Dr. Peter Gathje

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Dr. Peter Gathje, co-director and one of the founders of the Manna House

Who I am…

My name is Peter Gathje. I work here at Manna House. One of the co-directors and one of the founders. I’m a professor when I’m not at Manna House. I’m a professor at Memphis Theological Seminary.

The Manna House is…

The purpose of Manna House is to offer hospitality to people who are poor and/or homeless in the city of Memphis. We’re in what the Catholics call the Catholic Workers Movement. Part of that tradition is that we neither seek nor accept any kind of government funding. So we’re totally supported by individual donations or donations from churches.

What led me here…

What led me to this type of work was probably the Gospel. Matthew 25. There’s the parable of the sheep and the goats and Jesus says whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me. We wanted to meet the Jesus on the streets.

While we’re open, we’re like a coffee shop for folks who just come in so we serve coffee all morning and water. Provide a bathroom for anybody to use. And then we have showers and a change of clothes.

 How faith plays a role in my life…

I’d say the way faith has continued to impact or effect my work over the years is that I continually have experienced Christ in our strangers, our guests who come here. A lot of them aren’t strangers anymore because we know them quite well and they know us.

I define healthcare as…

How do I define healthcare? I would define health care as concern for and treatment of any of us who are suffering from either bodily or psychological illness. That’s how I define healthcare.

One of Memphis’ greatest healthcare challenge is

I’d say the greatest challenge in terms of healthcare in Memphis right now is care for the poor, so I guess access to healthcare for people who are poor is huge.

We see it with our guests, I mean, in terms of access, since they can’t afford it, they wait until they going to the emergency room which is much more expensive than if they had regular care on a normal basis. So access and affordability, two big issues.

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A painting of Sarah, one of the inspirations for the Manna House

The greatest reward in my healthcare work is…

I think the greatest reward is getting to know the people who come here from the streets. They’re just amazing people and getting to know them and their wonderfulness. So we really become, all of us together, a community.

We’ve had some deaths over the years, definitely. In fact last year was a very hard year. We were losing one guest per month for the whole year. You can see the painting of the woman over there, that’s Sarah. She was one of the inspirations for this place and she died about a year ago and you know, it was devastating, but we were able to have a memorial service here, but also the Catholic Church up the street where she was a member did her funeral, and so we were all able to gather for that. And it’s just, in the midst of the sorrow, there was this sense that this is real life and it’s good for us to be together, mourning together.

Learn more about the Manna House.

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