My first contact with Maggie’s Place was through the website, after a friend from Phoenix suggested I check it out in my search for a place to do a year of service. From the website it sounded just like what I was looking for, but better. The MissionCorps recruitment video never fails to inspire even seasoned Corps members and it certainly inspired me that first time. I was looking for a place to do some time of service where I would be living with and serving pregnant women. If that sounds very specific, it’s because I got the idea from a friend doing just that in Chicago. Maggie’s Place promised that, but with a philosophical foundation and motivation that appealed to me. Solidarity and Dorothy Day? Yes please! Catholic social teaching? Amen! Maggie’s Place not only knew what they were doing, but why they were doing it.
Since coming here I’ve gotten to see and live these ideas in real life. Not surprisingly it’s hard, but it’s good. As our website sates, “The Maggie’s Place houses of hospitality were created in the spirit of the Catholic Worker tradition of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin as an expression of their faith. Following Catholic social teaching, we recognize that we are responsible to and for one another.” At the foundation of houses of hospitality is a desire to live in solidarity with the poor. We want to be there with the women we serve, truly experiencing and sharing their joys and frustrations, sufferings and victories. That the women let us into their lives to do this is a beautiful privilege and gift.
Living in a house of hospitality also means showing hospitality to whoever comes to our door or calls the office, having volunteers and donors in the house throughout the day and living out our responsibility “to and for one another.” Living in a house of hospitality you don’t get to set personal boundaries to who is welcomed or when, unless it is for the good of the whole community. We must welcome each person, but especially each mom, into our home and more importantly into our hearts. This openness and vulnerability is hard. It can be tiring. But it is also so good for us. Our hearts are stretched. They grow. They break. They heal.
This hospitality can also become an expression of another one of our values: simple living. As a MissionCorps, we give up the option to control who comes into our house, to set our own rules, or to not have rules at all. We give up a lot of privacy and personal space and time. We give up the ability to just relax and let our hair down at home. This aspect of simple living is much harder than living off donated food or not having a remote for the DVD player. But it is necessary to make this house of hospitality a place of love and growth for the moms, and it is necessary for intentional community life.
I have found living in a house of hospitality to be a challenge and a gift. I certainly can only persevere because my life here is an expression of my faith, as Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin envisioned it, and because God gives me the grace. When I first learned about the Catholic Worker movement in college, I never thought I would or even could ever do anything like it. And here I am! Praise God’s wonderful and mysterious ways!
By Lily Key, a MissionCorps member