Marquette Wire

Sheen mean on social work

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Sheen, an award-winning actor, director and producer and currently a cast member of the Emmy Award winning NBC television drama, “The West Wing,” in which he portrays President Josiah Bartlet, will speak at the dedication of the Raynor Library on Friday. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Marquette.

Sheen was selected to speak at the library dedication because of his commitment to the Catholic Worker Movement and social activism. Marquette preserves the archives of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. These documents will soon be moved from Memorial Library to the Raynor Library.

The son of Irish and Spanish immigrants, Sheen spent most of his childhood in poverty, something that stayed with him for many years. When he was starting out as a young actor in New York in 1959, he worked at the Living Theater earning just $5 a week. While living in New York, Sheen began to visit the New York Catholic Worker’s soup kitchen each evening for a hot meal. Eventually he volunteered to help the Catholic Workers to feel like he was earning his meal. Sheen was put to work folding copies of the Catholic Worker Newspaper for publication.

The people he met and worked with at the Catholic Worker heavily affected Sheen. He continues to support the Catholic Worker movement financially and in 1996 he starred as Peter Maurin, intellectual father of the Catholic Worker Movement, in “Entertaining Angels,” alongside Moira Kelly who played Day.

Since the 1980’s Sheen has been highly involved in political and social justice activism along with acting. A film role as Vince Walker in 1981’s “Gandhi” took him to India. There he met Mother Teresa who inspired him to begin practicing his Catholic faith again and working for social justice.

While taking part in actions of civil disobedience, Sheen has been arrested over 100 times. Among the causes he supports is the closing of the School of the Americas. He has been at the annual protest for the last several years. Marquette University has sent a group of students to the Schools of the Americas protest for the last five years.

Sheen also wrote an open letter in 2002 publicly denouncing the idea of drilling for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“We do need to begin seriously reducing our dependence upon (oil),” Sheen wrote “Something that makes us vulnerable to foreign oil-producing countries and has a devastating effect on our environment by fouling our air, land and water and worsening global warming.”

Nick Burckel, dean of Libraries, said that the process of selecting Sheen to speak had more to do with his career as a social activist than as an actor.

“We were interested in him because he exemplifies a social activism and concern for the marginalized in society that is one of the ultimate goals of the Jesuit education,” Burckel said.

Dorothy Day — Catholic Worker Collection

The library’s Department of Special Collections has held the Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection since the 1960s. The collection was obtained as a result of the relationship between Day and the Dean of the College of Journalism at the time, Jeremiah O’Sullivan. Day often came to campus to speak because it was one of the few Catholic colleges of journalism in the country. Day would speak to journalism students and then often have political discussions with students, faculty and community members over soup in the back room of a local store that stood on what is now the location of Parent’s Park. These informal meetings inspired University Ministry’s Soup with Substance program.

In 1957, William Ready, then dean of the Libraries, asked Day to consider storing and donating her papers to Marquette’s library. Day consented and the archives have been the storehouse for information and records from the Catholic Worker Movement ever since. The collection now comprises more than 200 cubic feet, including the personal papers of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.

Day, a radical journalist and former communist who had converted to Catholicism, and Peter Maurin, an itinerant French worker and scholar, founded the Catholic Worker Movement in New York City in 1933. Maurin was dedicated to spreading the message of Catholic Social Teaching and he and Day started the Catholic Worker Newspaper. The newspaper sold for a penny (and still does today) and reported on social issues and their connection with faith.

Soon after, Day and Maurin opened a House of Hospitality — a house that was always open and served as combination drop-in center, soup kitchen, temporary housing and activism center. It has evolved into a faith-based, grassroots movement for peace and social justice through nonviolent direct action, represented by more than 100 loosely affiliated houses of hospitality (including several in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Mexico).

Day, widely regarded as one of the most influential laypersons in the history of American Catholicism for her steadfast living of the Gospel message, has been nominated for sainthood by the Claretian Fathers and Brothers.

The papers of Dorothy Day contain her correspondence (largely incoming) with family members, friends and associates, appointment calendars and notebooks, diaries and retreat notes, manuscripts of more than 30 articles and 10 books, correspondence and press accounts concerning speaking engagements and other public activities, articles she wrote for non-Catholic Worker publications and writings about her.

In addition to holding the Dorothy Day papers, Marquette periodically offers a theology course entitled “Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement.” The book, “Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: The Marquette University Press published Centenary Essays,” was edited by Marquette faculty members in 2001.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed.