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History of St. Ben’s

The roots of St Ben’s Community Meal are found in the hearts of Michael and Nettie Cullen. In 1966, inspired by the philosophy of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, this Irish immigrant couple founded Casa Maria House, located about a mile from St Benedict the Moor Parish. Casa Maria’s purpose was to promote the practice of direct and personal sharing with people experiencing poverty by receiving guests in their kitchen for a meal.

A growing number of men, women and children from the neighborhood joined them for this daily meal, and it rapidly outgrew their small space. They were forced to seek larger quarters. In collaboration with Capuchin Alex Luzi and after much prayer and reflection, St. Ben’s Community Meal was moved to its current location on November 13, 1970.

From the beginning, there was a strong emphasis on the community aspect of the Meal. This was evidenced on two fronts. First, sponsor groups from a variety of churches, organizations and civic groups throughout the wider Milwaukee community committed to providing the Meal from Sunday through Friday evenings. Secondly, a sense of community and relationship was generated within the Meal hall itself as sponsors, volunteers, guests, and staff came together to enjoy a nutritious meal in an environment of hospitality and safety.

Now over forty-some years later, St Ben’s and its many supporters continue to host the Community Meal, Sunday through Friday from 5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.