For the next four weeks, we will feature a four part series on faith in community every Franciscan Friday: “Community 101: An Introduction to Intentional Living”! and would like weekly contributors to highlight specific features of intentional-living in faith communities: Prayer, Listening, Sharing, and Learning to Love. 

Today’s post is by Ryan Murphy, who lived with our volunteers in intentional community in 2011.

I have had the opportunity to serve both domestically and internationally as a volunteer at a faith based service agency. From 2008 – 2010, I taught in a Catholic primary school at the Finca del Niño (Farm of the Child) orphanage in rural Honduras. When I returned to the United States, I immediately took a volunteer position with the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, D.C. While with the Columbans, I stayed in a house run by the Franciscan Mission Service and lived in an intentional community with other Catholic volunteers.

Ryan and the Farm of the Child community

Living and serving in a community of faith is an enriching experience. Unlike a roommate situation, where people co-habitat but live separate lives, an intentional-living community, especially one based on a shared faith, stretches your capacity to love. It is a metaphorical mirror that exposes the best and worst in you and others. While challenging at times, it is through communal living you learn and grow to love as preached in the gospel. The lessons and strengths I gained by living in community for over three years, will make me a better husband and father.

The Farm of the Child is served by 20 international volunteers that live together under one roof. These men and women make a commitment to live a life of simplicity, service, spirituality and community for 27 months. During the day, these volunteers care for 50 orphans and educate over 100 children, from Pre-K to 9th grade.

Ryan serving at the Farm of the Child

Living in a foreign country, learning a new language and caring young children are significant stress factors.  Personally, from my point of view, it is the communal support that allows the volunteers to flourish in their roles and responsibilities. In community, my fellow volunteers become my family. From a shoulder to cry on or someone to share a joke with, the members of my community became my foundation.

Farm of the Child community

Obviously, working in Washington D.C. provided different challenges. Still, my community prayed together, ate together and cared for one another. No matter where you live in an intentional community, you will come away a better person.

Ryan Murphy has continued to serve with Catholic social justice organizations. He now works as a national organizer and immigration reform advocate on the Sisters of Mercy’s Institute Justice Team. In May of 2015, he will marry his fiancé Elizabeth Nye. To contact him: rmurphy@sistersofmercy.org