Five of us crowd into a wooden booth at the Medici, the most popular hangout in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. It is mid-summer, and the ceiling fans are circling. The place is loud with table talk, waitresses shouting orders to the kitchen, food spitting on the grill. We’ll smell of onions and cigarette smoke for hours after we leave. The walls and tabletops are clotted with signatures, messages scrawled in black marker or etched in deep graffiti grooves. Ours is filled with sandwiches, pizza, glasses of iced tea.

Lisa, Kathy, Elise and I have just moved into the third floor of a red-brick three-flat. Beagle wanted to but works in the suburbs with a too-long commute. We’re all in our mid-twenties, have furnished the place with family hand-me-downs and Salvation Army specials—an enormous beige velour couch, cabinets full of chipped stoneware and Corel, a dining table whose wayward legs someone always has to kick back in place, usually just after the water glasses have been filled.

Except Beagle, we’re all former Apostolic Volunteers. Lisa works on the North Side with immigrant families from Southeast Asia and Eritrea. Kathy and I teach at inner-city high schools. Elise is a Social Work student. I study theology. All of us were raised Catholic. We all loved living in community, so we’re starting our own. Not for vowed Sisters, but people like us, women who share a commitment to social justice and living with less, who want to share spirituality, celebrate relationships, make a difference. We’re at the Medici to talk about our vision.

“So what will we call ourselves?” someone asks.

“Ruah?” Lisa suggests. “It means ‘breath of God.’”

“Or Sophia,” I say. “‘Wisdom.’ Like in the Book of Wisdom, where it calls Sophia ‘the feminine effusion of God.’” I know the passage practically by heart, have read it every night for years.

“Sophia,” the others murmur, trying it on.

“Well,” someone says. “Ruah? Sophia? Something else?”

“Sophia,” we all reply.

Sophia. Wisdom. The feminine effusion of God.

We finish lunch and walk the six blocks home, to Sophia House. For many years, I will love coming home to Sophia House.

By Kris Funk