“The Church — I repeat once again — is not a relief organization, an enterprise or an NGO, but a community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.”

– Pope Francis

My wife Tricia and I have always enjoyed entertaining. Even in our tiny first house, we loved cramming it full of friends and family. With seven siblings, my wife’s immediate family alone is 50 people, so we have figured out ways to make a lot of room without a lot of space. In this second home, we are blessed with some more square footage, and we recently did a little renovation to allow for a more open flow. We always marveled at how, regardless of where we put chairs and food, people would always congregate in the kitchen or in this tiny front room. We were sure knocking down a wall would help bring people into the more open spaces.

Last week, the concept got its first test – the track and field team of Villa Maria Academy High School where our oldest is a sophomore. She asked if we could host a post-meet dinner. I imagined a big bowl of pasta and a table full of girls. When I learned the week of that the count would be closer to 70, I quickly found myself adding ten pounds of rigatoni to a shopping cart and calling the closest pizza place. We borrowed folding tables from neighbors and prayed for no rain. We set up seven different stations with all the food and waited for the meet to end. It was as if we were waiting for a hurricane to make landfall. As the team descended onto the house, we encouraged them to make themselves comfortable anywhere. Without fail, within 20 minutes, two-thirds of the girls were sitting in the front room while our newly renovated open concept kitchen/family room sat empty. Had it not been for all the laughter and teenage joy, I might have been offended. But it was clear: it wasn’t the room that made the party. It was the people.

I couldn’t help but reflect on community in other aspects of life and leadership. How often do I try to manufacture community and forget the most important ingredient – people’s authentic desire to be together? We can create the nicest parish centers and knock down all the physical walls we want, but as a leader and a disciple, am I cultivating an open concept, an interdependent reality, in the hearts of those I am around? How do I give witness to the importance of community in my life versus just expecting that “if we build it, they will come?” In my faith as a Catholic, is the space more important than the relationships, especially THE relationship with the Lord?

Eventually the sheer force of humanity (and availability of pizza) forced the crowd to disperse to some other spaces. The girls were extremely grateful, polite, and helpful in cleaning up from the hurricanes’ presence (that’s actually their mascot). My daughter gave us a big hug and thanked us “for the space we created for her friends.” Tricia and I realized that it had nothing to do with the room. As we continue to hear about the acts of the apostles in this Easter season, let’s be people who continue to strive to be “together and have all things in common.” (Acts 2:42)

by Daniel Cellucci

April 22, 2024

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