Community is the charism, or spiritual gift, of the Augustinian Order and a pillar of the Augustinian Volunteers. “What is community?” is often asked as we strive towards achieving a fruitful community of volunteers throughout the service year. Before, I had a surface level understanding. It was a group of people united over a single factor: a sports team, an alma mater, a shared faith. This year, however, I have come to a deeper understanding of community. My service site, Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor, holds a weekly prayer meeting called Adeodatus. The name comes from St. Augustine’s son, Adeodatus, which is Latin for “given from God.” The meetings were established to provide community for people released from prison but has broadened its scope to welcome all walks of life. On any given night one could find people mourning the loss of a loved one, those battling alcoholism or addiction, people searching for Christ, or individuals experiencing loneliness or depression.
The process of each meeting is simple. We read Sunday’s Gospel, reflect, and share. Some share their thoughts on the Gospel, others share a burden on their heart. Most importantly, we each share a piece of ourselves. This mutual sharing leads to a great sense of belonging. Initially, I was puzzled by this feeling of connection. We’re all different people facing a diversity of challenges yet I always leave feeling like part of a family. How can I feel so close to a room full of strangers? The answer, I’ve realized, lies in that collective bringing of our individual selves. We each share our hopes, fears, joys, and struggles. Everyone listens and everyone is equal. Each of us has the same opportunity to be heard, known, and loved. This is what community is truly about. At these gatherings we meditate on Scripture, share our brokenness with another, and allow the presence of Christ in one another to make the other whole. This is community, this is the Church, this is the love of God. My experience at Adeodatus has changed the way I interact with others. I am realizing each person’s innate desire to be heard, known, and loved and I am striving to provide that with each encounter I have. So many people are suffering from loneliness and a lack of connection in our world. May we all strive to better know, love, and listen to one another.
Philadelphia, PA 2018-2019