It has been just over a year since Mary, Mother of God parish launched Canterbury House. This ministry strives to build Eucharistic community – a coming together of people transformed by the presence of Christ to become His hands and feet in the world – within our parish. Outreach is done through prayer, fellowship, service, and studying Catholic thought.
Director James Murphy said the idea for Canterbury House, located in the rectory next to St. Thomas of Canterbury church (4833 N. Kenmore), is heavily inspired by the Catholic Worker movement. Founders of the movement, Peter Maurin and Blessed Dorothy Day, viewed the Church’s social teachings as a much-needed answer to the injustice and challenges of modern society. Day said, “God meant things to be much easier than we have made them,” and Maurin wanted to build a society “where it is easier for people to be good.”
Canterbury House is a place where people come together to respond to the plight of the world – the planet and its people – through the lens of our Catholic faith. Over the last year, a very diverse group of people, including many unhoused neighbors, has assembled within its walls to pray, learn, and build authentic relationships with each other.
“In the world today, we have a lot of hopelessness,” Murphy said. “We have a planet that is dying. We have economic insecurity. But I’d like to think that Canterbury House is a place where there is hope. Hope lives here and community lives here.”
The programming at Canterbury House can be organized into three main themes:
Peter Maurin’s three C’s are an attempt to synthesize Catholic Social Teaching and create a new society in the shell of the old,” Murphy explained. “So, how do we bring ourselves closer to God, better our understand of our Catholic identity, and how does our work reflect this? Then, how do we bring this out into the world?”
Every day begins with prayer. Canterbury House has collaborated with Jesus People USA (JPUSA) to host the morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are at Canterbury House. Tuesdays and Thursdays are at JPUSA. This is followed by 8:30 AM daily Mass at St. Thomas of Canterbury church. Everyone is welcome to join this prayer group, even if they have no experience praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
Last year during Lent, Canterbury House hosted sung compline – the evening prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours – on Sunday nights. A core group learned the chants together so they could lead the congregation each week. Sung Compline was well received, and Murphy is bringing it back for Advent.
Photographs from the Holy Hour for the Canonization of Blessed Dorothy Day. (Click on the photographs to make them larger.)
On Thursday nights, Canterbury House opens its door for a community potluck meal followed by a conversation which is called a roundtable discussion. Some nights a guest speaker is invited. Other nights, folks reflect on a topic or reading as a group. This is a unique way learn more about the faith and become better formed, or educated, Catholics. Roundtable topics from the past year included: credit unions, the Eucharistic Revival, urban farming, land equity co-hosted by the Centro Romero, theology of the Immaculate Conception, Peter Maurin’s Easy Essays, the life of Dorothy Day with her granddaughter Martha Hennessy, and more!
“Our roundtable discussions grow out of this Catholic Worker tradition that there can be no action without first discussion,” Murphy said. “You never know where a conversation is going to go because we have such a diverse group of people who turn out."
Every Tuesday, Murphy also hosts a Bible Study at 7:30 PM. This is another opportunity to study Catholic scripture, saints, and theology. The group includes parishioners, soup kitchen guests, and other Uptown neighbors helping each other to learn. Last summer, the group began with Mark’s Gospel and are currently reading the Book of Hosea. Murphy described their meetings as “a very spiritual hour” and encouraged more parishioners to participate. After November, the group will be turning its focus to the scripture readings of Advent. All are welcome!
Photographs from roundtables and Bible Studies hosted by Canterbury House.
Murphy said one of the most interesting initiatives to come out of Canterbury House in the last year is Solidarity Gardens, a network of garden plots throughout Uptown and Andersonville that provide food for the parish Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, and our neighbors in need. This project grew out of the roundtable discussion on urban farming that was hosted in fall 2022 and has grown to include 12-13 raised beds.
The parish was blessed to work with Loyola University's Urban Agriculture Program to plant, build irrigation and other infrastructure, and ultimately harvest Solidary Gardens. Students also delivered produce grown at Loyola's greenhouses to the food pantry every week. High schoolers from Mount Carmel and college students from DePaul University also helped bring the gardens to life by weeding and watering the beds.
“It’s created conversation around what can we actually do in our own lives to protect and care for God’s creation, our planet,” Murphy shared. “I think it’s a really beautiful example of the importance of sitting down, talking, and being open to where things might go. It’s a great little program, one of which I never would have come up with on my own.”
Photographs from the planting, blessing, and harvesting of Solidarity Gardens.
WAYS TO CONNECT
Canterbury House is a ministry of Mary, Mother of God parish and Murphy wants parishioners to know that this is a place “where we can come together.”
“Whether it be a topic you want to hear about or people you want to serve or you’re looking for a meeting space for an organization that already exists, this is a place where things can happen,” Murphy said.
If any parishioners have knowledge on a topic they think is important to our faith and to our community, Murphy invites them to email him. He also wants to know what other topics people would like to hear discussed so he can make those discussions a reality. Upcoming roundtables include a discussion on the life of local Catholic activist, Ed Marciniak; the Church’s teachings on domestic violence led by the parish’s St. Rita Domestic Violence Awareness ministry; cooperatives; and Synods.
Canterbury House also hosts weekly Hospitality Hours on Mondays from 1 - 5 PM with help from the Society of St. Vincent DePaul. This is a great opportunity to get to know other people, especially the poor, in our neighborhood and learn about each other’s lives.
“I hope, more than anything,” Murphy said, “that people take me up on my offer to help form a larger community here at Canterbury and Mary, Mother of God.”