By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
ROGERSVILLE, Mo. — One hundred twenty six acres of rolling hills and trees interspersed with winding gravel roads and earthen paths, guard donkeys watching over sheep and chickens; a house, a big barn and guest house, a small hermitage, and an overarching peacefulness. That is Trinity Hills Farm.
A ministry of Bishop James Johnston, Jr., former Ordinary of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Trinity Hills was established on March 25, 2011, as a Catholic Worker House and farm, and currently is the only diocesan-sponsored Catholic Worker House in the country. Directed by Nicholas Lund-Molfese and staffed by his wife and children, it is a center for prayer, Christian formation and service, based on the Catholic Worker movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933.
Five years ago, Lund-Molfese was serving as director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Peace and Justice Office, but wanted to be a full time Catholic Worker. When he heard that Bishop Johnston was establishing a Catholic Worker ministry in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese, he contacted the bishop and, as they say, the rest is history. Lund-Molfese brought his wife Christine and their children to Springfield.
The bishop was acquainted with a Catholic doctor who wanted to sell some property near Rogersville, about 20 minutes east of Springfield. There was a good-sized home on the property, stables and an indoor riding arena with pasture land and acres of wild grasses. The diocese purchased the land and the house and Trinity Hills was established.
Along with its roots in Catholic Social Teaching, the ministry promotes the Apostolate of the Laity, the mission of the lay Christian faithful to both “lead non-believers to the faith and to instruct, strengthen, and encourage the faithful to a more fervent life.” (Pope Paul VI, Nov. 18, 1965)
The Lund-Molfese family set to work cutting, trimming and clearing the land around the house, building dirt roads and remodeling the main house to enable the Catholic Worker House to shelter homeless families in its lower level. Bishop Johnston’s parents donated a cozy shelter called The Hermitage, used by individuals including priests, seminarians, and students wanting quiet solitude to study or finish a term paper or thesis.
Over the ensuing 4 ½ years, the family and their guests: the homeless, runaways, trafficking victims, refugees and migrants, women in crisis pregnancies and some with physical or mental disabilities, have cleared land for buildings, roads and paths, and pastures, remodeled an indoor riding arena to create the St. John Paul II Arena and guest house for large groups and retreats, constructed two grottos and turned Trinity Hills into a working farm. Not long ago, the Knights of Columbus graded and graveled a dirt road, Father McGivney Road, from the main house to the arena and further.
Hospitality has been provided for 89 homeless people and around 300 homeless have received advice. The homeless learn about Trinity Hills through a number of agencies in the area, and often agencies will refer homeless individuals or families to the Catholic Worker farm.
Groups have come to Trinity Hills Farm for retreats, service opportunities and Christian faith formation. To date 359 public events have been hosted with 4,048 participants.
Three roosters and about 40 free-range chickens, a small flock Jacob sheep —a rare piebald, multi-horned Old World breed — crop the grass and forage for food protected by trained guard donkeys, Anthony and Pippin. Baby sheep approach a visitor and “baa baa” at them through the fence. From the chickens, Trinity Hills has donated 34,164 eggs to the hungry in need. The chickens are supported in part through the Adopt-a-Chicken program, which helps purchase chicken feed.
Lund–Molfese said their guests “find healing with the animals. Working with animals can be very peaceful.”
Clare Lund-Molfese, 16, serves as Trinity Hills’ administrative assistant, handling the budget and managing expenses. She is also responsible for some of Trinity Hills’ correspondence, and can be frequently found as the lector at Monday Mass. She often works on the odd jobs; constructing fencing, fixing electrical problems, crawling in the attics and taking visitors on tours of the grounds and buildings.
She knows the name of each animal, and introduces some of them to visitors. After working for three years as a co-Farm Manager with her sister Catherine, a home schooled seventh grader, Clare, who is home-schooled and a sophomore in high school, is now transitioning the farm duties to younger sister, fifth grader Gianna Lund-Molfese, so she can focus on schoolwork and projects, as well as other responsibilities. The oldest son is away at college, but the three sisters juggle homeschooling and farm responsibilities successfully and the youngest sister, a three-year old, is eager to help, Clare said.
She said working on the farm has been work, yes, but she has learned things about nature, people and skills, and about herself that she probably wouldn’t have learned elsewhere. “I love it here,” she said.
For more information about Trinity Hills Farm, visit www.trinity-hills.org.