Community is a blessing. But anyone who's tried to build a community, or find one to belong to, knows what a difficult task it can be. It feels like grace when the task is finally accomplished.
I'm new at U.S. Catholic, having started as the editorial assistant in May. But I'm not new to publishing, Chicago (home to the U.S. Catholic offices), or Catholicism. I was born in Chicago, baptized in the church a month later, and started working in publishing 20-something years after that.
On the surface none of this is especially significant. But the thing about individual life circumstances is they tend to become our communities. We typically start life trying to make do with what we've been given, finding friendship and meaning in the people and places immediately at hand. Sometimes that doesn't work. We might have trouble fitting in or just need a change in surroundings or direction. So we strike out elsewhere to seek new people or points of view until we find a community that's a better fit. Such has been the way for me.
Catholicism, Chicago, and publishing are my communities. At times, though, I've questioned whether I had anything more to bring to these communities or vice versa. So I've tried living in other places, worked in other fields, and let my faith lapse for years at a time. I did find community in those "other places." Yet here I am, returned to the old familiar ones. And it feels like a blessing, like an invitation to renew my commitment to the communities that shaped me, with the bonus of being able to bring fresh perspectives from all the other communities I've been part of.
The stories in this issue of U.S. Catholic testify to the blessing and necessity of community, from Catholics from all corners of social media who find common ground online in this month's Sounding Board ("Who would Jesus follow?" pages 33-37) to the students seeking Catholic fellowship on campus in our feature on community college ministries ("An absent ministry," pages 28-32). There's also the moving portrait of a hospice housed in a former church where the residents, staff, and volunteers consider themselves a family ("Renewed purpose," pages 12-17), as well as Father Bryan Massingale's powerful reflection on a memorial dedicated to victims of racial injustice ("In memory of me," The Examined Life, page 10), which reminds us that even memory serves as a form of community and that the life of Jesus compels us to form inclusive fellowship "where all are welcome and respected."
Wherever you find community, I hope you enjoy this month's offerings.