In Thanksgiving for a Home

By: Amelia Gil-Figueroa, Candidate

Reflection originally written on the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle (21-9-2015)

“You are strangers and aliens no longer. No, you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. You form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord; in him you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”

– Ephesians 2:19-20, Reading from Morning Prayer

While those who know me may not agree, I am quite shy and insecure. Add on some natural indecisiveness and a sometimes overbearing aim to please and you get an interesting cocktail of social awkwardness/anxiety. While I tend to get along well with my peers, I have never felt as if I truly fit; like an outsider who is accepted out of common courtesy, or a person who said something funny, smart, or cool once thus giving them merit to be part of the group. I would always tell my mom, “I don’t know if I consider them very good friends. I can’t really be myself around them.”

Ever since I was little, my mother (i.e. my confidante) instilled in me the sense that my faith was my own. Though she taught me the basics, she reminded me that my relationship with the Lord is my own, that this relationship will develop and grow, and that I cannot compare my relationship with the Lord to anyone else’s (especially hers). I have always taken that to heart and in high school, and then even more so in college, I started truly making my faith not just something I professed, but something that I lived. This led me to find and become a member of the Women Youth Apostles.

Over the past two years as candidate in this community, I have learned so much about our Church, laughed and cried with sisters, been challenged and encouraged, and have grown in my faith. With the support of the community I have been pushed out of my comfort zone many times and have been given beautiful opportunities to encounter Christ in others, to sit in His presence, and meet Him in the sacraments. I have learned, and many times need to be reminded, to give the Lord all that I have – my insecurities, fears, awkwardness – and give new purpose to my aim to please: I must always strive to please the Lord in all my works.

You may be thinking “what does any of this have to do with the quote from Ephesians?” When I first entered community, we were blessed to have a community house not far from our brother Youth Apostles. We held sharing meetings, socials, dinners, and there I met with my sponsor. Unfortunately, there came a time when circumstances did not allow for us to have a house. While I didn’t live there myself, I loved going there, and I truly felt the loss of a home. A home is not merely a building; and while the sisters who lived there had to find a roof over their heads, we as a community were all affected, having no place of our own to meet and worship.

IMG_1341Recently in July, we were able to find a new house. Four sisters currently live there, and never has a house been more joyfully and excitedly talked about than this one.  While Paul in his letter to the Ephesians is referring to the fact that, though Gentiles, they are now part of the body of Christ, this reading reminded me of the joy that came with finding a home for our community. We as Women Youth Apostles “form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” How true it was reading that we “are strangers and aliens no longer”, that we are “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God”.  Reading this on the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, I found that this passage illustrated the purpose of the home: “to be a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” But it also echoed the longings of my own heart: that in being a member of the Women Youth Apostles, I have found a community to call my home; a community that leads me to the Lord, and in doing so leads me to truly be and know more of myself.

Like the apostles, we all come from different backgrounds and have different personalities and ways of communicating with our Lord. But “through Him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord”. “With Christ Jesus himself as the capstone”, all the differences disappear, and we come together to work the vineyard of the Lord, bring the youth of our diocese into closer communion with Christ. On the outside, our house may seem like any other house, with people coming and going in a natural ebb and flow. But to us, it is a house blessed by God as a place to belong. For me, both the house and the community are just that: a place to belong, a place to call home.

Formation Night at the WoYA House

Read more about our Community House here.

5 Things I (re)Learned From Our Open House

By: Tiffany Lambert, House Director

This past Saturday we had over 50 people stop by the community house for an Open House & Cookout. It was great to catch up with friends and get to know some new faces. Now that a couple days have passed, we’ve managed to get all of our chairs back inside, lawn games in the garage, and borrowed tables back to their original homes. During that time I’ve also had the chance to look back on the evening and here are five things I learned (or relearned) from our Open House.

Community members and friends gathered in the back yard.

5. I am my mother’s daughter. This might be the first time I’ve ever admitted this but it is truer than I’ve ever knew. Recently my sister got married, and with an outdoor reception planned my mom was worrying about the weather nonstop. After the wedding she even admitted that about a month prior to the wedding she started waking up in the middle of the night every night to check the forecast! Prior to the Open House, I too found myself repeatedly looking at the forecast. I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night, but it was a stressor.

Well much like the night of my sister’s wedding, the weather last Saturday was beautiful. There were some glitches with both events – we had to postpone the Open House a week because of rain and my sister’s wedding was the night of the supermoon which caused the tide to come up so high it flooded part of the dance floor. The trolley my parents hired to shuttle guests from the reception site to the parking lot even got stuck!

My parents with the trolley the morning after my sister’s wedding reception.

But the evening of the wedding was still a beautiful, fun celebration for my sister and her husband, everyone enjoyed being outside for much of the Open House, and all the worrying leading up to either of these events didn’t change a thing.

In Matthew 6:27 Jesus asks “Can any of you by worrying…?” – I cut the question off there because insert whatever you like, it’s just an illusion of control. And the answer is “Nope, by worrying I can’t actually do anything.

With that said, although both of us could learn to not worry, planning a wedding and reception is a much bigger deal than an open house, so Mom in the future I’ll try to cut you a little more slack.

4. God is faithful, even in the little things. As all the plans were coming together for food, it seemed like we were going to be short on desserts. This isn’t the end of the world. And if we really needed to, we were going to run to the store during the event. But when planning to welcome people over it’s nice to know there’s plenty of everything.

The morning of the Open House, neighbors from across the street came over to introduce themselves, thank us for the invitation, and bring us a beautiful chocolate pie even though they couldn’t join us later. As they were leaving I remember thinking “Lord, thank you for this small reminder that You are looking out for us, even in the littlest of things.” In the end, between the freshly baked cookies, pumpkin cheesecake, brownies, chocolate pie, and two small cakes another friend brought from a local bakery, there was plenty of dessert to go around. And I have to think the Lord delights in showing us His loving care, even in the littlest of ways.

The unexpected chocolate pie from our neighbor’s across the street and two cakes from a friend.

3. Kids are the life of the party. Sure, we’re a community dedicated to youth ministry, so we enjoy having young people around. But I think many of us enjoy youth ministry precisely because young people know how to laugh and have fun. I’m not sure exactly what the neighbors thought as they watched Fr. Jack do laps in the backyard because some of the kids wanted to play tag, but something must have communicated a sense of joy because they also asked to join us next time we have Mass at the house.

One of the biggest blessings of a community with a plurality of states in life (married, single, and consecrated) is spending time with brothers and sisters in community and their families. Just look at Paulie (on the right) breakdancing and try not to smile:

We had coloring books and crayons in the solarium for the kids. There was also sidewalk chalk which you can see on the Facebook album.

2. We have some great neighbors. When planning the Open House, we decided to invite our neighbors as well. Going door to door to introduce yourself to everyone on the street can be nerve-wracking, even for someone as extroverted as me. But I’m glad that we did, not just because of the chocolate pie or because our next door neighbor offered to watch the grill letting me talk to people for a bit or because they also let us borrow their corn hole set, but because it was a moment to build bridges in the local community, get to know new people, and to be open to how God may work through these new relationships.

Two friends enjoying the cornhole set that our next door neighbors let us borrow (they really are the best).

1. We are grateful for our sisters and brothers in community, friends and family! To everyone who made it to the Open House & Cookout – thank you for spending part of your weekend with us! We loved having you over and look forward to many more visits in the future. And for everyone who couldn’t make it because of schedules or distance – you were missed but we hope to see you soon!

Clarissa Maciel (housemate) and three of our brothers in Youth Apostles (Ben Jacobeen, Peter Clem, and Jim Harbour).

More photos of the Open House & Cookout are in this album on our Facebook page.