"UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS":
MEMOIRS AND LESSONS FROM RADICAL CATHOLICS AT FRIENDSHIP HOUSE
by Albert Schorsch, III, 5/15/90, with revisions to 8/9/08.
Copyright, Friendship House, 1990.
Article for U.S. Catholic Historian, 9(4):371-386, Fall, 1990.
The stories of participants in Catholic movements in the mid-twentieth century are not untangled, simple tales. If anything, they detail contradictory and creative pursuits by courageous women and men to gain justice for the least of our brothers and sisters. At times, tellers of these stories testify how God reached out to startle them away from quotidian tasks, and how the loves and hates of these "called" searchers competed and clashed. The saying of which Friendship House founder Baroness Catherine de Hueck Doherty was fond, "God writes straight with crooked lines," 1 typified the romance and humor expressed by American Catholic activists of the mid-twentieth century.
Again and again in the diaries and accounts of these Catholics is the story of a personal calling, an invitation by another apostle to follow Christ. Here is the account of one such apostle, Ann Harrigan:
When I first heard the Baroness lecture in 1937, I have to confess that . . . though not consciously prejudiced, I fitted into the customs of the white middle class majority of those days. Today I can hardly imagine how I could have traveled to college in
Brooklynyear after year on the Fulton Streetcar throughout the black ghetto without ever really 'seeing' what was there before my eyes. What is more damning, the weekly novena I made at St. Peter Claver church for Negroes (carved out of Nativity parish because its pastor excluded Negroes from "his" church) had done nothing to jolt my sensibilities either. . . .
Especially I must stress that up to this point, I had considered myself enlightened, if not avaunt garde in my thinking and perception of reality, as a Catholic, as an American, as a woman intent upon working for the common good.2
It took someone with the forcefulness of a de Hueck to break
through what we today would commonly call the "denial" of the
realities of segregation, even for such a committed Christian as Ann Harrigan,
quoted above. Despite the five years she had spent as friend and helper to
Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day and to the Frank Sheed and Masie Ward, the
Friendship House was set in cavernous rows of sleazy stores, below the line of unbroken drab six-story tenements. It was indeed a slum all right.
But once inside! The ambiance was unforgettable: walls lined with books, flickering lights muted by smoke. (The "B" [Baroness Catherine de Hueck] as we called her smoked like a chimney then.) White people, black people--talking, laughing, friendly, sipping coffee. How simple the solution all seemed then: the sooner we of different races learned to work together, to pray together, to eat, to study, to laugh together, the sooner we'd be on the way to interracial justice. Little did we know then the complexities of the sin of segregation.
The attraction was not only the "B" herself. Ever since the Baroness's lecture, my thoughts were racing back and forth in confusion. Down deep I seemed to be hurting. Ideas and images kept surfacing and receding, flashbacks from my childhood and teen years. I kept asking myself how many times?
How could you have overlooked the obvious? You the daughter of Annie Heffernan from
, cradle of the Irish rebellions? You who since childhood remember Mother's mealtime tales of Eamonn De Valera and the struggle for Irish Home Rule, of perfidious Albion in the hanging of Sir Roger Casement, of the Ulster partition, often spiced with readings from the weekly Irish World and American Liberator, yearning for justice even then? County Wexford
And again when I was listening with the same fascination and increased horror to news of the Russian Revolution, the millions murdered, religion being wiped out, atheism enshrined in the government, how could you, hungering for true justice someday in Russia, be so ignorant of conditions right in your own backyard?
It was a
All kinds of mixed feelings clamored inside me--gnawing regret, the turmoil of wondering how I ever could make amends for these terrible injustices, alternating with an immense relief at knowing that perhaps I could do something, and the sensation of sweet joy at having come upon a precious treasure--the truth. It was like a revelation, not all at once, it is true, but more than a feeling, it was a conviction that grew and grew. Amid all this not unhappy confusion, were the momentous encounters with the Catholic Worker and the Sheeds, with Catholic Action groups, and also the encyclicals. All these challenged my previous life of a white American and confronted the apathy and narrowness of middle class behavior.
Questioning the rigid legalism of my Church, I wanted to free myself from the elaborate defenses shackling it and to move forward. I felt in my bones that to break out of the whole straight jacket was an idea whose time had come--unheard of in my milieu.
But what support did this unheard-of stand have in middle-class
? Very little, in my home and family life. My mother's objections to Negroes were so deep-seated and immovable that when I told her about America Harlemonce, she forbade me to go there ever again! Pete, my priest brother, said I was wasting good time because he suspected the Baroness was a hoax, a dangerous Commie; but then he worried too that I was endangering my faith because of questioning the Booklyn Tablet!
The women in my family, my three [surviving] sisters, were the ones who gave me my head, or at least the benefit of the doubt. Many friends shook their heads and said what a chance I was taking, what a waste of talents. They deplored my passing up all the years of preparation for teaching.
But some held their fire. A few were supportive, including one priest, Fr. Richard Hanley. But I was 27, I had to think for myself, and I figured that the various critics didn't know what I knew. They hadn't seen what I had seen, and they weren't haunted as I was by my strong conviction that I had to something to change things.3
Thus did Ann Harrigan describe her feelings of her 1937 encounter with Catherine de Hueck and her decision to work for interracial justice at Friendship House in 1938, a decision which subsequently sent her to Chicago in 1942 to become the founding co-director with Catholic African-American author Ellen Tarry 4 and then to remain as sole director of Friendship House Chicago until 1948.
The Friendship House founded by Russian emigre Baroness Catherine de Hueck
in Toronto in the early 1930's which was to become the Catholic interracial
apostolate grew from a charitable and anti-communism effort among recent
immigrants and the hungry, with a formal ecclesiastically approved opening on
September 14, 1934. Another Friendship House was opened in
At the suggestion of the founder of the Catholic Interracial Council John La Farge, SJ and of Rev. Paul Francis Wattson of Graymoor, in Garrison, NY, the Rev. Michael Mulvoy, CSSP, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist parish in Harlem, New York City--called "Harlem's blackest white man"--invited Catherine to work in his parish.6 Arriving in February of 1938, Catherine founded an interracial ministry that was to spread to Chicago (1942, still extant), Washington, DC (1948, closed 1959), Portland, OR (1951, merged with Madonna House apostolate, 1957), Shreveport, LA (1953, closed 1955), and now-closed farms in Marathon, WI, Montgomery, NY, and Burnley, VA. Friendship House Harlem closed in 1960. Only FH Chicago remains today of the original Friendship House foundings so named.7
Ann Harrigan and Ellen Tarry were but two of the band of "uncommon
women" drawn to the startling Catherine de Hueck. Many were moved
especially by Catherine's own personal account of suffering and of a thirst for
justice. When the young Garry Wills in 1972 glibly referred to Dorothy Day and
Catherine de Hueck as "earth mothers" of Catholic liberalism and as
keepers of way stations for future and ex-seminarians 8 he missed the tremendous influence on
three generations of Catholic women that Dorothy and Catherine had. Christian
Family Movement cofounder and Chicagoan Patricia
When young Baroness Catherine de Hueck fled Bolshevik Russia with her husband in 1917, she took steps which would take her across the world to become one of the leading proponents of interracial justice in pre-Martin Luther King Jr. America. For, when she and her husband were captured by partisans and locked in a room to starve in Finland, she resolved, were she to survive, to dedicate her life to awaken other Christians to the injustice which dominated when Christians did not behave as Christians. This story Catherine told with passion and charm to her audiences on the Chautauqua and other lecture circuits— 10 and from Catholic institution to Catholic institution.
The change agency methods of Friendship House were public education--speaking and articles in the Catholic and "secular" press, and in the Friendship House organs--Harlem Friendship House News (1941-1948), The Catholic Interracialist (1949-1955), and finally Community Magazine (1955-1983, soon to republished),11 and also personal confrontation.
The young staffers of Friendship House had a very powerful example to follow in "the B." Catherine would speak with a pastor personally who refused to admit African American children to a parish school, and on several occasions visited his bishop the very day of her conversation, or threatened to.
In her later autobiography Fragments of My Life 12 she told the story of her three year effort to convince the Jesuits of Fordham University to admit African Americans. Invited to Fordham to speak, Catherine gave her student and faculty audience vintage de Hueck:
"I came to talk to you, not to lecture. In 10 minutes, therefore, I am stepping off this platform. Ten minutes is not a lecture, as far as I am concerned. The situation here is very tragic. You have a chapel in this building, and there is a crucifix in the chapel. This same cross shines all over
. However, the words of the person who died on that cross are ignored in these holy precincts." New York
I named one of the boys I had sent to them. "According to your teachers, the administration has turned thumbs down on his admittance here. They have told me that you do not want undergraduate Negroes. That's why I am getting off this platform right now."
It was a short powerful speech, and the whole audience exploded. They surrounded the platform and shouted, "No, don't go. Talk to us! Talk to us!"
Well, I started talking, and in my whole life I don't think I have ever given such a lecture on interracial justice as I gave that night. I put everything that was in me into it. When I finished, there was dead silence. I myself had gooseflesh.
Somebody quietly got up and said, "I'm asking for a show of hands. Are we accepting Negroes or not?"
There were unanimous cries of "Yes! Yes!"
I said, "Thank you. I am sure God is happy tonight."
The students were happy, God was happy, but the "Jebbies" were not happy. It was after this chain of events that I was invited to dinner and to a private meeting.
At a subsequent two hour meeting with "about 20" Jesuits of Fordham University, according to Catherine's account, she countered their stated fears of economic backlash from bigots if African Americans were admitted with uncompromising Scriptural positions. "Oh, excuse me Father, I thought you were teaching Christianity here." To another objection she responded, "I have never read anywhere in the Gospel where Christ says to wait 20 years before living the Gospel. The Good News is for now." Catherine's final recollected statement to the Jesuits was:
"Fathers, please don't ask me over any more. I love you very much. Your Founder has been a big influence in my own life. A Jesuit guided me spiritually when I was only 12 years old and living in
. Don't break my heart. What you are doing is compromising with the Gospel. Ignatius of Loyola would never do that." Egypt
It is an interesting footnote to history that Fr. Robert Gannon, SJ, then president of Fordham and present at the meeting, was later memorialized by lectures, the 1983 edition of which was given by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin--his celebrated "Seamless Garment" address. Notwithstanding the influence of John La Farge, SJ, had not the self-described "simple Russian woman" Catherine de Hueck delivered a less celebrated lecture to the Fordham Jesuit community over forty years earlier requesting the admission of particular young African Americans to Fordham, the Seamless Garment Gannon lecture might have been given at some other place, memorializing some other just man.
The "simple Russian woman" spoke most European languages well, or
well enough, from the Slavic to the Germanic to the Romance, along with a
smattering of Arabic, and possessed a prodigious intellect, a powerful
intuition ("She had very good radar," quoth Ann Harrigan Makletzoff),
an uncanny mastery of American slang, e.g., "Shake a leg and make it
snappy," 13 blunt yet
disarming diplomacy, and faith in Christ that helped make allies of those whom
she confronted. She had what we Americans call "guts." She was the
first woman allowed to lecture in a number of seminaries throughout the
Harlem, New York City was far from the Minnesota farm of eighteen year old Betty Schneider, a young student at the College of St. Benedict, for whom her first year of college, 1937-38, saw visits from four now noted American Catholics: Catherine de Hueck, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Fr. Paul Hanly Furfey, sociologist and author of Fire on the Earth, 14 who had lectured and then given a retreat. Betty and friend Jo Zehnle decided to write Dorothy and Catherine and see if they could work with them that summer. Dorothy did not write back but Catherine did. Betty recollects Catherine's message as:
"Well sure, come and I'll get you a family to live with in the neighborhood. There'll be good days and bad days but you can come share whatever we have." And so that was the summer of 1938, and I went to work in Harlem.15
Since that summer of 1938, Betty Schneider has continued her
involvement with the Friendship House apostolate, succeeding Catherine de Hueck
for a time as national director of Friendship House. In one memorable incident,
Betty asked the donor of the
Friendship House was also blessed with others of a still living first
generation. Msgr. Paul Hanly Furfey, one of Catherine de Hueck's several (and
simultaneous) spiritual directors, still carries on an active correspondence
with Friendship House Chicago at the age of 94. [He now rests in peace--
AJSIII, 1992] Russell Marshall, an African-American Catholic deacon now retired
I worked with the groups who were interested in unemployment, and the people who were being put out of their homes, and in the ones who were picketing the gangs working in the streets who did not employ Negroes. These people, these young Communists, were quite active on the South Side [of
]; in fact they were the only ones active on the South Side in the early days of the Depression and in the late '30's, I'd say. So that when Friendship House came in '42, for the first time those other than the Communists were actively engaged in some of the problems brought on by segregation: the lack of work--the completely closed, completely encircled Negro ghetto. Chicago
In those days the only the only integrated groups were some of the actors, the singers, the musicians, those who were called "demimonde." I guess we don't use that word anymore. I never hear it. But they, of course, were unconventional and there was quite a bit of mixing there. The Communists tried hard to bring about a certain amount of social integration--and they did. Also the Socialists were very active around the
campus. Universityof Chicago
The Friendship House group made it pretty clear that what we had at that time was not a Christian community and they made it clear that they were working for complete integration. So that they were quite a novelty. At first it was thought that the whites, both the men and the women, who had come into Friendship House were Communists. But we soon saw because of the activity at St. Elizabeth's because of the liturgical activities around Friendship House that they were decidedly a Catholic, religious group. 16
Friendship House was the beneficiary from the late 1940's to
the 1960's of the notoriety of Thomas Merton, who described his weeks of
volunteering during the summer of 1941 at the Harlem Friendship House in The
Seven Storey Mountain. 17
Many came to know Friendship House and volunteer through his writings. But in
1941 Merton was relatively unknown outside of
I am not quite sure that the Baroness de Hueck wanted me to come to FH. But a comedy of errors, later to be termed "God's Will", put me there, rather like an orphan abandoned on a doorstep.
I wasn't an ex-nun needing the semi-religious discipline the place offered, or the product of a good Catholic education, in search of the Holy Grail. I was an improbable candidate, a budding hedonist in search of a philosophy. The New Yorker was my Bible according to the Gospel of Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woolcott. The Communist Party had actively sought my membership, but they gave me no answers. I had been baptized a Catholic but the Mass was a bleak mystery and no words to live by ever came down from the pulpit.
So on a cold March day many years ago, a cab dropped me off in front of a storefront called Friendship House on
135th St.in Harlem. The lady at the desk wore a blue dress. She had blue eyes, blonde hair and a wonderful voice. She was direct. She was charismatic. She was like no other person in the world. She was the Baroness de Hueck and she changed my life.
Friendship House was an infinitely personal experience. It taught me about love and charity. It gave the tools with which to fight injustice. It showed me how to see beyond the ugliness that poverty often breeds in the very poor. Years later, Friendship House was with me in our urban jungles, in our prisons and in the jungles of
FH was innovative. It probably wrote the guide lines for
VISTA. It preached and practiced racial equality, and, if love is innovative, we were taught to love our fellow man.
I am a lucky lady to have been part of this. I am also damned, in a way, because my commitment never ends. 19
The semi-religious discipline Mary Jerdo referred to was that Friendship House as a lay apostolate required of its staff members in the early days daily Mass, Morning and Evening Psalm-prayer, regular retreats and days of recollection, and more--poverty, chastity, and obedience! Catherine de Hueck shocked a number of her followers, some of whom had turned down marriage proposals to join Friendship House and who had been living in chastity for five years, when she herself married Eddie Doherty, the noted journalist, in 1943. Ann Harrigan was especially disappointed in not being given advance warning by Catherine of the impending wedding, witnessed by Bishop Sheil in his private chapel. 20 Personal and philosophical rifts appeared between Friendship House and Catherine, leading ultimately to her shift to Combermere, Ontario and her eventual founding of the Madonna House apostolate there in 1947, which now thrives with over 140 staff members in 14 centers worldwide as a Vatican sanctioned pious union.
Personal differences are likely to occur among people of great courage who
risk much, 21 and the young
confronters and workers of Friendship House also brought upon themselves
Scriptural reactions. More than once, FH staffers were beaten by angry
anti-integration bigots or by less than appreciative Friendship House patrons.
Five boys dragged Mary Jerdo into an alley to kill her, another talked them out
of it. 22 On another occasion
Mary Jerdo talked an assailant into dropping his knife. Betty Schneider, Bill
Flynn, Monica Smith Cox, and Ed Adams were beaten in
Fr. Joseph Gremillion, now of the University of Notre Dame [deceased, 1995], had to insist that the Friendship House he had invited to Shreveport, Louisiana close after incidents like the time FH Anne Foley and Mary Dolan were threatened with a violent end--"Attention Nigger lovers. . . . We mean business."--and after police arrested and incarcerated "white" FH staffers Anne Foley, Frank Petta, and "Negro" Loretta Butler for watching a sunset in their car--together. The local press heated up an anti-FH fervor, and FH was perceived by local Catholics as meddling Northerners in a small Southern setting, who insisted, a few months after Brown vs. Board of Education of May of 1954, that a local Catholic high school integrate. 23 Five months after Friendship House Shreveport was forced to close that July, Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to step to the rear of the bus, and the non-violent campaign of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began. Friendship House in New York helped organize a march of tens of thousands in support of the boycott. Vehemently disgreeing with Gremillion, FH staffer Larry Pausback remained in Shreveport to teach for a while, and one of his students, Irene Sebastian, eventually found her way to Chicago's Friendship House as a volunteer in the late 1970's while a doctoral student at the University of Chicago.
Despite the departure of founder Catherine de Hueck Doherty to full-time work with the Madonna House Apostolate in Combermere, Ontario in 1947 (retaining the title Director General) the Friendship House apostolate continued to grow nationally until the late 1950's, when changes in Friendship House mirrored those in the Church and in society.
Elizabeth Louise Sharum, OSB, in her excellently detailed dissertation on the history of Friendship House to 1977, A Strange Fire Burning, summarized ˜the changes undergone by FH:
In 1956 the U.S. branch changed from the tradition of Friendship House as a way of life somewhat resembling a religious community and using volunteer staff workers, to an organization devoted to the work to be done in interracial justice, and staffed by persons hired for a specific job and paid a small salary. Doherty resigned from the U.S. branch after this decision, and all the Houses soon closed [by 1960] except Chicago, which still exists. 24
Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, Friendship House, along with the Catholic Interracial Councils, provided some of the few sites where Catholics could publicly devote their full-time efforts to interracial justice, and where "white" Catholics, for the first time, could converse face to face with African Americans in a non-threatening setting. By the 1960's FH staffers and volunteers had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles throughout North and South giving talks to thousands of parishes, forums, and institutions, including a national Home Visit Day in 1963 in which thousands of individuals of different races visited each other's homes. Some of them were the notorious priests and nuns who were photographed marching against segregation. FH directors from various cities from the 40's to the 70's Ann Harrigan, Betty Schneider, Nancy Grinnell DuBois, Mabel Knight, Anne Foley, Peggy Bevins, Mary Houston, Jim Guinan (now of Madonna House), Ann Stull, Mary Dolan, John Kearney, Dorothy Besal, Betty Plank, Jim Duignan, Bill Bianchi, continued many forms of the apostolate, with an obvious women's influence.
Outstanding religious men and women who had a degree of independence to be creative played an important part in supporting the early Friendship House apostolate. Ann Harrigan cited especially Sr. Thomas Aquinas, Grace Dammon RSCJ, the religious communities at Manhattanville in New York, at Rosary College in River Forest, IL, and the Cenacle community in Chicago for their counsel and encouragement. It was the Rosary College Dominican community which, at the behest of attorney Patrick Crowley, lent Friendship House Chicago enough money to purchase their storefront on Indiana Avenue. Rev. Edward Dugan of New York shepherded the Harlem FH until the end. Bishop Bernard Sheil worked behind the scenes to give much personal, ideological, and financial support, and Revs. Reynold Hillenbrand and Daniel Cantwell of Chicago, Paul Hanly Furfey and George Joyce of Washington, Joseph Gremillion of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Thomas Tobin of Portland, Oregon were a few of the clergy who helped guide the first FH generation.
As the Civil Rights movement split into the Black Power, Peace, and Women's movements, Friendship House began to search for the most appropriate manner to fit in. By 1970, the Black Power movement placed much pressure upon interracial organizations, and the Friendship House board, in a split decision, decided to deed its 4233 S. Indiana to a Black Panther related educational corporation. Given parish duties by Cardinal John Cody, the FH Chicago Chaplain Msgr. Daniel Cantwell resigned shortly thereafter. Cantwell [deceased, 1996], the spiritual heir of omnipresent Catholic Action chaplain Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand (and Hillenbrand's funeral homilist), typified the vision that continued throughout Friendship House, that of charity, justice, prayer, and liturgy intertwined, and had been part of the glue which held Friendship House Chicago together since 1942. As Cantwell rethought the role of the laity over the years, he concluded that FH staffers should be paid, in keeping with the role of the laity. 25
"This man," said Msgr. John J. Egan as he pointed to Cantwell at
the Friendship House fortieth anniversary at
Like many Catholic efforts in the 1970's, the peace and justice issues springing from the New Left preoccupied FH during the 1970's. The disagreement of many leading Catholics with Humanae Vitae split the old Catholic Action crowd apart. 26 The Catholic Worker and FH again grew closer together. Peace activist and poet Johnny Baranski, Pat Caraher, OP, H. Jean Bryan and Kevin Reed all served as Friendship House staff at great personal sacrifice, living in Franciscan poverty with the small wage FH paid--and often owed--them. Baranski, Bryan, Reed, and myself served at a Friendship House where for the first time most of the staff were married.
In 1978, Friendship House board member and former director Jim Duignan, a
now retired Catholic Charities Chicago executive, at risk of his livelihood
helped to engineer an ad in the —uWall Street Journal˜ for
Providence-St. Mel High School, a high school closed by Cardinal Cody and now
financially independent of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 1979, Friendship
House led a successful letter writing campaign requesting Cardinal Cody to
initiate more consultation before closing inner-city Catholic schools. In 1980
Friendship House moved to
Over the years, FH has differed with the Catholic Worker in its corporate
structure--FH has maintained non-profit status--and more formal relations with
the local church. Also, FH has established treatment for addicted and alcoholic
patrons, many of whom will die if their "primary" illness is
unattended, as opposed to simply running a soup line. Today (May, 1990)
Friendship House has a certified alcohol and addictions counselor, Bob Blair,
as program director with a board composed primarily of former staff and
volunteers who actively participate. Three weekly liturgies, in English, Polish,
and Spanish, are followed by meals. The homeless and ill are served and found
jobs, treatment, shelter, or advocacy, and volunteers still encounter different
worlds and cultures. We're very hopeful that we'll be able to keep our
inter-ethnic homeless ministry on
The culture of Friendship House involves liturgy and prayer, charity and activism, racial justice, Eastern and Western Christianity, male and female leadership, Catholic and non-Catholic, Right and Left. If, as it has been often said, that Catholic social thought is theologically conservative, socially progressive, then Friendship House has attempted to be true to that difficult balance. While supporting many of the social changes of former "roommate" Call to Action, Friendship House turned down an award from Call to Action in 1988 because of an earlier award to a pro-abortion physician.
Friendship House, more properly, has been where Catholic radicals and radical Catholics have met and cooperated. This is an important distinction, for Friendship House, like Catholicism itself, preserves conservative elements, but in a radical manner. If I may be forgiven one Peter Maurinesque "Easy Essay" to better illustrate the point:
We're radical Catholics more than Catholic radicals.
Radical Catholics are Catholics who try to be Catholic.
Catholic Radicals are Radicals who happen to be Catholic.
Radical Catholics bring Catholicism to the Progressives.
Catholic Radicals bring Progressivism to the Catholics.
For Radical Catholics Catholic is the noun they are.
For Catholic Radicals Catholic is the adjective they happen to be.
Radical Catholics think Catholicism is radical.
Catholic Radicals think radicalism means Catholic.
Sometimes we're all Catholic radicals.
But most of the time we try to be Catholic.
One day you might see a Byelorussian deacon delivering clothes to Friendship House, where it is accepted by a Polish Catholic on behalf of African American Protestants and Hispanic Catholics, some of whom practice Santeria. Underneath a picture of John Paul II, a supporter of gay rights might lecture the patrons on AIDS one afternoon, while the next day a dozen Opus Dei volunteers might clean the place from top to bottom. It is indeed a strange, hectic--and smelly--peaceable kingdom. When I first met Catherine de Hueck Doherty in 1978 it was no different. In the Madonna House library were displayed two "Book Reviews by the 'B'": one on Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, the other on The Cloud of Unknowing.
Friendship House has preserved an important tradition of the contradictory side to saintliness. In one memorable lunch with Nina Polcyn Moore (a Sheil School veteran and Milwaukee Catholic Worker cofounder), Ann Harrigan Makletzoff, and Catholic African-American poet Martha M. Vertreace, at the time an editor of Community, Nina and Ann shared with us hilarious imitations of Catherine De Hueck's stock speeches and an account of Catherine's clever wooing of Edward Doherty, and their stories of a cigarette-smoking, liquor-quaffing "fun" Dorothy Day in the jazz clubs in Dorothy's pre-Fr. John Hugo days, after whose retreats Dorothy exuded less of the smell of cigarettes and more of the odor of sanctity. "Fr. Hugo ruined everything," Ann said facetiously, with Celtic twinkle. Who says apostles shouldn't be fun sometimes? Friendship House people lived out humorist Kurt Vonnegut's words, "Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." 29
John Hellman's masterly book on French Radical Catholicism 30 demonstrated in the case of Emmanuel Mounier, the French Personalist philosopher so influential for the Catholic Worker Movement, who constantly revised his thinking--but was Christian to the end--that the passions and arguments of individuals, their loves and hates, their assuming different life tasks as they aged and responded to cultural changes, are part of every apostolate. Raymond Brown, in his Antioch and Rome, 31 put forth the theory that conflicts among the early Christians themselves might have led to the martyrdoms of Paul and Peter. After lo now a century of text-based form-critical scholarship, validated largely by academic committee-based consensus, it would be refreshing to see received theories on the development of early Christian communities actually tested historically on the well-documented Christian communities of twentieth century America: the Catholic Worker and Friendship House. My hunch is that the twisted tales of both apostolates would challenge in a fundamental way the underlying linear assumptions of our received modern hermeneutic wisdom. After considering the history of these modern Catholic movements, somehow assumptions about early Christian communities don't quite ring true. Are God's lines really twisted, or is our own sight doing the deflecting?
Personal meetings and remembrances are key to an apostolate. Ed Marciniak,
former Chicago Catholic Worker and editor of Work, Chicago Commissioner
of Human Relations under the first Mayor Daley, and present director of the
Institute of Urban Life at Loyola University--and brother of Berenice Barta,
former FHer--stated in his 1969 book, Tomorrow's Christian 32 that the mark of an apostle is the
ability to call others to be apostles. This gift Catherine de Hueck not only
possessed, but also the gift of imparting the gift of calling others to others.
Even a partial list of those who followed reveals that they continued in
similar fashion after they left FH after volunteer or staff work: Kale
Williams, of Quaker background, now [former] executive director of the
Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities which sprang from the 1966
"Chicago Summit" agreement between Mayor Richard J. Daley and Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and which todays monitors open housing in the
Chicago area and administers court-mandated housing funds; Fr. George Clements,
who volunteered at FH in high school, and whose associate, Rev. Dennis Riley,
now serves as FH chaplain; Bea Duffy, a volunteer from the 1950's, has helped
to make the parish sharing program a reality in Chicago; Tom Cook of FEL
Publications; longtime community activist Ed Chambers; Dorothy Besal, who spent
years with the Chicago Department of Planning and later Housing; and Peggy
Parsons, who worked at the United Nations. Hundreds of former FH staff and
volunteers have made similar impacts throughout the
A sometimes rancorous debate over the lay apostolate has taken place over the past sixty years. Are lay apostles to be full-time witnesses, living voluntary poverty, or are they to live in the marketplace and work everyday jobs, bringing Christian charity to daily affairs? Is there a danger of the "clericalization of the laity", as was expressed in the "Chicago Declaration of Christian Concern" of 1977 33 Is the current use of the word "empowerment" inaccurate, does it merely mean "hiring" or "funding" lay ministry, a new word to add taste to what's sloshing around in the old wineskins? "Empowerment" is used to describe dramatic funding by Campaign for Human Development of over $200 million in projects in impoverished areas, but it is also used to describe hiring a superfluous worker to prepare the parish bulletin and attend meetings which the pastor doesn't care to.
Is witness only "lay" to the extent that orders and vows are not executed? When Friendship House staffers ceased to receive support funds from Bishop Sheil and relied solely on their own begging, they called it "going off the gold standard." 34 When Friendship House paid its staff, it moved from an apostolic model to a social work model that disappointed its foundress--but not permanently. However, the poverty of the apostolate as such dictated that even in that "hireling" model the staff earned so little it was close to an lifestyle of apostolic poverty.
Of the possible apostolic lifestyles can be described several:
(1) the mendicant, which relies totally on begging,
(2) the Pauline, which combines begging and individual work,
(3) the monastic, combining corporate begging and common suffiency work,
(4) the curial, with ministry supported by corporate parochial begging,
(5) the lay, which relies on the individual's work alone,
(6) the diaconate, with work primarily but with "empowerment" for ministry.
Confusion--and anger--arise when the word "lay" is used both in the sense of "full time worker" and in the sense of "no holy orders or vows." Sometimes, among lay apostles, the question arises, "Just how lay am I?" Those who work for the Church are sometimes considered "less lay" than others, even when the work is equivalent to work in any other organization. If the work is educational or sacramental, then sometimes the person doing the work is considered "not really lay," especially when they attempt to represent the point of view of those who support themselves full time without church financial support.
Obscured in this debate over the nature of the lay apostolate --recounted from the Friendship House point of view remarkably by Louise Sharum's work 35--is the apostolate to which all Christians are called. In the pre-Vatican II world, apostles were "Fishers of men" who helped to "save souls." 36 That phrase, decidedly otherworldly and in sexually non-inclusive language, fell out of favor. But none has arisen to effectively replace it, "empowerment" included, which the chronic inability of the Church with its human failings to effectively or fairly share power constantly confounds. The very first words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, "Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," if stated gender inclusively, need to be reclaimed, because it is from Jesus himself that apostles hear the call, and Jesus whom they follow. Jesus himself "empowers" his hearers through his very Word, not through funding machinery. If there is any phrase worth preserving from the heyday of Catholic Action, it is the idea that anyone can follow Christ if called, and that the "anyone's" call is then to follow Christ and to call others. The practice which follows this call for Friendship House continues to be the "Corporal Works of Mercy" of Matthew 25, and the "Spiritual Works of Mercy" of I Thessalonians. 37
Friendship House over the years has concentrated primarily on its mission--mercy, than on identity maintenance--"sacrifice." FH staff and volunteers have lived out all of the above lifestyles and their lay-clerical permutations. They have practiced a certain Pauline pragmatism, and they have continued their mission for nearly 60 years. How is less important in this sense than why.
1. Ann Harrigan Makletzoff memoir
draft, pg. 4. Henceforth: AHM. Ann Harrigan Makletzoff exhibited
a passion to convey her vision and experience of the apostolate to others by
writing her memoirs despite painful cancer which led to her death in 1984. Ann
Harrigan Makletzoff papers and diaries are located at the University of Notre
Dame, and Ann, suffering from cancer, was the kind recipient of a small grant
3. Ibid, pp. 38-41.
4. Ellen Tarry, The Third Door: The Autobiography of an American Negro Woman. New York, David Mc Kay Co., 1955.
5. Elizabeth Louise Sharum, OSB, A Strange Fire Burning: A History of the Friendship House Movement. Dissertation, Texas Tech University, 1977. University Microfilm International dissertation # 77-25,521.
Chronology summarized from abstract. Henceforth, SFB.
6. AHM, pg. 1.
7. SFB, pp. 124-125.
8. Garry Wills, Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy, and Radical Religion, Doubleday, 1972, pg. 59.
9. John Kotre, —uSimple Gifts: The Lives of Pat and Patty
10. SFB, pp. 31.
11. These publications are available on microfilm from UMI in
12. Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Fragments of My Life, Notre Dame, 1983, pp. 154-56.
13. Ibid, pg 62.
14. Paul Hanly Furfey, Fire on the Earth,
15. Betty Schneider, Selections from Friendship House oral history, Community, Vol. 37, 3, 1978, pg. 38.
16. Russell Marshall, Selections from Friendship House oral history, Community, Vol. 37, 3, 1978, pg. 39-40.
17. Thomas Merton, The Seven
18. AHM, paragraph 172.
19. Mary Jerdo Keating, Community, Vol. 37, 3, 1978, pg. 23.
20. AHM, paragraphs 424-434.
21. The lives of Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Ann Harrigan Makletzoff
intertwined very intensely. In 1948 Ann married Nicholas Makletzoff,
Catherine's earlier suitor and friend, not, as Catherine often stated in her
writings--and as Ann vehemently denied--Catherine's cousin. Nicholas designed
and owned the cottage in
22. SFB, pp. 141-142.
23. SFB, pp. 385-407. Rev. Joseph Gremillion's account is in his Journal of a Southern Pastor, Fides, 1957.
24. SFB, abstract.
25. SFB, pg. 469.
26. Kotre, pg. 103. Hillenbrand and Patty Crowley communicated minimally after the Crowleys' open criticism of Humanae Vitae in 1968 and a subsequent Hillenbrand letter of rebuke.
27. Mark Hosenball, Poles' back door into US, London Times, 10 February 1985, pg. 24.
28. An Open Letter to Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago,Chicago Sun-Times, March 4, 1990, pg. 38.
29. Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle. New York, Dell, 1963.
30. John Hellman, Emmanuel Mounier and the New Catholic Left, 1930-1950, University of Toronto Press, 1981.
31. Raymond Brown, Antioch & Rome, New York, 1983.
32. Ed Marciniak, Tomorrow's Christian, Dayton, Ohio. 1969. 33. The "Chicago Declaration" appeared simultaneously in Commonweal and Community, Vol. 36, 1, Winter 1977. It was initiated by brothers- in-law Russell Barta (of Mundelein College) and Ed Marciniak, but Msgrs. John Egan and Daniel Cantwell participated in discussions. The four friends framed the shape of many a discourse on the role of the laity for thirty years--to the usually friendly chagrin of some non-Chicagoans!
34. SFB, pg. 147.
35. SFB, pg. 261.
36. Maxene van der Meersch, Fishers of Men, translation of Pecheurs d'Hommes. London, John Miles, 1947. This Jocist work was instrumental in the conversion of my mother to Catholicism in her young adulthood in Canada.
37. Paul Hanly Furfey, Love and the Urban Ghetto. Maryknoll, NY, Orbis, 1978, pp. 1-3; 111-130. Furfey cites Matthew 25 throughout this work, a retrospective of his personal and intellectual involvement in Catholic movements. Cf. pg. 111: "The term 'Christian radicalism' is here defined--somewhat arbitrarily it is true--as a system of activism which, instead of trying to reform the current politico-economic system, breaks with it entirely and tries to build a new society." At the conclusion of this work, Furfey pushed for Christian Revolutionism on a non-violent, Swedish model, and called for activism ala Matthew 25.
Albert Schorsch, III, [this bio was dated 1990, see current info] a Chicago homebuilder, currently serves as president of the Friendship House board. His dissertation in Public Policy Analysis from the School of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago is entitled, Housing Policy and Common Sense.