Catherine de Hueck Doherty, by Albert Schorsch, III, 12/14/98
A heavily abridged version of this sketch appeared in Initiatives, a
publication of the
Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985) was one of
the past century's most delightfully colorful and productive Catholic leaders.
A member of the Russian gentry who faced forced starvation at the hands of the
Bolsheviks, she became one of North America's most outspoken advocates of
racial justice in the 1930s and 40s, founding (1930, Toronto) the Friendship
House movement and apostolate, which integrated hundreds of institutions in
Harlem, NY, Chicago, Washington, DC, Portland, OR, and Shreveport, LA prior to the
work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blessed with striking physical beauty in her
youth, she combined astounding multilingual skills and urbane culture with
earthy practicality. A mother and grandmother, her jobs ran the gamut from
wartime nurse, to sales clerk at Macy's in
In Catherine, one met contemplation and action combined. While waiting to meet Catherine in the Madonna House library in Combermere in 1978, I noticed two books on display, accompanied by "Book Reviews by the 'B'" (the "B" being Catherine's long time Friendship House nickname as the Baroness). One book was the Cloud of Unknowing, the other was Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinsky. Catherine recommended both of them highly, and praised Alinsky as a good man and friend.
"Bigger than life," not all of Catherine's contradictions can
easily be resolved, unless one considers her lively humanity. She lived in
poverty for a time, but wore a nice fur coat and rode the first class trains.
She founded lay apostolates, which embraced the
evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the
"staff," but she suddenly married famous
Most who know Catherine de Hueck Doherty today know her from her spiritual writings. During a spiritual crisis in the early 1930s, Catherine composed in prayer the following "Little Mandate":
Arise - go! Sell all you possess . . . give it directly, personally to the poor.
Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me - going to the poor - being poor - being one with them - one with
Little - be always little . . . simple - poor - childlike.
Preach the Gospel WITH YOUR LIFE - WITHOUT COMPROMISE -
Listen to the Spirit - He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of
Love - love - love, never counting the cost.
Go into the market place and stay with Me . . .
pray . . . fast . . . pray always . . . fast.
Be hidden - be a light to your neighbour's feet.
Go without fears into the depth of men's hearts . . .I shall be with you.
Pray always. I WILL BE YOUR REST.
Although she might have striven to be, Catherine was anything but "little."
Catherine's continuing spiritual best-seller is Poustinia:
Christian Spirituality of the East for
Sobornost: Eastern Unity of Mind and
Heart for Western Man
Strannik: The Call to Pilgrimage for Western Man
Bogoroditza: She Who Gave Birth to God
Molchanie: The Silence of God
Urodivoi: Fools for God
Lubov: The Heart of the Beloved
Some other books by Catherine de Hueck Doherty:
The People of the Towel and the Water
Not Without Parables: Stories of Yesterday, Today and Eternity
Soul of My Soul: Reflections from a Life of Prayer
O Jesus: Prayers from the Diaries of Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Our Lady’s Unknown Mysteries
The Gospel of a Poor Woman
Doubts, Loneliness, Rejection
Dearly Beloved: Letters to the Children of My Spirit
Vision on the Mountain: The Madonna House Artist
Re-entry into Faith
The Stations of the Cross
My Russian Yesterdays
Season of Mercy
Dear Bishop (out of print)
Fragments of My Life, an autobiography, by Catherine de Hueck Doherty
Tumbleweed, by Eddie Doherty
A Cricket in My Heart, by Eddie Doherty
Katia: A Personal Vision of Catherine de Hueck Doherty, by Fr. Emile Briere
The Life of Catherine de Hueck Doherty, by Mary Bazzett
They Called Her the Baroness: the Life of Catherine de Hueck Doherty, by Lorene Hanley Duquin, Alba House 0-8189-0753-3. 350 pages hardbound - $19.95 US.
All of the above listed in print are available from the Madonna House home
or from Madonna House Publications, Combermere, Ontario, Canada, KOJ1L0,
(613) 756-3728. Fax: (613) 756-0103, Toll Free number (for book orders only):
For information on Catherine de Hueck
Doherty’s work for interracial justice, visit the Friendship House home
Copyright, 1998, Albert Schorsch, III
Albert Schorsch, III, a city planner and university
administrator, served on the board of NCL, and has been involved with the
Friendship House apostolate in