The traffic on Eunice Morgan’s street in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale is a little heavier the first Thursday evening of each month.
That’s the night Eunice hosts a gathering of like-minded Catholics who want to keep abreast of current social, moral and religious issues.
While a monthly “caffe klatch” might not be big news, Eunice’s group is noteworthy for its longevity, its enthusiasm and the wealth of contemporary material it discusses each month. Except for summer breaks, the group hasn’t missed a first Thursday gathering for the past 12 years.
“The people who attend aren’t so much guests as they are members of a group,” Eunice told The Interim prior to a recent get-together. “It’s for people who want to discuss the serious issues affecting the Church and the world.”
Eunice – whose son Paul is a dedicated pro-life worker in Peterborough – emphasizes that orthodoxy is a key ingredient to these gatherings. One wouldn’t find a Joanna Manning, Charles Curran or Gregory Baum addressing the group, but the impact of these dissident Catholics on the /church’s teaching authority might be fodder for lively discussion.
Pro-life and pro-family issues are also a big part of the monthly bill of fare. Eunice recently invited Emma Maan, co-ordinator of Ontario Students for Life (OSFL) to discuss youth pro-life issues. Euthanasia, aided-suicide and depopulation initiatives also come up for frequent discussion, with such speakers as Jim Hughes of Campaign Life Coalition, and June Scandiffio of the Toronto Right to Life Association.
Other speakers who have addressed the group over the past few years include philosophy professor Donald DeMarco of St. Jerome’s College in Waterloo, journalist and writer John Phillips, Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada, journalist-publisher James Likoudis, and Father Alphonse de Valk of Catholic Insight magazine.
“We’ve been fortunate with the quality of speakers we’ve had over the years,” Eunice said. “The people are experts in their particular field and many could charge up to $500 for speaking engagements. We’ve making them free of charge.”
Another recent speaker was Father Ray Fortin, a long-time member of the White Fathers missionary order. Father Fortin’s presence was especially poignant in light of the murder of a colleague, last February in Rwanda.
Father Fortin shared his thoughts on the Catholic Church in Africa, calling it an “expanded Church” which is struggling to meet the challenges of vibrant but rustic faith. He also discussed the problem of AIDS on the African continent, and said the practice of prostitution, often born of economic necessity, makes an ideal breeding ground for the deadly disease.
For Eunice Morgan, however, these monthly discussion groups harken back to an earlier time when oral tradition held sway. An average of 25 people gather for the meetings each month, although she has on occasion hosted groups as large as 45 to 50 people. Guests compete for limited seating space in the living room and snap to attention like schoolboys as Eunice introduces each speaker.
Eunice was inspired to begin the discussion group in 1986 after meeting pro-life activist Michaeline Bennett on a picket line outside Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s Harbord Street abortuary. Michaeline described her involvement with an organization dedicated to promoting Catholic culture and reading, and from there the discussion group was born.
“Eunice teases me to this day that I was the driving force behind the group, but it really is her project,” Michaeline says. “Its success is the result of her hard work.”
While Eunice is happy to share the group’s orthodox message with newcomers, she emphasizes that these are not public meetings.
However, anyone wishing to attend a future meeting should contace Eunice care of The Interim, telephone 416-368-0250.