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A Life of Permanent Transition: Finding My Home in Intentional Community

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Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Julia Pinto discusses her upcoming transition from the Casa community and how a feeling of belonging makes a place a home.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14

I am not experiencing homelessness, as so many of our brothers and sisters are on these chilly autumn days in Washington DC, and thus I do consider myself to be privileged and fortunate. I also do not have a permanent home; life has taken me from place to place, with eight different residences in the last ten years. I have been reflecting on this recently as I think ahead a bit to the next few months in which I will say goodbye to Casa San Salvador, my temporary home. This hundred-year-old house turned me off during my first visit while living in a newer apartment in Richardson, Texas, but I have fallen in love with the Casa over the last two and a half years. The smell of compost wafting from the kitchen as you enter the back door; relaxing on the white porch swing during a thunderstorm; the feel of the carpet as I sit with my community in our little chapel; the trees changing colors outside my window; the overgrown ivy down the front steps; the mirth of eating homemade gourmet cuisines (made by my twelve housemates-turned-chefs on a tight budget); and laughing around our gigantic dinner table.

Major transitions are tough. So many new things for your senses to take in, letting go of old comforts and embracing new friendships and habits, facing loneliness and longing for the familiar. This giant building seemed creepy and uncomfortable to me at first and only started to feel like home when I felt connected to the people living within it. 

We are more than just housemates. Intentional community means that we do life together with purpose and build each other up.

Lauren is reliably resourceful and puts her whole effort into everything she does. Erin frequently bakes for the entire house and takes pride and joy in serving us in that way. Meg takes initiative and strives to fulfill her responsibilities with integrity. Grace is open and honest and a great storyteller. Mari is incredibly generous and easily finds the good in others. Tori is courageously empathetic and spontaneous. Chris wants to keep people safe and has a deep love for his faith and family. Joanie is super patient and has a quiet, inner strength. Victor is curious and one of the most humble men I know. Emily is a wonderful listener and a peaceful presence to everyone around. Fatima is efficient and has the best laugh I have ever heard. Anna is adventurous and boldly seeks out friendship. And they are all lighthearted and hilarious people. (Obviously, each one has many beautiful gifts and strengths, but I wanted to briefly acknowledge the goodness that they bring without this becoming a book.) 

Now that I’ve experienced freedom and joy in community, this home is one that I will definitely miss. This gives me hope for my future homes – it is not the building or location but the relationships that make it mine. The landscape and scenery will change, but I can find home wherever I find belonging in an authentic community such as this.

Reflection: What kinds of transitions are you experiencing? How do the people with whom you live contribute to your sense of home and stability through those transitions?

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Julia graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas in May 2015 with a BS in Mathematics and a Math Teacher Certification at the ripe age of 20. She taught Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus and Statistics for four years in a public high school in Richardson, Texas, as well as another year in a private school in Takoma Park, Maryland. Julia’s desire to serve and minister like St. Francis drew her to Washington D.C. to work as a Publications and Communications Associate with the US Catholic Mission Association through the DC Service Corps program, where she researched and helped support various mission organizations around the world. This call to mission now pushes Julia to venture beyond D.C. to serve as a missioner on the US-Mexico border. In her free time, Julia enjoys reading, working out, dancing, meeting strangers, and solving all kinds of puzzles.