Living Communion: Mutual Economy for Parishes

The Simone Weil Catholic Worker is anchoring a community of economic mutuality that starts with shared membership in Notre Dame Federal Credit Union–and helping parishes do the same. In the model we are piloting, parish communities can offer free loans guaranteed within the community, preventing and redeeming interest-bearing debt. On this pattern, we can transform our anonymizing, extractive economic lives into the relational structure of the corporate Body of Christ.

For a parish, we are calling this “living communion” because it is an attempt to live the “breadth, height, length and depth” of our communion with Christ (Eph 3:17-19).

Living Communion is a community living as the Body of Christ through practical Scriptural frameworks for treating each other like (God’s) family. 
We start by participating in the ultimate expression of God’s familial love in Christ – redemption – through the Biblical obligation to prevent and redeem each other’s precarious debt.

Basic Background

In 2019 a long retreat got a Catholic Worker excited about a vision for Christian life: gathering to celebrate “the new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” makes us a family, and the family story (Scripture) has a lot to say about what that means in economic (practical) life. Celebrating, re-learning, and living communion seemed like a path for integrating the life of a worshiping community. 

From here, a conversation developed with someone researching the roots of the parish credit union movement who currently represented America’s current largest Catholic credit union. And the director of education at Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life was interested in a class demonstrating how a eucharistic focus changes the economic life of the celebrating community. 

In 2021 pilots came together – The McGrath Institute hosted the first pilot of the “Liturgy and Communion Economy” course. And Notre Dame Federal Credit Union supported the Simone Weil Catholic Worker to organize itself as a community of credit union members, empowered to approve loans without reference to credit score, and guarantee them for one another at zero interest. 

Now in 2023, the Catholic Workers who brought these pieces together are ready to help parishes and other Christian communities develop the shared understandings and practices that help us to live communion. 

The First Practice – Redemptive Lending

This model allows parish communities to offer free loans guaranteed within the community, preventing and redeeming interest-bearing debt. These loans are made possible by:

  • Community members who are willing to guarantee one another’s loans, allowing those loans to be made regardless of the borrower’s credit score
  • A community “redemption fund” that compensates the credit union for the overhead costs of making the loan, allowing the loan to be made at 0% interest to the borrower
  • The formation of a steering committee of community members who evaluate loan requests on the basis of an individual’s ability to pay and participation in the life of the community
  • Our partnership with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, who offers banking services to borrowers and guarantors, executes loans, and collects payments
  • The “community of communities” that gathers regularly to offer support, troubleshoot problems, and engage in ongoing faith formation

Originally this was piloted within the Simone Weil Catholic Worker extended community – building the community, developing the framework of understanding, and working directly with NDFCU to work out the loan process. 

This model is inspired by the biblical practice of redemption, in which family members are obligated to “redeem” a family member from debt bondage, or to buy back family property for a family member who is in danger of being dispossessed (cf. Leviticus 25). In the New Testament, this practice becomes an important framework for understanding Christ’s own saving action.

Stories from the Simone Weil House Community

The Simone Weil House mutual community formed in 2020, when friends of our extended Catholic Worker network began meeting around our shared interests in practices of mutual aid and solidarity rooted in what we believe about being the Body of Christ. Members of this community were invited to become credit union members with NDFCU and introduced to the practice of redemptive lending.

Here are the stories behind a few of the loans that we’ve made:

  • One borrower was in a car accident last year that left him with high medical bills. Unable to access a reputable bank due to his lack of credit, he accepted a high interest credit card offer he received in the mail. He quickly became buried in debt at 38% interest. He heard about our community while volunteering his time at a local parish food bank, where one of our steering committee members also volunteers. We were able to refinance his debt at 0% interest, and this steering committee member ultimately served as this borrower’s guarantor. Since getting connected with our community through this project, the borrower now comes by our Catholic Worker house multiple times per week with food for our community and to stock our community free fridge. 
  • Another loan recipient contracted long COVID and was unable to work for over a month. The loan he received through this project allowed him to stay in his apartment while he recovered and also funded professional development opportunities. This training allowed him to secure a new, well-paying job upon his recovery. His guarantors are two people who are core members of our external community, who previously had helped the borrower when he was experiencing housing instability years before. Since receiving the loan, the borrower has refurbished three computers for folks in our Catholic Worker community.
  • A friend of our community who was formerly homeless got a job opportunity in the same industry she had worked in previously. In order to make this job sustainable, though, she needed a car for her commute (and her credit was poor after her divorce several years ago). We were able to make a loan, guaranteed by a former Catholic Worker, that allowed her to purchase a used car. This loan will also help her rebuild her credit in the long term.

Interested in learning more?

Check out the Parish Guide to Redemptive Lending and

Reach out to the organizers of this initiative at

Other Resources

Resources for Current Members

Forms & Instructions