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340 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived

and she determined to dedicate her life uncompromisingly to Jesus Christ

as a layperson.

In 1931, with the blessing of Archbishop Neil McNeil of Toronto—and

after making arrangements for her son—Catherine sold all her posses-

sions, moved to the slums of Toronto, and embraced a life according to

the Gospel. She lived a life of prayer and service to the poor. She rented a

storefront and called it “Friendship House.” Here she provided food, cloth-

ing, and shelter to the poor and homeless. A small group of like-minded

people joined her, and together they lived the spirituality of St. Francis

of Assisi.

In 1938, at the request of Fr. John LaFarge, SJ, a civil rights pioneer,

Catherine established another Friendship House in Harlem in New York

City. As in Toronto, a small group of followers joined her. During this time,

Catherine met the American journalist Eddie Doherty, and they were mar-

ried in the Catholic Church in 1943. Eddie joined in the life of the Chicago

Friendship House. As a result of controversy and criticism, Catherine and

Eddie left the United States to live on a small piece of land that Eddie

owned in Combermere, Ontario, and entered the most fruitful and endur-

ing phase of their lives.

At their home, Madonna House, Catherine and Eddie started a train-

ing center for the Catholic lay apostolate. Former Friendship House staff-

ers and others came to join the work. At the urging of Msgr. Giovanni

Battista Montini—later Pope Paul VI—Catherine, Eddie, and their followers

professed simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a sign of

permanent commitment to their apostolate. Catherine and Eddie lived

celibate lives from that point on.

Madonna House grew. Priests, laymen, and laywomen came from all

over the world to live the gospel spirituality that Catherine taught and a

lifestyle modeled after the Holy Family of Nazareth. Because of her reputa-

tion as a contemplative prayerful woman and her renown as a spiritual

writer, many came to be counseled by Catherine, who directed individu-

als away from herself and to Christ instead. At the request of many bish-

ops, Madonna House established apostolic centers throughout the world.

In 1985, ten years after Eddie’s death, Catherine died, leaving behind

a spiritual heritage. Reflective of what she learned from her mother and

how she had lived her own life, Catherine urged her followers to be



: to stretch out one hand to God and the other to the neighbor, to

see God everywhere and in everyone, and to pour out their lives in ser-