To live in a community and to also engage fully in relationships, embracing the experience of getting to know others and others getting to know you, can be a positive, life changing experience. We know that amongst young people there is an increasing sense of loneliness and isolation. Opportunities to learn about oneself, “for better for worse”, in the close company of others who share values, is vitally important.
The Jesuit Young Adult Ministry community is for professional young adults who want to explore and deepen their faith. They live together for a year, and as part of this community, pray together, undergo termly formation, and have the responsibility of being a house of hospitality.
From November 2022 to July 2023, being a house of hospitality included welcoming a refugee friend to the community through hosting with JRS UK.
To achieve a healthy community, some degree of risk taking is involved. The invitation to another person to join an already established community requires some risk taking, too. It is a step into the unknown, away from familiar and comfortable feelings. Stepping into this new dynamic, community members should be aware of potential awkward and challenging features that may be heightened when someone from the outside is invited in. The act of “welcoming the stranger” requires careful preparation and thinking, grounded in best practise guidance.
“I think if we all went back to when we first heard the idea of hosting, we all had different viewpoints of what it would be like, and I think we would all say that none of us were correct. We learnt a lot.”
We all can remember “first days” in our lives, albeit starting secondary school, college, university or a workplace. Anxiety linked with the unknown is normal and to be expected. Yet we all experience anxiety and apprehension in different ways.
“Before our refugee friend moved in, we met with the JRS Accommodation Officer and the Jesuits that led our community, and that gave us a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for the experience.”
“Welcoming the Stranger” requires thoughtfulness about difference in a sensitive way. Difference such as power inequalities, or to be employed alongside a refugee friend who has no access to work opportunities or study. Dynamics such as these should be reflected on, not just in light of identified challenges.
“There is a challenge in hospitality to not assume what someone needs but instead to just be present, ready to offer them what they need when they ask for it. It is a challenge in hospitality whether it is a close friend, family, stranger, or refugee friend.
We were reminded to give space to our new house mate and to be welcoming but not expecting. By that I mean we have learnt the importance of communicating and openeness, but to allow someone else to live with their own dignity and not feel pressured to join us.”
Brixton YAM discovered the importance of sensitivity in communication with their guest. This is a skill, and the development of sensitive communication pays many emotional and relationship dividends. For it is in our continued adult development that we take these “soft” but also vital skills to our places of work, marriages, partnerships, convents and seminaries. It could be said that some of the most important skills for adults to develop is of learning how to negotiate and compromise, to listen to the other. What better environmental training ground than in small communities such as this.
“We have learnt the joy that it is to have someone new in the house. We have been able to learn a bit about our refugee friend and hear about his day to day life; his volunteering and experiences. Like with all new people, you have to learn how to get along, and that is always an added challenge when you live together. But we have also learnt how to make each other laugh, to share about ourselves and to be present when needed.”
“It has been a very helpful experience for the young adults who have lived here. They’ve formed community and a deepend experience of their own personal faith commitments. It has been great to be able to put formation in Ignation Spirituality into practise by offering hospitality to a refugee friend. Living in community, there can be a risk of looking inwards. We know from our own hosting experiences that welcoming others, with such a diversity of experience, broadens our own outlook.”
Fr James Conway, Ignatian Spiritual Director
At Home provides our refugee friends with the safe, stable accommodation, and the opportunity to be welcomed to a community. But hosting also offers much to our hosts, too.
There is a concerning shortage of accommodation for our refugee friends. This is particularly concerning as we enter the winter months.
Our host communities are diverse and each one is unique. If you are wondering if your house or community might be able to host with At Home, please get in touch urgently.