“Get cracking on the social teachings of the Church.” “Learn more about co-op housing.” These were the directives from Father Francis Marrocco in 1952 to two of his former students, the newly ordained priests Fathers O’Brien and Sherlock of Hamilton. Hoping to improve the living conditions of their parishioners, the two men committed to taking on the challenge.
The average annual wage for an industrial worker in Canada at the time was $4000. The cost of a small home in Hamilton was around $19,000. With interest rates as high as 40%, loans were largely unattainable. Working people needed to find an alternative.
In June 1953, Father Marrocco invited the two priests to visit the site where some of his adult education students were building homes together. The students were part of the group that had created A Guide to Co-operative Housing in the summer of 1952 – an invaluable tool for advancing the co-op movement. Notably, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, now the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, also helped. They had agreed that the co-op builders could use their own labour as equity for the necessary down payments. This was known as “sweat equity.”
Father O’Brien and Father Sherlock returned to Hamilton with the guide in hand. For the people of the Grimsby Co-operative, the guide made all the difference. It developed participants’ understanding of co-operative values and gave them the practical knowledge they needed to succeed. The values and knowledge they gained, combined with their own “sweat equity,” allowed the group to embody Father Coady’s notion of becoming “masters of their own destiny.”
Click to hear and read the transcript of Bill Joyce speaking on the value of education