New executive director begins André House leadership

Holy Cross Father Tom Doyle is the new executive director of André House, which offers an open door policy welcoming guests in need of food or hospitality. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Holy Cross Father Tom Doyle is the new executive director of André House, which offers an open door policy welcoming guests in need of food or hospitality. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The André House of Hospitality west of downtown Phoenix is about to turn 30. Its outreach began with evening meals for homeless guests and expanded in response to need for clothes, transitional housing, showers and other services.

The presence of Congregation of Holy Cross priests was a mainstay through it all. This month, André House welcomed Fr. Tom Doyle as its new executive director. He follows Fr. Eric Schimmel, who led the organization since 2008.

Fr. Doyle has been a priest for 16 years with much pastoral and administrative work that will serve him well in Phoenix. He voluntarily pursued a master’s degree in business to help him become a better business ethics teacher.

Volunteers are the lifeline that help André House serve some ## meals each year (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Volunteers are the lifeline that help André House serve some 200,000 meals to homeless guests each year. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Fr. Doyle comes with an understanding of how the mission side of things can influence the financial. He held upper level positions at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Portland where he served as vice president for university relations and then as executive vice president.

“I can’t believe how efficiently it runs,” Fr. Doyle told The Catholic Sun after visiting André House in July. “I’ve never seen anything run on such a lean budget — almost no paid staff.”

That’s because the ministry has some 10,000 volunteer opportunities each year with parish and other groups serving regularly. He sees every volunteer’s input as valuable whether they’re a rookie or a veteran. Some have been coming for 15-20 years and have formed an extended sense of community.

They all have at least a basic idea of one of the Holy Cross priest’s favorite topic: applied theology. Fr. Doyle is eager to experience it through André House.

“How do you help people understand working in the world isn’t a dirty thing? It’s a beautiful thing,” he told The Catholic Sun.

[quote_box_right]More about hospitality services at André House[/quote_box_right]The core staff at André House see it that way too. They’re serving some 200,000 meals a year so that homeless guests don’t go hungry. They’re facilitating shower and laundry opportunities and dishing out compliments and smiles in the soup line.

They’re visiting André House’s two transitional homes nightly to share an evening meal and conversation with guests. Fr. Doyle is eager to join them at the table there and at the soup kitchen.

“It’s one thing to feed them. It’s another to be able to say, ‘We’re going to create a stable environment,’” Fr. Doyle said.

His younger sister happened to have served as a Holy Cross Associate at an outreach of André House in the 1990s, so he has known about its efforts for many years. He noted the weariness yet strength of those André House serves.

“They live with so much uncertainty and how many things they live without that we take for granted,” Fr. Doyle said.

He finds humility, strength and joy in preparing a place at the table for anyone needing bodily nourishment. André House even serves breakfast on weekends when a nearby soup kitchen isn’t open.

Brother Richard Armstrong has been serving as interim executive director. He has worked at André House almost since its inception and found Fr. Doyle to genuinely care for those they serve. He is looking forward to opening new doors together with Fr. Doyle who he describes as young, spirited and full of energy.