This was originally written for the newsletter for Lydia’s House, a home of hospitality in the tradition of the Catholic Worker, that just opened this spring in Norwood. Check out their website for ways to get involved. The CFJ sponsored a bedroom through the fundraising efforts of a number of student groups last year.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, for me, the road to Lydia’s House began less than two miles away at Xavier University. Since my time as an undergraduate there, my faith has led me to friendship with the homeless in Nashville, deported migrants in Tijuana, former refugees in El Salvador, and fellow campus ministers in San Diego. Still, as I pack up my life in California and move back across the country, I know I’m coming back to the heart of my faith in more ways than one. Jesuit martyr Ignacio Ellacuria once said: “There is no conversion to God if there is no conversion to the oppressed.” If that’s true, then I became a true Christian right here in Norwood, Ohio as I first began to see God’s face in the lives of the poor and vulnerable as a freshman in college.
Life since then has been very full, and for the past three years, I have found deep joy in working as a campus minister at the University of San Diego. I have been privileged to accompany students in their daily lives. Through University Ministry, students are invited to explore social justice as an integral part of their faith through service at a homeless shelter or on immersion to El Salvador. I’ve found that it’s during these times when I am at my best.
When I returned from El Salvador a few months ago, I inadvertently quoted Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement; I told a colleague that, in El Salvador, it was “easier for me to be good.” It was perhaps a paradoxical statement because life there is anything but easy for my host family in their poor rural village. Neither was it always easy for me to build solidarity with Salvadorans across the barriers of my privilege. Yet there I found God clearly because God is always with the poor, the suffering, the lost, and the left out. When I am with those in need, I am with God. When I am with the poor, I always find it’s exactly where I need to be.
It’s clear to me, crystal clear, that I am called to the community of Lydia’s House. I bring with me all I know from my time in ministry and with the homeless, as well as all I have yet to learn. I hope that at Lydia’s, I’m able to be my best self: a positive and joyful presence, a compassionate listener, a mediocre cook, and an amateur but enthusiastic gardener. I seek to see the guests and the wider community as my teachers as I listen, receive love, and continually let my heart be broken by the suffering of others. I look forward to mid-June when I join Lydia’s House not just in prayer but in daily life. I can’t wait to thank each of you personally for helping create a place where it is easier to be good and to do good for our world.
Elizabeth Coyle, who we used to know as Libby, someone highly involved in programs from Peace and Justice Programs and Campus Ministry ,wrote this reflection for the Lydia’s House newsletter. She started as a shy, first-year student on the Getaway retreat and graduated from XU having participated in or having led many of the programs of those 2 houses. After serving as a Campus Minister at the University of San Diego, she moved… just in the last month… back to Cincinnati to live at and serve with Lydia’s House in Norwood.