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Dorothy Day’s Granddaughter Visits Loyola University New Orleans

Loyola press release - March 20, 2017

Kate Hennessy, granddaughter of the future Catholic saint, will speak at Loyola University New Orleans about her new book, “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty.”

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, was one of the most significant U.S. Catholics of the 20th century and has been proposed for canonization and sainthood. Next week, Day’s granddaughter Kate Hennessy will speak at Loyola University New Orleans about her new book, an intimate portrait entitled “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty.”

Hennessy will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 in the Ignatius Chapel, located in Bobet Hall at Loyola, 6363 St. Charles Ave. A reception and book signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by University Ministry, the Office of Mission and Ministry, the Office of the University Chaplain, and the Loyola Institute for Ministry.

This event will also be broadcast online as a webinar. To attend the webinar, go to gps.loyno.edu/lim/webinars.

When Pope Francis spoke to the U.S. Congress in 2015, he highlighted four great Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Singling out Day, the pope said: “In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

A believer in combining her Catholic faith and social justice, Day embraced a life of voluntary poverty and personal sacrifice. Known for finding beauty amid difficulty or desolation, she held an unabiding commitment to acts of mercy and daily small acts of kindness. The Catholic Worker Movement she started now encompasses more than 180 houses of hospitality in the U.S., along with more than a dozen houses in other countries.

The journey to Catholic sainthood is a long one, with various milestones along the way. Twenty years after death in 1980, New York Cardinal John O’Connor initiated Day’s cause for sainthood in 2000. At their 2012 annual meeting, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously recommended the canonization of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

“Dorothy Day is a ‘Servant of God,’ which is the first step in the Catholic Church on the way to sainthood. Most Catholic saints were never married, and so there are few grandchildren of Catholic saints,” said Tom Ryan, director of the Loyola Institute of Ministry. “What an amazing thing, that we’ll have the grandchild of a potential Catholic saint here at Loyola.”

Her book is an intimate portrait of her grandmother and focuses on the “woman behind the saint,” Hennessy told Publishers Weekly when her book was published in January.

“Dorothy Day was very traditional, and she made clear how challenging the tradition is on matters of peace and justice,” Ryan said. “Her commitments re-shaped the Catholic Church in the U.S. It’s a gift that her granddaughter Kate Hennessy will be at Loyola to remind us of Dorothy Day's enduring importance for the Church and world today.”

In the 1920s, Day worked as a newspaper reporter in New Orleans. She lived in the French Quarter and following days at The New Orleans Item, spent many evenings receiving the benediction at St. Louis Cathedral. A recent story in The Clarion Herald reports that Day’s “radical conversion to the Catholic faith and to a life lived with and for the poor was nurtured in a cloud of incense inside St. Louis Cathedral in 1924.”

Photo of Dorothy Day courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.