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The Tampa CW Story: Vision Carrying

This is the fourth in a continuing series of articles about how to start a Catholic Worker community, told through the lived experience of the Tampa Catholic Worker.

Welcome back. In three previous posts, we examined the influence of the Catholic Worker vision, mission, and values in developing a Dorothy Day House in Tampa, as well as the role of prayerful discernment by our leadership to verify our community as a fit for developing Dorothy Day Tampa. With the resulting ‘yes’ to His summons, the real work began. Where to start?

At the beginning of Dorothy Day Tampa, we had more questions than answers.

  • Who would vision carry and introduce Servant of God Dorothy Day to Tampa?
  • Should we assemble study groups to introduce Dorothy Day to Tampa by reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness?
  • Should sessions be in-person or virtual? How long should the study groups last, and when should we hold sessions?
  • Who would lead the sessions and keep the sessions interactive and focused?
  • How would we promote, find, and enroll session attendees?
  • Beyond the finite study group period, how would we challenge attendees to imitate Dorothy Day’s radical hospitality in their own way?

A scripture passage grounded us, made us aware that, in our efforts to build His kingdom, He had already provisioned abundantly for our ministry needs. “Be still and know that I am God.” – Ps 46:10

Vision carrying

How did we vision carry to our Tampa community and beyond? We concurrently developed a Dorothy Day Tampa website, created strategic messaging using six-word stories, and produced monthly email newsletters and quarterly mailed newsletters.

Website development:

Our local media advisor, C3 Media Network, suggested we start vision carrying with a simple website landing page and menu bar: About – Dorothy Day – Dorothy Day Tampa – Get Engaged – Support Us. We were able to scale the website capacity and information posted based on available budget and feedback from those accessing the site and website analytics.

  • About Dorothy Day & Dorothy Day Tampa: With a website landing page in place, we created basic, introductory content to introduce Dorothy Day for website viewing. Then we created links to drive traffic to our website in our emails, texts, brochures, and business cards.
  • Get Engaged: Event flyers were created and posted to this section of the website to both attract attendees to our virtual study groups and offer volunteer opportunities after the virtual studies had concluded. It is important to engage volunteers after challenging them: How are you being summoned as a result of your study of The Long Loneliness?
  • Support Us: Our goal of eventually providing housing meant we needed to focus on significant donor support from our ministry’s inception. In our next post, we will detail donor cultivation and sustainability funding.


Our newsletter format consisted of the following: Header with Vision & Mission; Executive Director message; Volunteer Profile or Ministry Partner Profile; Virtual Study Invitation; Love Story; and Missing Resources.

Dorothy Day Tampa Strategic Messaging

Using our development experience (2013 – 2020) as co-founders of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) Tampa [], we replicated their strategic messaging model for Dorothy Day Tampa (See attachment). We incorporated the Key Principles of Catholic Social Justice, the Beatitudes, and the three defining differences of Dorothy Day Tampa.

Our strategic messaging was inspired by using six-word stories: Dorothy Day Tampa – all One Body. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing the six-word story “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Once our messaging was defined, we added messaging to our website. Also, on a rotating basis, we would use the ten messages in person, in presentations, and in our virtual, six-week Dorothy Day study groups. Further, messages were added to our digital and print newsletters, business cards, brochures, Q & A, etc.

Finally, these messages were used on social media posts (LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook) in connection with publishing weekly love stories – photos of how our serving the marginalized put God’s love on display.

Defining Differences:

To distinguish our being different by design – important for securing donor support – we succinctly communicated our defining differences: what sets our ministry apart from other ministries and agencies in our community? For Dorothy Day Tampa:

Difference #1: The need we address. Current funding streams are focused on housing, offering few service options for those who are homeless.

Difference #2: The work we undertake. Trusting relationships and a sense of community can transform and motivate.

Difference #3: The results we produce. People are more likely to love themselves and seek the help they need when they are loved and respected by others.

With Dorothy Day Tampa, relationships can help heal trauma.

Create a culture of storytelling. Your entire organization must become the primary storytellers as part of vision carrying Dorothy Day to your community.

  • Create one, three, and five minute ‘elevator speeches’ that tell your Dorothy Day story.
  • Identify creative writers, editors, and photographers (with a high resolution camera) within your ministry. (Hint: Look for iPhone in back pockets of your volunteers.)
  • Develop an operations calendar with dates for weekly social media posts, website updates, newsletters, introductory sessions, etc.
  • On a weekly basis, assign love stories with photos to volunteers (with deadlines!).
  • Edit and publish love stories every week.
  • Publish love stories with rotating strategic messages.
  • Publish updates to love stories with more outcomes – very compelling.
  • Review and revise media posts based on analytics.

Elements of storytelling:

If you are not a natural storyteller, to cover all the basics of story structure, here are the beginnings of six sentences that can help you with the process.

  1. Once upon a time… This starts the story and introduces our protagonist.
  2. And every day… This will set up how life was before the challenges or inciting incident.
  3. Until one day… This begins the action of the story with the challenge and the goal.
  4. And because of this… This introduces the barriers or obstacles the protagonist faces.
  5. And because of this… There could be several barriers that need introduction.
  6. Until finally… This ends the story with the resolution.

If you are still with me, we have successfully created our vision/mission statements, developed our defining differences and strategic messages, assembled a basic website, and are able to produce love stories – sharing how your ministry is serving differently and putting God’s love on display in your community. That’s the media messaging, storytelling piece, now complete. Whew!!!

Next Post # 5 – Fundraising.

To view all of the articles in this series, visit the The Dorothy Day Tampa Story page. For more advice on starting a Catholic Worker house, see: How to Start A Catholic Worker Community.

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