Catholics Who Shaped the Way We Work

“The defense of our rights and our dignity, as well as efforts to never allow ourselves to be overcome by the feeling of hatred- this is the road we have chosen.” Lech Walesa, co-founder of Solidarity Movement.

“Our rule is the works of mercy, it is the way of sacrifice, worship, a sense of reverence.” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and creator of Catholic Worker newspaper.

The Church and her members have always believed in the value of work. St Paul exhorted Christians to follow his example and live by the work of their hands, Jesus Himself lived and worked in Nazareth, many saints through the centuries have written about the spiritual benefit of work for our sanctification. Below are two modern day examples of believers who have fought for the right to dignified work.


The Solidarity movement spawned from a labor strike in August 1980, referred to as “the Polish August” when workers shut down the Gdansk shipyard over new limits on wages. After successful negotiations with the government, the strike leaders, led by Lech Walesa and Anna Walentynowicz formed Solidarity on September 17, 1980, making it the first independent labor union behind the Iron Curtain. Yet Solidarity was not simply a trade union; it was a social and political movement that strove for human dignity and full citizenship, rights and freedoms for all Poles.

It formed almost 14 months after the election of Karol Józef Wojtyła, better known as Pope John Paul II, as a movement uniting many workers and intellectuals in pursuit of the aspirations articulated by the Pope- the re-establishment of a society where Poles could freely embrace their national and religious identity. It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by the communist party. Solidarity gave rise to a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement that, at its height, claimed some 9.4 million members. It’s establishment is considered to be one of the great factors in the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The Catholic Worker movement started when the first issue of the Catholic Worker appeared on May 1, 1933, priced at one cent, and published continuously since then. It was aimed at those suffering the most in the depths of the Great Depression, “those who think there is no hope for the future”, and announced to them that “the Catholic Church has a social program…there are men of God who are working not only for their spiritual but for their material welfare.” It accepted no advertising and did not pay its staff.[44] Publication of the first issue was supported in part by a $1 donation from Sister Peter Claver, for whom a Catholic Worker house was later named. In 1971, Day was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award of the Interracial Council of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport, Iowa. The University of Notre Dame awarded her its Laetare Medal in 1972.


Solidarity, Pope John Paul Ii, and the Orange Alternative: Bringing Down Communism in Poland

Tavaana –

History in Dates

History Of Solidarity

Dorothy Day

A Brief Introduction to the Catholic Worker Movement

Cornell, Tom.

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