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Words from Amate House Co-Founder John Haggerty during the 2021-2022 Opening Liturgy

Welcome to this place:  this place (the “McKinley Park House) was built as a convent for the religious women who staffed the school at Our Lady of Good Counsel.  Later, it was converted into the home of the Catholic Youth Office – led by John Horan.  (MJ worked here for several years as a program director).

More recently, Amate House was lucky enough to lease the facility from the Archdiocese – and ultimately to purchase this building.

Some of you will form community at the “Little Village House,” a building that was purchased and renovated for your use several years ago under the leadership and due to the vision of a former Exec Director, John Lucas.

Worth reflecting on the multiple ways these two buildings have served as a home and a place of inspiration and service.  Welcome to a place that has been a “home” for previous generations who have sought to share their lives in service to others.

Welcome to this program

You make up the 38th group of “fellows” who have gathered in this house or one of the several other locations that have housed the Amate House community.  At your tender ages, I’m sure 38 years sounds like a really long time – but I’m here to tell you, those years can pass in the blink of an eye

The founding members of Amate House first gathered to put this idea together in 1982 – it took a couple of years before the concept would take on flesh and blood — before we had a clear enough sense of mission; a place to house the first group of fellows; a program director and a willing group of volunteers; and enough funds to support them.

Since then, over 900 women and men have made the same commitment you are making today:  to share your brilliance and energy, and generosity with our world; to embrace the challenge of living in community, and to commit yourselves to reflect on the meaning of both of those aspects as you think about the way you will live the rest of your lives.

So, while I’m guessing that you bring at least a bit of trepidation to this adventure, know that you are not alone.  Many have made this journey before; their spirit fills this place, and I pray, soon will fill your hearts.  Welcome.

It’s also appropriate to offer a few words of thanks.

First, I am grateful for this opportunity to join with you today, on behalf of the men and women who many years ago dreamed Amate House into reality.

Since I last visited (2+ years ago), three individuals who were part of the founding board have passed away:  Bren Murphy, Anne Schank, Paul Fullmer.

Two others who gave many years of their lives to building Amate House into what it is today also have died in the past year:  John Lucas, Fr. Tom Dore

I am so grateful for having known each of them, for the generosity that characterized their lives; and for the inspiration that they offered to others.  While you may not be able to remember all those names, I hope you will know that each of them anticipated you – and prayed for you – as they worked to establish, build and sustain Amate House.

One other person who was instrumental in making Amate House a reality was a religious woman – a member of the Sisters of Mercy:  Sr. Mary Ellen Nolan.

No one worked harder to make Amate House a real home for its first volunteers than Mary Ellen.  She was the one who found the furniture, beds, and bedding.  She was the one who gathered pots and pans and silverware for the kitchen.  She was the one who scrubbed the bathrooms and painted the bedrooms, and she did so despite the fact that in those months before our first group of volunteers arrived, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

At a time when she might have chosen to limit her activities, to take more time for herself, she decided to spend whatever was left of her life and energy – for you.

Mary Ellen Nolan died 38 years ago this month – just days before the first group of volunteers settled into Amate House for their year of service. Ken Brucks visited her on her last day; she was semi-conscious.  He told her everything was in place:  the beds were made and food in the cupboard.  He just wanted to thank her for all she had done and let her know that her dream for Amate House was about to come alive.  

As Ken spoke to Mary Ellen, he didn’t know whether she could hear his words, but a tear rolled down her cheek. One of her final thoughts in this life was gratitude in knowing that there was a place for you to come – 38 years later.

I am grateful for Anne, and Bren, and Paul; for John and Tom; for Mary Ellen.  I am grateful to all the board members and staff whose vision and energy have sustained the program over three decades.  I am grateful to Jeannie, Unity, Katie, Tiffany, and Matt for their leadership today.  And I am grateful to each of you for bringing life again to their dream.

Amate House staff and supporters raising their hands over the 21-22 fellow cohort during the commissioning blessing.

Lastly, a few words of encouragement:

I’m guessing that there’s a question you have heard already – and will hear many times as you settle into community, and establish yourselves in your place of service:

Where are you from?

Depending on the circumstance in which the question is asked, you may answer with the name of your hometown or perhaps the college from which you graduated recently.

But as you get to know each other in community, as you form relationships with fellow staff in your service sites, and especially as you create bonds with the people you will serve, there likely will be times when you will want to offer a more detailed response:

You may share something about your parents, whose values helped shaped your choice to be here; you may reflect on an influential teacher or mentor who inspired you toward this path of service.  I hope you will reflect deeply and often on the question “where are you from” and that you will explore the answers to that question with one another.

 If “Where are you from” is the question that launches this year, there is another that will take over as the year progresses:

Where are you going next?

I hope you won’t spend too much time or energy stressing about that yet, at least not today – but inevitably, as summer turns to fall, as winter turns to spring, it must be asked.

Between now and then, you have a unique opportunity.

As the program’s website expresses, “Amate House fosters transformations, both for the young adult fellows and the communities in which they serve. These transformations take shape as Amate House fellows live out the tenets of Service, Community, Faith, Social Justice, and Stewardship.”

Your job this year is simple:  to pay attention to yourself, to one another, and to the communities you will serve, to allow yourselves to be transformed.

I am convinced that these months of service and of reflecting on that service in community with one another will leave you better prepared to make the choices and define the values that will shape the rest of your lives.

So let this year become a bridge:

·       Between what you know now, and what you will come to understand;

·       Between what you believe and what you may come to question;

·       Between where you have been and where you will go.

·       Between who you are today and what you will become;

So, embrace the mission of Amate – a word which is the “imperative” of the Latin verb “to love”:  Take to heart the advice in the letter to the Romans, the advice Paul offered a community of believers two thousand years ago:

·   Love must be sincere.

·  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 

·  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

·  Never be lacking in zeal.

· Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

· Share with people who are in need.

·   Practice hospitality.

·   Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

·   Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

·   Live in harmony with one another.

·   Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

·   If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

In all that you do this year, be it traveling to and from your place of service, interacting with your colleagues, striving to meet the needs of your clients, preparing meals with your housemates, staying in touch with family and friends – in all that you do, pay attention.

And remember the imperative that stands as this program’s heart:  AMATE! LOVE!

Fellows, staff, and supporters sing the opening liturgical music.

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