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Community 101: Listening


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 Kaitlin Depuydt, one of our friends through Franciscan Service Network, about the importance of listening in community.

Listening to others in community is one of the essential parts of a meaningful intentional community experience. I sometimes think of there being a recipe for community living –maybe it would require “equal parts of listening, sharing, openness, and understanding, ½ parts of humor and forgiveness, and add planning or spontaneity to taste.”

Even if there were such a recipe, it would have to be altered to fit each intentional community out there. We know that any time a group forms, it goes through stages, and any time a person is added or subtracted from your community (say someone leaves early or another person comes in partway through the year), the group needs to reposition itself to fit each person that forms the community.

 I had the opportunity to live in two intentional communities as a long-term volunteer, and now I am able to accompany young adults who are on their own volunteer journey. They balance the pillars of spiritual growth and service to those who are marginalized, while they live together in intentional community. The support of the community is something that can lift you up, validate and uncover emotions, and even act as a challenging mirror of how our actions affect others.

One reason community living can challenge us is that sometimes it is the first time we are living among complete strangers who are accountable to one another, and we need to state our needs, preferences, and express our personal values — and sometimes, this creates conflict, something most of us prefer to avoid.

“The support of the community is something that can lift you up….”

One year in community, fairly early in the time together, we had a community meeting that was led by my housemate and seemed to go on and on. I sat there getting more frustrated because I had a huge event at my service site that I was solely responsible for that evening, and being around the meeting table seemed to be cutting into my preparation time (and my mind was racing with the tasks ahead of me).

 I had mentioned the event weeks before and was frustrated that my community didn’t remember that this was the big day.

 But did I remind them of it? No.

I should have stated my needs to my community members, and I’m sure they would have accommodated my limited time. Maybe that day the community “recipe” called for an added pinch of sharing and forgiveness.

This example seems pretty simple, but it gives a reminder to all of us living in community that we need to communicate our trials, face challenges together, and we do not have to go alone! We are built for community with one another, and stating our needs will likely lead to support.

Our relationship with God reflects this also: regular communication (prayer) and authenticity in stating our needs leads to support from God and growth in our faith journey. The recipe for a successful community living experience and the recipe for a meaningful prayer life are probably not so different either. Both require listening as a key ingredient!

Kaitlin Depuydt is a young adult currently living in St. Cloud, Minnesota and working on staff with the Franciscan Community Volunteers program. After graduating from St. Mary’s University of MN with a degree in Pastoral and Youth Ministry, Kaitlin served in various ministries with the Lasallian Volunteers in Kansas City, MO and the Bronx, NY.

We prepare and support lay Catholics for two-year international, one-year domestic and 1-2 week short-term mission service opportunities in solidarity with impoverished and marginalized communities across the globe.

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