Eddie Doherty: His Wife May Be a Saint


When we lived in Colorado, every so often I would go to the monthly Mass for the Catholic students of the Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. It was a somewhat more lively, more participative liturgy, and the students enjoyed a food and fellowship period after. I was an ‘O. F.’ and not really participating in their after-Mass socials all that much. However, I was seeing an associate pastor there for spiritual direction, and he introduced me to several of the students and a couple of the parish leaders of the campus ministry.

One time, I was asked to come to a pizza social after Mass and to talk to them on a subject of my choosing. Here were my opening words (questions really):

Can you name a woman who:

-is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church?

-was married, divorced and married a second time?

-was married to a man who was married twice before?

-in her second marriage was married to a Catholic priest?

How about you, dear reader? Any guesses? Well the answer is Catherine Doherty, the co-founder of Madonna House in Combermere, Canada. While I realize this is a Catholic Mom site, I thought all readers might like to hear about Catherine’s husband, Eddie Doherty.

Edward J. “Eddie” Doherty (October 30, 1890–May 4, 1975) was a famed reporter, best selling author, an Oscar nominated screenwriter and much later, a co-founder of Madonna House. In his last years at Madonna House, he was ordained a priest in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

In his earliest years, Eddie dreamed of becoming a priest and tried it for two years. He left the seminary and married a childhood sweetheart, Marie Ryan. Starting as a newspaper copy boy and later becoming a police beat reporter, Eddie covered stories in the days of Al Capone and other gangsters. Eddie slowly built a reputation as a reporter and columnist.

Eighteen months after his marriage to Marie, she died in a flu epidemic of 1918 leaving Eddie with a son. Eddie became despondent and decided to turn his back on the Catholic faith. After a period of time, Eddie impregnated a co-worker and they were forced to get married.

Eddie’s reputation as a reporter soared, and he was called “the Highest Paid Reporter” in America. Tragedy struck again when his second wife, Mildred died. Eddie returned to Catholicism to help him in his grief.

In 1940, Eddie met a Russian born, later a naturalized citizen named Catherine de Hueck at her Harlem area Friendship House. They met while Eddie was writing a piece on Harlem. The two became friends and it later turned romantic. They wed in 1943.

The staff at Friendship house were pledged to live in celibacy and some didn’t take well to the marriage between Eddie and Catherine. There was a lot going on between Friendship House and the Catholic Church. Enough friction and problems were ‘boiling’ and eventually the Doherty’s moved to Combermere, Canada where they started the Madonna House Apostolate inside a small farm house.

It is interesting that the staff at Madonna House also took promises of poverty, chastity and obedience. And the same cohabitation issue that happened in Harlem surfaced in Combermere. The couple eventually came to the decision to live as brother and sister in separate facilities. Among other activities including prodigious writing by Catherine and books by Eddie, they started a newspaper called RESTORATION and it is still in circulation.

In 1969, Eddie was granted a transfer from the Latin Catholic Church to the Byzantine Melkite Catholic Church. They allow married priests, and so at the age of seventy-eight, Eddied was ordained a priest – satisfying his childhood heart’s desire. Eddie died in 1975, and I have visited his burial plot in a simple cemetery near Madonna House headquarters. He is buried near his wife Catherine. His grave is marked with a simple white wooden cross with a legend that I aspire to put on my own life from recent years of ministry: “All my words for the WORD.”

MAKE ME YOUR STONE

Words From Eddie Doherty

“ I am a stone in your hand, O Lord. Drop me not into the dirty street, nor hurl me into the abyss. Keep me close ‘till you have need of me.

Roll me down the mountainsides of the world as a warning, so sinners may beware the avalanche of your anger, and may flee to the shelter of your forgiveness. Skim me over the waters, shallow and deep, to your heart’s content so that all the ponds and pools and rivers and seas may become aware of you. Tap me against the millions of mystic windowpanes, so sleepyheads may be awakened to your love. Use me as a weapon against the wolves that eye your flocks.

I know not what sort of stone I am, granite or quartz or flint or common sandstone, nor whether I am round and flat or sharp and jagged. I know only that you, who make all stones, and have pressed rich veins of ore into some, and shining crystals into others, will harden me to your purposes and shape me to your ends. It is good to lie waiting, in your hands.”

(The late journalist) Eddie Doherty from his book “I COVER GOD.”

Copyright 2o12 Deacon Tom Fox

4 Comments
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