As we continue in the Christmas Season, we also begin a New Year. Here at André House, the New Year begins with exciting news. After years of renting a house, Br. Richard took the lead in finding a new home for the Holy Cross community living and serving at André House.
After months of looking for a suitable place, Divine Providence provided an opportunity real close to our old home – close as in just 5 doors down from where we rented. As a sign of how the housing market has collapsed here in Phoenix, we bought our new home for less than ¼ of what it sold for less than a decade ago.
Although we signed the paperwork in mid-December, we have not moved in yet. We still had our rent paid until the end of January. That was helpful as the new home needed a little bit of work – thanks be to God the emphasis is on the word "little" and that we did not need to make any major repairs. Our maintenance man has done a great job fixing some things in the bathrooms, some light fixtures, and other things.
So well have things progressed that Saturday, December 31, found several of us cleaning and sprucing the place up for the first short term residents. A group from King's College – our Holy Cross college in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania – arrives January 2 to spend a week with us. They will stay in the new house that week.
One of our staff members noted how appropriate our cleaning activity seemed in light of the liturgical season. Just after celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family (December 30), our staff worked a full morning in the new home preparing it so that members of our extended Holy Cross family could come to visit us.
Some placed the beds in the bedrooms and got them ready. Others worked hard in the kitchen cleaning the counters and cabinets and making sure that bowls, glasses, utensils, and the all-important coffee maker with coffee could be ready. Others moved couches and chairs in the living room. All helped make sure that extra blankets and sleeping bags found appropriate places for the group of 12 Monarchs from Kings to have at least something to use for bedding in the three-bedroom house.
Two of the people helping with this project were Giancarlo and Rachel, seniors from Holy Cross schools – King's College and Stonehill College, respectively – who are here spending the week with us as part of the interview process to join the Core Staff next year. (The majority André House Core Staff are recent college grads, or people of similar age, who commit to spending a year of ministry with us. We need about six lay Core Staff members each year). Rachel's experience with delivering furniture and food to people who are poor in Massachusetts definitely came in handy. She knows how to pack a cargo van with furniture so that you maximize furniture transported without damaging it.
The more I reflected on the comment by a Core Staff member about preparing a home for people of our Holy Cross Family the day after celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family, the more I saw other connections to the Christmas story. As Mary and Joseph traveled and searched for a home, but found no room, many of our guests arrive to Phoenix looking for a place to find shelter. The blessing of having a family – traditional nuclear family, religious family, or whatever family – willing to prepare a place for you and to welcome you is indeed a gift. In this New Year, I pray that more people may become aware of our need for each other, and to care for each other as family.
The Nativity also tells of strangers coming from afar bearing gifts. Of the dozen people coming from King's College to spend the week with us at André House, only a couple have been here before. In a sense, they are strangers coming from afar. But the strangers come bearing gifts – the gift of who they are and their willingness to share that with us and with our guests. They may not have gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but they do have the gift sung about in the story of the Little Drummer Boy. They have their faith, their talents, and their zeal. They come offering themselves.
I also pray that this New Year, 2012, will find more people willing to live their faith and less willing to define each other by traditional definitions of worth – power, wealth, or prestige. May all be more willing to recognize in other and to share of themselves the true blessings of zeal, cooperation, and the sharing of talents.
May the remainder of the Christmas Season find you basking in the light of Christ's birth, and may 2012 truly be blessed.
Fr. Eric Schimmel, C.S.C., is the Director of André House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Arizona. He is in his second year as a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica blog. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross priests and brothers to extend the Good News of Jesus Christ across "borders of every sort."