Trinity House Café combines food and fellowship in historic setting

In just a few short weeks since its opening, the new Trinity House Café in Leesburg has generated Google pages and even several reviews on Yelp. These are fitting tributes to Ever Johnson’s dream project, a welcoming and ecumenical setting for people from all walks of life.

“The cafe is our response to John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization,” said Johnson. “We want to bring the riches of the faith into the public square, to show that being Catholic is more than just going to church on Sunday.”

As she explained, her inspiration for this project evolved after working for several years for George Weigel and the Tertio Millennio Seminar in Krakow, Poland. For three weeks each summer, participants experience an inspiring, integrated Christian lifestyle that combines spiritual, intellectual and social activities. “When we founded the John Paul II Fellowship (in 2006), we set out to create something in the United States like the Krakow experience,” she said.

For the first few years, the fellowship hosted events — Masses, talks, dinners, art shows and music — in parishes around the metro area. But the process felt transitory, as it involved setting up then breaking down each event with no sense of permanence.

“I always thought we’d eventually have our own place, so that we could build up community and culture in a more permanent way,” she said. “For a while I was thinking in terms of a community center.”

But the Holy Spirit had other plans. “I sensed that, while the Lord was pleased with our community’s efforts and the enjoyment we took in the full-bodied practice of the faith, He wanted something that was more open to people with limited access to the riches that come so easily to us,” she said. “That’s when I realized it had to be a business. There is no other good way to provide access to the public.”

The solution? A café that hosts events — talks, bible studies, art showings and concerts — that promote the growth of Christian community and culture. While her staff, family and Johnson herself celebrated the long-awaited café opening in early October, Johnson admitted that the process has been daunting. “Like many things in life, we really had no idea how hard it would be to do this,” she said.

First, there were three years of grueling fundraising.Then, for two more years, they searched all over the metro area for the right setting. “We found this place on John Paul II’s canonization day, Divine Mercy Sunday,” she said.

Delighted with the find, a historic house in the center of Leesburg, Johnson began the four-month start-up process. “The house was in good shape, but it was a surprising amount of work to turn it into a café,” she said. “Because the pipes hadn’t been winterized, all the plumbing burst a week before Bishop Loverde came out to do a house blessing.” And then followed long weeks of cleaning, painting, yard work, installing a commercial kitchen and coffee bar and furnishing the many rooms.

With its cozy interior, downstairs fireplace, trimmed gardens, upstairs kiddie playroom and icon room, and a wraparound front porch, Trinity House Café offers its guests the ideal setting for relaxing chats, intimate seminars, quiet reading and, of course, casual food.

Raised in a restaurant family, Johnson is uniquely qualified to pull together a menu of accessible dishes to appeal to foodies from every faith — though most dishes have a Catholic link. Consider the Don Bosco foamy black tea, the Assisi caprese salad, the Guadalupe black bean dip, and the Turino mozzarella and tomato sandwich.

A divine way to feed the body while feeding the soul: No wonder Trinity House Café’s tag line reads “a little taste of heaven.”

Greeley, a freelance writer, chef and parishioner of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, can be reached at cookasia@verizon.net.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014