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Catherine

Catherine Doherty was a woman of strong Christian convictions which were developed in her from her childhood. She was born into a wealthy family in Russia on August 15, 1896, and spent much time in convent schools while her parents traveled for diplomatic and business reasons. From both her family life and her schooling she learned the strong Catholic-Christian heritage of the Russian people and came to love the Church of the East.

She married Boris de Hueck at age 15. Russia soon became embroiled in World War I and Catherine served as a nurse. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the couple endured the hardships of that time in their homeland and ultimately escaped through Finland to England. There she began to embrace the Catholic-Christianity of the West.

In 1921, the struggling de Huecks emigrated to Toronto, Canada. There they had a son. Catherine became a popular lecturer and the family became affluent. But her marriage began to disintegrate,and Catherine became aware that she was struggling with God.He had brought her through many trials and dangers in her life, and she grew uncomfortable with her wealth and success. The words of Jesus grew louder in her heart: "Sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and come, follow Me." Catherine and her husband divorced in the early 1930's and Catherine obtained an annulment from the Church. In her need to find direction from the Lord for her life, she turned to the Archbishop of Toronto for spiritual guidance. He counseled her to spend a year in prayer to discern the unusual call the Lord seemed to be holding out to her. After doing so, she discovered that her heart's desire was to spend her life in service to the poor. As others saw her work with the needy and heard her speak, they came to join her. This call for community ultimately led to the founding of the Friendship House Apostolate in many of the large cities of the United States. Catherine and Dorothy Day were contemporaries in that movement.

The Friendship House movement was mostly a social program, and Catherine felt she had a spiritual vocation in her work with the poor. In 1943 she married newspaperman Eddie Doherty and he supported her in her outlook and emphasis. They moved to Combermere, Ontario, in 1947 and she again put herself under the spiritual direction of the local bishop. She and Eddie worked with the rural poor and, again, others came to join them. By 1955, the community that had formed agreed to establish itself more formally in the Church and community members took private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, leading to a lifetime commitment. Catherine and Eddie took a vow of celibacy, too. Their sacrifice bore fruit in vocations and in the stability of the community, and in 1978 the community, Madonna House, was approved as a public association of the faithful by the Roman Catholic Church. Members include lay men, lay women and priests.

Catherine died on December 14, 1985. The cause for her canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church has begun. In 2001, she was declared a Servant of God, the step that precedes being declared Blessed, by the Church. Her writings and teachings are voluminous and are still being discovered and readied for publication. Among her main themes were sanctity, poverty, and the duty of the moment. In speaking of sanctity she emphasized the need for Christians to ask the Holy Spirit to help them always seek the Lord's will, not their own. Poverty, to Catherine, was not just an absence of material goods, but a truth-based awareness of our emptiness and littleness before God. The duty of the moment refers to the incredible reality that we can offer our thoughts, our actions, and our attitudes to God as acts of love, done for love of God and done in a loving way, and God receives that as profound intercessory prayer that He uses in the ongoing work of redemption. Catherine clearly wanted people to know that, simple and ordinary as any of our lives may be, we can live them faithfully in and for Christ and, in so doing, be active disciples in our world today.

Today Madonna House has more than 200 members, including sixteen resident priests and 100 associate priests. Seminarians receive sound spiritual formation there as they live and work among the lay men and women who have vowed their lives to God. The apostolate has missions in the United States and Canada, as well as a number of International missions. The center in Combermere is open to guests from all walks of life who wish to spend some time in Christian community. They are immersed in the community's daily life of prayer, work, love of one another and care of the poor.

For Information on Madonna House
For Information on How to Purchase Catherine Doherty's Books
For information on Catherine's Canonization Cause

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