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Community and Belonging

[caption id="attachment_4196" align="alignright" width="200"] Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA[/caption] What does it mean to be part of a community?  Why is community important?  How do we foster community?  These questions have been swirling around in my mind lately. Being part of a community helps me to feel connected to others and satisfies the need to belong to a group that cares about and supports each other.  We can be affiliated with many groups—family, friends, neighborhoods, work, church, clubs, and other groups.  In my own life, there are groups or communities where I feel valued and respected and happy to be with the group.  Then, there are other groups where I have felt alone or disconnected from others. Perhaps you have had similar experiences. Think about some of the communities that you are associated with.  What do you enjoy about belonging to a community?  What characteristics make you want to continue to be part of the community?  Or, what characteristics do you feel hinder community? As a Dominican Associate, I belong to a faith-sharing group that meets monthly to pray, to discuss a range of topics, depending on the facilitator’s interests, and that checks in with each other to offer support and compassion with whatever issues may be of concern.  Our group is called Companions on the Journey and we’ve been together for about five years.  Our community of men and women has shared moments of joy and sorrow as we’ve companioned each other through good and difficult times. We’ve wrestled, at times too, with how to sustain community amongst ourselves, periodically evaluating where we are as a group, sharing and listening to each other’s viewpoints, which I think keeps us together.  I hope you have had positive experiences with a community where you feel welcomed and accepted and where you feel you can share and are listened to. Community is important to our self-worth and the self-worth of others and to our sense of belonging.  There are many simple ways we can build community—a friendly hello, a smile, or asking questions about how another person is doing and really listening to them.  Other ways we can foster or deepen community are by celebrating achievements, joys, or sorrows of others.  We can convey caring and compassion in our communities also simply by being present to another, offering a welcoming space for sharing life’s concerns. A quote that I like about community is from Dorothy Day, a social activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement to address social justice issues, in which she states “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”  Let us go forth in love and peace to build healthy communities where everyone feels they belong. If you feel God is calling you to our community as a vowed religious, please contact one of our Vocation Ministers to begin the conversation.

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