“You never know where your research might lead,” professor of history Anne Klejment said, laughing, as she recalled her experiences during her 2013-2014 sabbatical. “History is endlessly filled with real life surprises. Never boring.”
She had planned to work on three related projects, each of them related to the life and work of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and candidate for eventual canonization, who Pope Francis named as one of four great Americans. Online and microfilm sources allowed a portion of the research to be completed on campus. Historians, however, regularly make pilgrimages to libraries and archives that collect unique materials that do not circulate. Klejment planned a two-stage research trip to New York City and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. At first, the New York phase appeared to be of limited value. “Despite careful planning,” Klejment noted, “the collections I accessed added little valuable evidence. Research always involves serendipity – and risk.”
What to do? She needed to remain in New York for a few more days since she was committed to a speaking engagement. Earlier that year at a conference at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida, Klejment presented her findings on Day’s spirituality. At the session, Martha Hennessy, a member of Catholic Worker and one of Day’s granddaughters, was scribbling notes as Klejment spoke. Fascinated by new research on Day’s reception of the teachings of Vatican II, Hennessy invited Klejment to present her findings at one of the New York City Catholic Worker’s Friday meetings.
Fortunately, there was Plan B. Phil Runkel, Catholic Worker archivist at Marquette University, and Klejment had discussed a reference to a garden column in the Advance, a Staten Island daily newspaper for which Day had written shortly after her conversion. “With Phil’s suggestion that it was probably published in 1931, I would try to locate it. Maybe it would…