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Benincasa Community Updates, Events & Invitations, and Reasons for Co-creation

Falling into the Season - October/November 2018 Newsletter

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Dear Friends,

We closed up shop for a few weeks in August. Jimmy went to Ireland with his grandmother, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. (Check out his reflection below!) Sean and Karen spent the month visiting or being visited by family and friends, starting with Karen’s mom and nieces. Isabel (below left) and Karen were on the losing team in the Governor’s Island maze-scavenger hunt. When Sean’s sister and nieces and nephews from Cleveland came the following week, they did everything New York, from Rockaway Beach to the Temple of Dendur (below right).  

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Toward the end of the month, during the hottest, doggiest days, Sean and Karen took Dominic to Maine. There, they enjoyed 70 degree days and 50 degree nights. With the cooler temps came a renewed desire to be outdoors. After hiking Mt Abram (below left), with only some complaining, they were all in awe of the view from the “alpine zone” high above the treeline. On the way back to NYC, they  purchased pine boards (from the amazing Jordan’s Lumber Co. in Kingfield, Maine) and then made a barn door to swing open after Labor Day (below right).

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When Karen, Jimmy, and Sean reunited and re-opened in September, the community set the intention to bring the joy, generosity, security, and affirmation we experience with our families to others who are without or away from their supportive networks. … And during September we’ve already had opportunity to put our intention into practice!  

Our first guests in the Dan Berrigan Center were women formed by and forming others in Jesuit identity and spirituality—Mary and Amy are Georgetown Law professors and Liz works for the Jesuit Conference. We are, of course, aware that many women carry a Jesuit mission and identity with them and a few months ago we met Maggie, who encourages women called to be Jesuits to dialogue at: www.jesuitwomen.net. This week we are hosting sisters from the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), and two weeks from now we will welcome Villanova University (Jimmy’s alma mater) for a “Service and Justice Experience”. 

Our community grew in September as well. We met William when he was a student at Xavier University on a Dorothy Day Immersion trip in January 2016. After graduating in May (Congrats William!), he made his way to NYC, Benincasa Community, and began graduate school at City College. William has been a tremendous support, and we are so happy he is here! In the past two weeks others have come to Benincasa seeking support. One new community member came to us through the parish. Another we met while working at Harmony Farm. And yet another, connected to us through the Catholic Worker, will join us for the month of November. Even though the house is full, we are keeping an eye toward our intention of being family.  

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Laura and Yolette help keep our attention on the struggle for life and dignity in Venezuela, where their families still reside. Laura has recently returned from Worm Farm artist residency and has begun working on a piece about refugees (below). She was grief stricken by the story and photo of children and parents holding pillows and stuffed animals leaving their (and her) country during what is being called a “historic exodus”.

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September also brought a steady stream of horrific news about the Church. Aside from deep anger and embarrassment, we also feel some reassurance in our collective realization that the emperors have no clothes. No moral authority. No theological superiority. Now is time to acknowledge that for too long we looked at their cloth and proclaimed, “Holy!”. In NY State our bishops continue to spend millions in order to prevent the extension of a statute of limitations that would allow victims to bring forth an assault claim. We at Benincasa Community are wondering how to best support victims as we ourselves become more like the child in the fairytale who simply tells the truth.   
In the midst of this painful reckoning of faith, there was the first gathering of the Through Every Age (TEA) program at Benincasa Community. An inaugural cohort of thirteen people, three advisors, and Benincasa Community members met on September 22nd to begin a year-long journey of prayer, study, community-building and action (See the group below). The circle we share is Church, and we gather to realize, repair, and realign ourselves and our communities to what truly is.

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We feel privileged and grateful for the opportunity to live our values and do meaningful and enjoyable work. And we feel humbled that we are able to do so only by your generosity. In order to make ends meet, we will hold two fundraisers near the holidays. First, we invite friends of friends from out of town to enjoy Christmas in the Convent from November 24th - December 9th . Please consider staying with us during this season or passing along the invitation. Second, we invite everyone to a night of Christmas Cheer (carols, classic Christmas stories, and holiday refreshments) on December 8th at 7pm. (For more information about these invitations, please see the announcements below.)

In closing this month, we recall the clear, helpful guidance of our friend Maureen who shared at our September liturgy: Be present, be grateful, be kind. We are sure going to try, Maureen!

Many blessings and much peace,

Benincasa Community


Jimmy reflects on his trip to Ireland this past August

The autumn always draws me in. The cool air, dwindling light, trees transforming. It is a curious affinity, especially as it is the season when, as a boy, I would leave the joys of summer behind for the schedule of school. A friend once suggested this love for Fall might go deeper than fond memories of childhood. “Maybe it’s in your blood” he quipped. “The fall climate of the Northeast United States is synonymous with the cool temperatures of Ireland afterall.”

The remark reminded me of times other Irish American friends described their first experiences on the Island and why it felt like a homecoming. When I learned my Dad’s side of the family (all 25 of us!) were planning a trip to Ireland, I was excited to see if I would relate.  

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Almost immediately after touching down in Dublin, the first item on my agenda (of course) is to meet up with a nun! Benincasa friend Adam Bucko connected me with Sr. Bernadette Flanagan, a professor and leader in Ireland’s New Monastic movement. Over a cup of tea, I listen to stories of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The depth and layers of abuse in the Church are unsettling (and unfortunately, not unfamiliar), and learning about the historically close ties between the Church and State of Ireland is striking. Sr. Bernadette’s work with Movements for New Monasticism, as well as her struggle and hope for rejuvenation of Church property is exciting to hear about. During our brief encounter, there is a mutual glimmer of hope knowing we are, in our own ways, pursuing a similar vision, on different sides of the Pond.

Soon after we arrive, the family and I explore another important aspect of Irish culture: Sport! It is fascinating to learn about Gaelic Football and Hurling/Camogie (the same sport w/different names for men/women), two sports unique exclusively to Ireland. With the playoffs in full force, I am astounded by the passion of Irish people for these games, which quite frankly, hardly anyone outside of Ireland has ever even heard of! Coming from the States, where the influence of capitalism is evident in every aspect of our professional athletic leagues, the Gaelic Athletic Association seems to be in stark contrast. Each county of Ireland has its own team, all levels of the sport are amateur, and the people love it! The all-Ireland finals are played in Croke Park, an 80,000 person stadium in Dublin. The local feel and enthusiasm around the game is very cool to see— even if Hurling may not be aligned with our Community’s commitment to non-violent values! Hah!

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Perhaps though, the most touching part of the trip is a tour of my Great-Grandfather’s home town in County Leitrim. After visiting the small town Irish staples of: cemetery, church, schoolhouse, pub and sheep filled pasture, we stop at my Great-Grandfather’s former home and farm, where some distant cousins still reside. We expect a brief stop to look, but to our surprise our cousins (many of whom I have never met) pour out of the house, welcome and embrace us. This is  a sacred and spontaneous moment of mutual excitement, a joyful coming together of scattered familial parts re-uniting on hallowed ground. We are invited inside and share tea and soda bread with everyone gathered, and then walk through the surrounding farm. The lush green hills are stunning, even in the overcast mist of a rainy day. We trade stories and laughs with these cousins, and even build a massive family tree.

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Towards the end of our trip, I do reflect back on my initial question of whether this might feel like a “homecoming”. To be honest, my answer is paradoxical. I simultaneously feel a connection and differentiation with the land and people of Ireland. Ireland reflects back in me the influence of my catholic faith, my love for lush green grass, the celebration of body through athletics, why my family values hospitality, and the importance of resistance work. I see a people with a passion for and knowledge of their culture: in relation to English colonization, the joint power of Church and State, dance and music, and nature. After this experience, I do feel more able to realize my identity as a third generation Irish American, while understanding there are unique aspects to my upbringing and formation in the States. So, my trip is not quite a homecoming, rather Ireland and I are two flowers from a scattered seed returning to one another and acknowledging our different blossoms, in gratitude.  


Upcoming Programs and Events

  • 10/13-10/20 ~ Villanova University's Student Service and Justice Trip @ Benincasa Community, NYC

  • 11/24-12/9 ~ Benincasa Community's Two Week Hotel Fundraiser

  • 12/8 @ 7pm ~ A Night of "Christmas Cheer" presented by Benincasa Community, Alison Murphy, and Mark Lang

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Sean McCreight