The Gifts of Intentional Community
March 12, 2019
In conjunction with my year as a NETWORK Associate, I have been living in intentional community at the Anne Montgomery House organized by the Religious of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ). Our community consists of two RSCJ sisters, one RSCJ Associate working at a local university, one woman working at a public policy and research organization, and me. The five of us bring many different gifts to our community. The RSCJs have guided us in prayer and reflection each morning and night, we all take turns making communal meals and sharing stories over the dinner table, and we bring our expertise from our work in social justice in the many workshops and community events we’ve held. I knew living in community with Catholic sisters would be a unique opportunity, but I didn’t realize until months after moving in just what a gift I was being offered. The values intentional community cultivates- respect for others, putting others before oneself, and service- are extremely valuable, especially for someone like me in a transitional stage of my life.
After undergrad, I moved to Panama to teach English at a university. There, I lived with a multigenerational host family who truly welcomed me as one of their own. Growing up in a military family, I never lived close to my extended family, but in Panama, I was around my host parents’ children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, and cousins on almost a daily basis. My host family’s commitment to relationships was something I was really missing when I moved back to the States a year later, and that was what I was seeking most when I asked to be a part of Anne Montgomery House.
My past few months here have truly been an answer to my prayers and have helped me grow as a woman in my faith. It has been a joy to pray together in the quiet of each morning before I go to work. It has meant the world to know that I have a supportive community who has my back as I go through the graduate school application process. It has been healing to gather around the dinner table, all of us bursting with stories to tell from our days at work or distraught over the latest headline and find rapt conversation partners. Instead of participating in the constant news cycle hysteria, my community members have helped remind me to slow down and turn my energy towards more fulfilling emotions. But living in community is also about the choices one makes every day to live in love. It has been challenging at times to support each other through times apart, sickness, and the busyness of our daily lives. It is only through accepting and committing to each other on both carefree days and difficult ones that we are truly breaking open our hearts to allow the Divine to become the center of our actions. I am so grateful to have been invited to live in community, and for the direction it has provided in living out my faith.