Help! There’s a Mennonite in Me

You have to understand that I have a Mennonite in me. I can’t help it. He lurks there in his black hat and chin beard watching me and nodding knowingly. He’s one of my ancestors. They were all Mennonites and Amish and various sorts of Pennsylvania Protestants. Go to Pennsylvania Dutch country today and see how many Longeneckers there are in the phone book. You’ll only find more in Zurich Switzerland where they all came from to start with.

This Mennonite in me is the other Man in Black. He’s why I like the Benedictines and could’ve been a monk. He’s the one who doesn’t really like all the fol-di-rol Catholics with too much lace and incense and china tea cups. He’s the one who wants to live simply and turn out the lights and live in a cabin and grow vegetables. He’s the one who sees the fakery and flummery of American life and shakes his head and climbs into his horse and buggy to ride off into the sunset and a good dinner of chicken pot pie and chow chow and shoo fly pie. Read more.


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  • David

    Can you be a surperhero and a Mennonite? Maybe but I think by definition a superhero must go into the world with the mindset of its salvation. After all look at the only truly super superhero, Jesus. Of all the beings, he who is, chose to come into this world expressly concerned with its salvation. But if we are not to be superheros, the concept of Mennonites has its appeal. We could become monks; they share some commonalities with the Mennonite, except they never take a vacation (the monks, that is). For me, my renewal is greatly appreciated. I really appreciate reading your commentaries, please remain a priest and continue to write.

  • Tracy

    I understand how you feel. When I began the journey that led us to the Catholic faith almost 16 years ago, I thought we would become conservative Mennonites (my husband’s heritage and my growing up were Mennonite, though not conservative Mennonite). It was hard for me to accept when I realized the issues I was struggling with were in all Protestant denominations, no matter how praiseworthy they seemed to be.

    As a Catholic for almost ten years now, I think I miss it even more. I miss it not only for the reasons you’ve stated (a “live and let live” kind of attitude), but also because I long for the sense of community and connection they enjoy with one another. Yeah, they all have problems too, but I still think it’s an admirable and attractive life. In many respects, they live in community like Benedictines–work and pray!

    As a woman, I love the way the women dress–plain, simple, but lovely. In fact, I finally made myself a cape dress just because I’ve always wanted one and think they’re very pretty. I don’t know how often I will be able to wear it because it definitely looks Mennonite. BTW, I think you can get those straw hats at Gohn Brothers ( for their phone numbers–you have to order a print catalog–love that part too!!)

    So, you have my sympathy and I share the quandary. I’d like to become a Plain Catholic, but that has to be a family decision. And, I believe God has me where He wants me, so I’ll learn to be content and look forward to Heaven–hope my robe is a cape dress. :-)

  • Reba

    As a practicing Mennonite for decades (attended a Mennonite college) who converted in her 40′s to Roman Catholicism, believe me I understand. Ate many potluck dinners with Catholic Workers long before I understood who Dorothy Day was. And remember, Menno Simons was a Catholic priest first. Still struggle with infant baptism but do understand the theology behind all of the sacraments. Have followed your blog for years and always felt an affinity. My husband and children are cradle Catholics (although the kids were baptized much later) and my husband (over 37 yrs married) is a deacon. Most Catholics do not understand Martyrs’ Mirror and I tire of explaining the controversy that still lingers in hearts and minds. Best of luck – we can only do our best with what God provides to us – people, situations, and geographic locations. MCC and CRS are two agencies that perform wonderful services that provide for others and improve their lives.

  • Richard A

    More and more I view the Amish especially, and the Mennonites to an extent, as a religious order rather than a Protestant sect.

    Maybe you want to be a Benedictine.

  • Stephen

    You almost make the Mennonites sound like they have the same roots of tradition as the Carthusians.

  • Magnus

    Aaaaactualllyyy… Fr. Longenecker you sound like you’re a Plain Catholic. They exist. I’ve met them. They feel as you do, “change begins with me and my family walking in the Faith”. Take a good look at this website and read all pages they’ve written there.

    A few years ago they finally got together a website so they could just point it out to people without having to bother with a lot of questions from perfect strangers. They vote according to real Catholic teaching and don’t fall for propaganda from politicos.
    Just so’s you know.

  • Mike

    Dear Father L,
    Perhaps you would be interested in reading about the Catholic Back to the Land Movement of the late 1800s, started in Britain and having some influence in America. Father Vincent McNabb+ and his wonderful book “The Church and the Land” from IHS Press would be the best place to begin. There is nothing wrong with desiring a simple life, closer to the the beauty of Creation and the fruits of the Earth. In fact, I think it can help us while we walk through the Narrow Gate and on to follow Our Lord!

  • Rob B.


    If you were a Mennonite, you could not blog. And that would be a true tragedy…

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Since you love all things Benedictine, have you ever been to Mt Savior Monastery in Pine Bush NY, near Elmira? It was my introduction to monasticism back in college when our professor took us there because we were studying medieval theology and part of the curriculum was Benedict’s rule.

    By the way, they have a magnificent 14th century Burgundian Madonna and Child in their crypt.

  • Rachel

    Haha. Me, too. Five minutes from Lancaster county and totally understand. Except the chin beard.

  • Suzan

    I hope that isn’t despair speaking.

  • John Michael Akers

    There is a lot of insight in this article. I have always had great admiration for the Amish and Mennonite’s. I have visited their communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

  • John Michael Akers

    Rob B.; Your comment has depth of thought. My compliments.

  • Father Paul

    But would you want to be “black buggy”, “black car”, or “black bumper” Mennonite? There is the religious life connection… in Ephrata PA there is the remains of the Cloisters which was a monastery of Mennonites.

    But Fr. Menno was O.Praem. not OSB

  • Tracy

    Rob B.–actually, even some Amish contribute to blogs! They are allowed to use computers for work in some communities. :-) And there are many Amish who have cell phones because of the type of work they do. Some friends of mine are drivers for their Amish neighbors and allowed them to use their phone and answering machine for business calls and emergencies. However, since their work is carpentry and building swings, playsets, etc., they finally got their own cell phone due to the volume of orders that were called in. Even the Amish change some!

  • Magnus

    The Church and the Land as well as other books on the Catholic Land Movement (which by the way had GK Chesterton involved as well) can be found at the References page of the PC website

  • Matthew Kennel


    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only former Mennonite in the fold.

    In my experience, though, I didn’t think that the “separation from the world” aspect of Mennonism meant isolation from the world. I realize that it meant this for some branches (like the Amish and the more conservative Mennonites), but my experience of growing up as a Mennonite in the Atlantic Coast Conference was much more cosmopolitan than that of my other Protestant friends.

    I think of my dear grandmother Kennel, who spent her retirement working at the Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster and at the Lancaster Association for the Blind. I also think of how she (and so many other Mennonite ladies) who spent their Tuesday mornings quilting for MCC in order to help people in far away lands. I think of my friends who have two children as missionaries abroad, and of my own parents who spent the first three years of their marriage in the mission field in Hondoras. For me, these missions brought home the wider world with its concerns and pains. Even my Mennonite friends who refused to take the Pledge of Allegiance reminded me that there was a wider and deeper allegiance than just being an American. Constantly, in my Mennonite school, we were being told of the poor and needy in other cultures, those whom our missionaries came into contact with. As a child, it was fascinating, and I’m sure that it is because of my Mennonite upbringing that I have become alive to the Church’s teachings on social justice.

    Also, I would like some shoo fly pie and meadow tea! :-)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Good points!

  • Judy Drotleff

    Just in case you’re serious about that straw hat, Father, you can buy one online at Lehman’s, a country store in Kidron, Ohio. $12.95. Locally made. ;)

  • Magnus

    From the Plain Catholic blog
    “Separation from the World
    Separation from the World: In the Catholic (and Benedictine) sense, it means a personal conversion of one’s own value system and heart so that they reflect God’s values and priorities, not the sinful values of secular society… conversatio morum.

    Some, like those of us who are Plain Catholic, embrace this conversion both inwardly and outwardly in modesty of dress, thought and speech. The outward signs and symbols of dress like the sacramentals are reminders to ourselves of our goals and priorities. These symbols remind us that we are not to seek secularly-driven entertainments because we love God and want to be more like Him. They remind us that we are always observed by both God and man and our behaviors should reflect the values of the Holy Trinity. In short, these symbols help us to stay focused on God’s values in a world full of secular distractions that would have us away from God and worshipping the vanity and idolatry of secularism.

    It is not about being more perfect than others. Tis about a personal journey of conversion of one’s own heart toward God.”

  • Connor

    A couple summers ago I had the experience to crop consult for a large family of Holdeman Mennonites (a conservative mennonite group commonly found throughout the plains of the US and Canada – they drive cars, but remove the radios, also no television, no internet for non-business purposes and they use phones) and it was one of the highlights of that job! The family worked hard but were some of the most pleasant and welcoming people I have ever met. And the sense of peace and joy that flooded from each of their hearts is that type of love for God that many in our society and sadly our churches seek and sometimes try to find outside of the love of Christ himself. And you should see the well-oiled machine that was the preparation of dinner. I truly believe that family could feed an army and still have left-overs! But as I look back, the conversations we had over dinner, coffee and dessert and just their absolute focus on their family and faith and farm operation was such an escape from the madness of society today. Their way of life (not necessarily their theology) is a true model. I think I have just figured out what my lent next year will look like! Though I only spent a summer with them and just one night a week over for dinner, I will never forget that experience and hope to cultivate this same or similar model in my own Catholic family.

  • http://patheos Liz

    What a message. I pray the Mennonite in you never leaves you. Quite a message if you read between the lines and the bold statements. If it’s a straw hat you’re looking for then come to The Lake of the Ozarks. We’re surrounded by Mennonites and Amish. Great community of Amish in Iowa as well. One thing too about the Mennonites is that they may mind their own business but they pray for everyone. And in the beautiful world that He created we too should love and pray for one another. God bless.

  • Martin

    Magnus, thanks for the link to the PlainCatholic web site. I, too, feel as though I have some Mennonite in me. Does any one else feel drawn to very simple liturgies? I go to Sunday mass, of course, but I really feel at home with simple weekday masses. I wish we could have that on Sunday. Am I alone?

  • Carroll County Padre

    In the forsaken streets of Southwest Baltimore, you’ll find some dedicated Mennonite missionaries and a couple of blocks up Wilkens Avenue a Benedictine parish with quality Catholic liturgy and tons of outreach-not a bad combination for the Kingdom!