This past week, I was able to join the Marist Young Adult trip to Jackson, Kentucky to help build a chapel at Magnificat farm. Magnificat farm is a Catholic Worker farm space being set up by Ellen, a lay Marist, and her husband Josh. They have some really great ideas for how that space will serve their local community in Breathitt county, and it was really rewarding to be part of the effort to get them up and running.
I was pretty nervous about this week for a couple of reasons. Construction work isn’t exactly my comfort zone, and this is the first true Marist Young Adult event I’d been to in years. I was really stressed only knowing about 2 or 3 people going into the week. I’m really grateful for the warm welcome from everybody on the trip and the chance to get to know each of them.
While helping to carry a bunch of lumber up a hill all week, I had a lot of time in my head to think about the Marist experience. First I came to an appreciation that “million Marists” isn’t just a catchy hashtag. There are active members of the Marist family all over the world, even in places where there isn’t a large community centered around one of the schools, like in Jackson. People from our trip came from all across the province, and it was really cool to see them all come together to help grow that which connects us.
I also started to think about how up until now, whenever I saw myself in a Marist context, I was depending on the Marist community for something. For direction, instruction, guidance, or even just a friendly space, I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on the Marist family. But then I got to hear Ellen’s story, and how she’s out in new spaces, where a Marist presence hasn’t been felt yet, and how she’s creating something there. It made me realize how much responsibility and how much agency we have as lay Marists. It’s our community, too. We have a share in helping it grow and develop, and how great that is! Thanks to this community we can put our talents, our vision, and our spirit into something new. I saw that happening throughout the week, and to see Ellen’s reaction as the chapel was dedicated in the closing prayer said it all. It’s made me think about the Marist pillar of love of work, and how I prioritize it in my life.
I am also deeply impressed by Ellen and Josh’s understanding of their community in Breathitt county. It made me realize that going out into the world to connect with new people and to do service with others in those places is important, but also how important it is to understand, to serve, and to connect with my own community at home. I hope to emulate Ellen and Josh’s compassion and knowledge in Breathitt county here in Brooklyn.
This week-long trip made me rethink how I play my small role in the Marist world. I’m not sure yet what that role will be, but I’m eager to grow from this experience, and see what comes next.