casa Latina Catholic Worker?
For the last couple of years our main time spent at Casa Latina has been on our weeklong CrossWalk retreats. We go on Thursday nights for community supper, which is night four of seven after the students have spent three full days out at their agencies. On their retreats kids start to ask a lot of questions about [where they can begin to get involved]. Going to La Casa gives them a scope to see a group of people who also care about [living Gospel values], who have made their life about solidarity and Christian hospitality, and the kids are inspired because they know that this experience isn’t something that has to end. For the most part, kids who choose to come on our weeklong retreat have an understanding of who Dorothy Day is, and if they don’t [the Catholic Worker community will] make sure they do. To see a Catholic Worker in action and to hear about the way it’s addressing a community’s needs really inspires young people.
At the end of retreat, we perform a closing ritual during which we ask ‘who’s the person who’s beginning to work on you?’ Often, it’s folks they met at dinner at La Casa who are doing really cool stuff with their lives. Young people are then inspired and know that’s something they can do with their lives, too.
I love being able to take groups to La Casa for community dinners. With what is going on in our country and with the normalization of fear and hatred toward people with different skin tones and people from Central and South America, it feels even more important. The people who come to us on retreat are often young people of privilege, most of whom are white. To give them the opportunity to learn about Latinos and immigrants in a way that’s different from what they read in books or see on television or hear from politicians is really important. So, I am grateful that we get to have that connection.

What’s on the horizon for CrossRoads?
Just in the last couple of weeks I have been talking with Karina [Barillas, Executive Director of La Casita Center] and have set up several retreat visits to La Casita for the upcoming school year. On Tuesdays when La Casita has Pre-K childcare/development we’re going to have groups of students there most days throughout the school year, which I think is really exciting.

Anything else you’d like to share?
We’re hiring! We’re looking for two people to start in September as retreat associates; a retreat associate is basically someone who helps lead retreats. We’re looking for one person to do a year of service (with a stipend) and we’re looking for a full-time salaried person.
Also, we just started a new retreat called All One. It’s a partnership with Plowshares Farm and Education Center. We spend a couple days examining our connectedness with other people and different cultures. And then spend a couple days examining our connectedness with the Earth and the food that we eat. Then we spend a day out at Abbey of Gethsemani or The Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in solitude examining our connection to the Divine. Our next All One retreat will be during spring break 2018, and registration will be open shortly before that.”

A look at our history after two decades

In this our 20th anniversary year, we publish again an article that appeared on page one of the first edition of the Chapel News in the fall of 1998.


Chapel of St. Philip
By Bill Walsh

Who are we? Where do we come from? What are we up to?

If you’ve been wondering, here’s our story.

About two years ago (1996), the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville announced that they were closing several parishes in the city, including St. Philip Neri at Floyd and Woodbine streets.

The pastor was reassigned, the buildings were all vacated and the property was put up for sale.

After nearly a century of service to the neighborhood now known as Old Louisville, the four sturdy buildings were left empty. The ornate high altar with its unique canopy, the pipe organ and all the statues were given away to other parishes.

As this was happening, a small group of concerned Catholics were meeting regularly near Fourth and Hill streets discussing what might be done to save the property and to sustain the mission of the church in the neighborhood. Meeting with these people was the late Father Vernon Robertson, a retired pastor with a proven record of making impossible dreams come true.

Father Robertson had a vision and was able to raise enough money to purchase the St. Philip property and begin putting the buildings to good use again.

Within a year, we welcomed a Montessori school and daycare center for children 2-and-a-half to 5 and a Boys and girls Club sponsored by the Salvation Army. The club, located on Magnolia Street, offers programs for school-age children after school and during vacations.

An “intentional community” has occupied the parish house and has begun to welcome neighbors to all sorts of activities.

The former church building, now known as the Chapel of St. Philip, has presented us with an interesting challenge.

We are not, nor do we intend to become, a parish, as St. Philip Neri was for almost 100 years. We are members of various other parishes who feel called to this neighborhood.

We are people of faith who are trying to live the Christian life and we want to be here, in and around the church on Woodbine, maintaining a presence that has been here for so long.

As we are not a parish, we recognize that we have an opportunity to offer ourselves and these buildings in ways that are not typical of parishes. Since Father Robertson’s untimely death in February, we have been even more determined to further his dream, even as we mourn our loss.

We promise to keep the grass cut and the lights on, and to make a positive contribution to life in Old Louisville.

JustFaith Ministries: Hunger for change

“We live in a society that is propelled by a fantasy of scarcity. It makes us frightened, greedy and eventually violent. But people of the word know better. Not only does grace abound; because of grace that abounds, all that we need abounds as well. Sharing creates neighborhoods. Fear creates hostility. We are in a moment to decide again.” — Walter Bruggemann


By Jane Walsh
And the end of January, the 2nd Street Kroger closed its doors, leaving this neighborhood without a full-service grocery store.

Our neighbors now face longer and more expensive commutes if they are to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Some may also face the prospect of lacking basic food and necessities because a grocery is out of reach.

As another Louisville neighborhood (this one!) becomes a food desert, JustFaith Ministries invites you to join us for an 8-week small-group exploration of hunger in an age of abundance.

We will host “Hunger for Change: a Faithful Response to Food Insecurity” this spring in our new offices at 224 Woodbine Street.

Together we will study the realities of food scarcity as well as the biblical promise of abundance. We will pray together and take action to reshape our lives, our neighborhood and the systems that lead to hunger in our home communities and around the world.

We hope that, together, we can work to address the growing food insecurity in our own neighborhood.

A small group of about 10 people will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. beginning March 23 and continuing most Thursdays through May 18. Many of us will bring a dish to share at the Thursday night Casa Latina potluck following our meeting each week.

The cost for the 8–week program is $50 and includes a copy of the book “Rich Christians in the Age of Hunger” by Ronald Sider. We hope you will join us.

For more information about Hunger for Change, contact Muriel at 429-0865 or email her at You can also read about the program at

Join us as we explore the biblical promise of abundance to God’s people while examining the realities of food insecurity.

Jane Walsh is executive director of JustFaith. For more information about JustFaith Ministries, visit

JustFaith relocates to our campus

justfaithlogoThe St. Philip Neri campus will soon welcome a new resident. For almost a decade, the old school building at 224 Woodbine Street has been inhabited by Kenwood Montessori School, but that changed this past June when the school relocated to a larger facility on Eastern Parkway, the former Our Mother of Sorrows School.

Now a new tenant, a non-profit called JustFaith Ministries, will be making the Woodbine address its new home. JustFaith, known for its dynamic small-group programs that are rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, is set to officially move in the first week of January.
We took some time to talk with JustFaith Ministries’ executive director, Jane Walsh, to learn more about our new neighbors and their national impact and hear about their eager anticipation to be moving into the neighborhood:

What is JustFaith and how did it get its start?


Jane Walsh

JustFaith is a non-profit ministry, and we create and distribute programs for small groups — inside and outside of churches —that are formed around Catholic Social teaching, particularly the preferential option for the poor and solidarity. While we serve the wider Christian community, we started in Catholic churches and were designed for Catholic parishes.


JustFaith started at the Church of the Epiphany (in Louisville) by a guy named Jack Jezreel who got his master’s at Notre Dame, and then spent six years living at a Catholic Worker House in Denver. He then became the director of religious education at the Church of the Epiphany, and what he saw was that people in the parish struggled with figuring out how to actualize those particular Catholic Social Teachings. For example, how do you live in solidarity with the poor and marginalized? He created, over a few years’ time, this process called JustFaith, which at that time was 31 weeks for 2.5 hours a week.

The process combined several elements, which we still have today: study of texts and videos that explore issues related to poverty; prayer and Scripture, everything we do is grounded in Scripture; encounter, which for us means immersion, not providing charity to the marginalized, but finding ways and avenues of being with; and then dialogue, a very structured process for people who may not agree with each other at all on issues, such as should the government use more taxes to provide for the poor? They actually have a dialogue about what the church’s teachings and Scripture have to say about these questions.

What I think is so powerful, and in fact kind of countercultural about the program, is the idea that we can sit in a room and talk about things, not because we agree, but because we’re Christians. And that’s enough for us to come together and deeply explore these issues.

For JustFaith participants who go through one of your programs, what is the hoped-for outcome?

The hoped for outcome for all of our programs and processes is what the Catholic Church would call social ministry — actually stepping into those teachings and bringing them into your life in ways large and small. Over 50,000 people across the United States have gone through one of our programs.

We have a range. To me, the powerful testimony is people talking about what happened to them [after going through the program], and what they have been doing differently as a result. There’s a woman who’s a director of Catholic Charities in Texas, who was a high-power corporate executive. She went through JustFaith and said I can’t do this [job] anymore. She quit her job, went to South America, and then went to work at Catholic Charities as director. I can personally count maybe 12 people I’ve talked to who did the same thing — who left basically very wealthy or upper middle class [lifestyles].
A lot of our demographic has been traditionally wealthy, upper middle class, mostly white, but not exclusively at all, Catholics who say [as a result of the program] “my life can change, and I can do this.”

For some people, that means “I shop differently now. I don’t buy new stuff as much.” Or “I’m really reducing my material consumption because I understand now what the relationship between that and poverty in the world is.”
Some people talk about the program as conversion. Other people talk about it as transformation. Their experiences vary from [making] different choices day to day to [making] drastically different changes — not even living in the same country anymore. We have all those stories that, for me, helps me to understand the impact of what we do.

What are some of your most popular programs?

JustFaith is our original program, and it remains the program that most people take and that most people talk about. It’s 24 weeks long — a very intense program. Between 90 and 120 groups a year take that program, and those groups are an average of 11 to 15 people, so they are very small. That is very much as the original program was.

We have a program called Engaging Spirituality that starts in and moves out. It’s really designed more for people who have been doing the work and are looking for spiritual nourishment to continue doing the work. It’s also very long — 21 weeks.
We have a program called Good News People, which is an explicitly Catholic program for Catholic parishes. It’s a 12-week program that churches tend to do around Lent or Advent, but they don’t have to. They really explore Catholic Social Teaching and the Works of Mercy and how to live those. Those are our three longer programs.

Then we have a series of shorter 8-week programs called JustMatter modules. We have one on immigration, called Crossing Borders. We have one on prison reform, called Church of the Second Chances. We have one on Christian-Muslim dialogue called the Sultan and the Saint.

Then we have a new module that comes out in January called Hunger for Change, which is about food insecurity in the United States and across the world. It’s really designed to bring faithful people into more action around addressing hunger and food insecurity.

How do people come to learn about JustFaith?

I would say eighty percent of how people find us is word of mouth. People meet others who are really engaged in something that matters to them and they say “how did you come to this work?” and they say, “I went through this program” or “There’s this group at my church called JustFaith.” There are a few churches across the country that refer to themselves as JustFaith communities because they’re so social ministry driven, and the way they renew that social ministry year after year is having JustFaith programs.

What is your role at JustFaith and who else is involved in the work?

I joined the staff three years ago, and at the time Jack was still working there as president and founder. He’s really the visionary and I am more of a practitioner. I know how to get stuff done. But a lot of the vision comes from Jack and from a very engaged national board.

There are seven of us who will be working out of that office, but what’s really important to know about us is those of us who work in the Louisville office are a tiny fraction of the real workforce. We have right now about 280 or so volunteer facilitators who are actually leading the programs all over the country. And that’s the workforce.

That’s how the work gets done. We craft the programs, write the programs, work with other collaborators to get them done, and we distribute them almost exclusively on the internet so people can use them in living rooms and in church basements where they take place.

You will be moving into this neighborhood soon. How did that come about and how do you feel about moving to the neighborhood?

We’re very excited to be moving into the school. It came about because I know [longtime Catholic Workers] Bill and Alice Walsh, who are my parents, and when the school moved out it happened to be at the same moment we [at JustFaith] were saying we need to find a new place. We have been out at Lyndon Lane for a long time, so this is a big move for us. We’ll be in a new neighborhood, and for the first time, we’ll be in a community. And I think that’s exciting for us.

One of the things we’re most excited about in this new location is we’ll be using two of the rooms as office space and we’ll have a community space where we’ll be able to host people to come in and work as we develop new small groups.

One of our staff members was part of the Vatican gathering in April on Catholic non-violence. We’ve been talking with her and Pax Christi about creating a module on Christian non-violence and exploring the just war theory. We would love to be able to gather people there in small groups to explore those issues and help us create that module.

We’re painting and getting stuff ready now. We think we’ll move in the first week of January pending any snow storms. As soon as we can figure it out, we’re going to have some kind of housewarming.

Interview conducted by Catholic Worker Stephanie Kornexl.

Welcome, join us!

A variety of activities happen around the St. Philip campus. See below for a listing of the most regular activities:

The Liturgy of the Hours

For about 15 years, a few of us have been meeting at the Chapel of St. Philip at Floyd and Woodbine streets to pray the hours. We invite you to join us. It only lasts about 15 minutes. Make this part of your spiritual life.

Matins – Wednesday at 7:40 a.m.
Vespers – Friday at 5 p.m.
Compline – Sunday at 8 p.m.

Narcotics Anonymous

Three Louisville-area Narcotic’s Anonymous groups meet regularly at the Chapel. For more information, visit

Mon. at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Wed. at 10 p.m.
Sat. at 7:30 p.m. & 10 p.m.

A Place on Earth Farm

Fresh produce seasonally delivered to the Chapel of St. Philip campus weekly in season. Visit

The following are suspended or adapted during the pandemic. Call for information:

Tuesday Book Group

A small group of avid readers gather in the Chapel’s former sacristy each Tuesday at 7 p.m. for discussions of selected books. Call the chapel at 645-7073 to confirm meeting time and for the latest book selection.

Casa Latina Weekly Potluck Dinners

Please join us any Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Casa Latina, 230 Woodbine Street, for our weekly potluck community meal. It’s a time for food and fellowship open to all those interested in the St. Philip and Catholic Worker communities.