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By Kevin O’Gorman, 2023-2024 Amate House Fellow 

Hello! My name is Kevin O’Gorman. On behalf of this year’s Amate House Fellow Cohort, I want to sincerely thank you for being here and supporting us this evening.

I can only hope to share a brief bit of the service, community, and love that I experienced in my time at Amate House. I think it’s easy to stand back at the end of something and see where you started from. To remember the fog you’re entering, trying to figure out your expectations and how things will shake out. What I think is more difficult, and all the more special, is to recognize and rejoice in that change while it is happening. That is something that I’ve been so blessed to cherish in my time at Amate and something that I know the other fellows have experienced as well.

I remember a specific moment a few months ago when we were doing our mid-year reflection, talking about the relationships we had built and how we had cultivated them in community, when I looked up and saw each of us sprawled across the numerous couches that make up our living room. As I glanced around, I remembered distinct experiences and connections with each person.

One of the constant sources of connection in our community has been our dinners. Every step of the process is special. From frantically gathering recipes a day or two before our weekly grocery shop (a huge thank you to Caroline for being the most patient person in the world for that) to pairing up to cook together in the kitchen, we start each meal either with a prayer that someone encountered during the day or a simple gratitude from each of us. This is the true time for community building, and we stay for hours enjoying our conversation and each other’s company. It isn’t uncommon for a 7 PM dinner bell to stretch into 9 PM, laughing at stories and sharing the good and the bad of our days.

For me, that’s what this community has been. A place of unconditional love and support where people not only accept me for who I am but relate to the challenge of working in social justice fields and push me to go even further.

My greatest joy in this community is that we do not keep these special moments just to ourselves or within the walls of the convent, but they overflow out of us and into our work and the communities we serve. I’ve been blessed to both share and experience this love at Kolbe House Jail Ministry, one of my service sites. My work involves preparing bags of clothing and going over social support resources with formerly incarcerated people. What I’ve found to be an understated part of the work is not in sharing specific resources but in bringing dignity to people who have had everything stripped away from them. It is the little things and connections that mean the most. A comfortable chair, a cup of coffee, and a place where they don’t have to worry about being stolen from or someone looking down on them. The coming together of physical space and respectful support restores their sense of self-worth and moves us from material aid to spiritual encouragement. I’ll never stop being amazed at how ready they are to ask you to pray with them or to share struggles, no matter how they’ve been hurt before.

In a similar way, Amate has been a time of spiritual challenge and growth for all of my community.  There is a real spiritual challenge to seeing social issues in your work and living alongside them in an underserved neighborhood. Openly sharing these difficulties in daily dinners and bi-weekly spirituality nights continually brings conversations of faith into our lives. We challenge each other in one-on-one encounters, Mass visits, and spirituality nights to remember the whole person in our work, especially their soul. This message has personally touched me, and I’ve made a personal effort to visit local Hispanic and Black parishes on the South Side and worship alongside the people I live with and serve. It has been a profound experience of solidarity with faith groups I had only been with in passing, fostering a deeper understanding of the tapestry that enriches our city and Church.

Sharing my life, my work, and my year with my community has been an immensely powerful experience that I would not change for the world. It is a profound privilege to recognize the community in real time. In cherishing the uniqueness of each moment and embracing the richness of our experiences together, we’ve created a home for each of us. As I wind down my year, I’ll always keep this community in my heart and how they’ve pushed me to be a full person in faith, relationship, and life.

Thank you for your time and your support tonight.

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