A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Pope St. John Paul II has been commemorated in countless ways — foundations, groups, shrines, pilgrimages, websites, classes and numerous books. But he also inspired many to follow his call to evangelize. Among these are Ever and Soren Johnson, the founders of the nonprofit Trinity House Cafe in Leesburg, Virginia. They describe this as their dream project, a welcoming and ecumenical setting for all walks of life.
“This is part of the new evangelization,” said Ever Johnson. “It’s a response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call to bring all the richness of the faith to the public. We’d love people to see that being Catholic is more than just going to church on Sunday.”
“While organizing several summer seminars for George Weigel in Krakow, Poland, Johnson said she experienced an integrated Christian lifestyle that combines spiritual, intellectual and social activities. Inspired by those experiences, the Johnsons and Weigel founded the John Paul II Fellowship. Looking for a home base for the project, the Johnsons discarded the notion of using a community center or a similar setting. Instead, they founded a café back in 2014, and called it the Trinity House Café.
“We had no idea how hard it would be to do this,” she said. But after five years, the Johnsons have established a go-to setting for people of every faith. While every nook and cranny in the cafe says “Catholicism” what really draws patrons in is the rich coffees and the food—comfort foods that appeal to every age group from the breakfast sandwich of a mini omelet enriched by cheddar and the Notre Dame croissant to the midday meals.
How about a Santa Fe salad with marinated chicken breast, black beans, corn and green onions? Or the Jerusalem snack of roasted garlic hummus to the Canterbury sandwich with sliced hot roast beef, cheddar cheese, and lettuce encased in a kaiser roll? Even children have their own kids’ menu of a half grilled-cheese sandwich or a sunbutter-and-jelly sandwich.
The café has two entrances, but the more tempting one is at the rear door, taking visitors directly into the bake shop with gleaming counters showing off baked goods, such as chocolate walnut cookies, lemon scones, brownies and other treats of the day. Staffed by several college-age young ladies, the kitchen teems with activities, as all pastries are baked fresh daily and the sandwich fillings and salads are made in the early morning. Assorted coffees and other beverages are also available, and are displayed near stands decorated with assorted rosaries and wall paintings depicting the Madonna and Jesus.
What really draws visitors, Catholic or not, particularly in the morning, is the espresso bar. “Let’s go get a latte, people say,” Ever noted, plus they can devour one or many of the numerous baked goods. Throughout the day both the menu and the comfy setting — with a living room and two outdoor seating areas — encourage visitors to relax and chat. And they may even pick up one of the library’s many books and learn something about Pope St. John Paul II and Catholicism.
Trinity House Café, 101 East Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia, 703-737-3721.