Thursday, December 15, 2011

Community on the Move

What is community? More specifically, what is intentional community? Here at Catholic Volunteer Network, we think of intentional community as basing group decisions around common values. Furthermore, intentional community means sharing responsibilities equally and most importantly, being sources of mutual support for one another.
A group of recruiters from our programs being goofy at the
Assumption College fair. (Recruiters are from Cap Corps, Capuchin
Franciscan Volunteer Corp, Francis Corps, JVC,  JVC
Northwest, LVC, CAP and Franciscan Outreach Association.)

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to experience community in several ways. The first of which, Matt talked about in his blog a few weeks ago. This is the community of recruiters that traveled to a grand total of six fairs in four days throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These schools included Merrimack College, Boston College, Stonehill College, Assumption College, College of the Holy Cross and St. Anselm College. If we didn’t already know each other from fairs in New York and Ohio, we certainly did by the end of the week. Sharing stories about our volunteer and recruitment experiences, we learned about each other and, for me, it felt a bit like I was back in Baltimore surrounded by the people who supported me throughout the year. 

An extra perk of the Boston fair circuit was that I got to travel with Tori Carroll, recruiter from Lutheran Volunteer Corps. We both volunteered in Baltimore with our respective programs last year and our houses visited with each other on multiple occasions. So naturally we were thrilled to find out that we both got recruitment positions. We agreed to split the cost of the rental car, hotel room, gas and tolls. Now, spending 24 hours a day with someone for a while week certainly could have proved to be exhausting, but this was not in the slightest. We shared both open conversation and comfortable silence when needed. Not only was I thankful for her company, but also the use of her smartphone when the GPS failed.

Tori driving along in our rented automobile.

The timing of this community themed blog really could not have been more perfect. Not only because of the time I shared with recruiters in Boston, but also because of a fantastic opportunity that I had while in Colorado. I got to stay in an intentional community house! Romero House of Regis University warmly extended an invitation for me to stay at their house while recruiting in Denver. Coordinator Becky and students Jared, Antonia, Claire and Champ graciously opened their home and refrigerator to me while I was in the city.

It was so exciting for me to see this group embrace Catholic Volunteer Network’s same four pillars (with the addition of solidarity). Some of the ways that Romero House lives out the pillars include weekly hospitality nights, spirituality nights, 6-8 hours/week at a service site, buying local produce and minimizing the number of cars that they drive to campus. Though busy with classes, work and extra-curricular activities, the community is attentive to making sure that they are mentally and emotionally present for each other throughout the day. That is what Jared told me when I asked what community at Romero House meant to him.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how I can live out community now that I am no longer a volunteer and living independently. In ways, it has felt particularly difficult when I am on the road. When I travel, though I have gotten to reconnect with old friends, there is little to no consistency in those that I see day to day (especially now that I am no longer attending any fairs). When I return home to DC, I know only a very small handful of individuals who live in my immediate vicinity. Since I’m accustomed to being surrounded by large circles of like-minded people in college and in my volunteer year, I managed to convince myself that I am no longer living in community.

However, the other day, I read the following quote in Richard Rohr’s book Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go, “Living in community means living in such a way that others can access me and influence my life and that I can get ‘out of myself’ and serve the lives of others. Community is a world where brotherliness and sisterliness are possible.”

This quote reminded me that it does not matter if I am surrounded by a group of people I’ve known for years, or an individual that I met five minutes ago, I have the opportunity to create community wherever I go.