If I had been asked three years ago ‘Do you think you will ever live in community with other Catholic young adults?’ I would have said ‘yeah, nah’.
Come 2013, I am occupying what is possibly the best room a rented dwelling can offer in Palmerston North, and, I can even bandy round the title of ‘community member’. I’ve come full circle. For 2013, I have made my home at Te Ahi Kaa – ‘The Hearth Place’.
When I get asked if I live in a flat, I’m automatically put in an awkward situation… Do I correct the error and explain that ‘no, it’s not really a flat…’ or let it slide. I’ll admit, I do a bit of both. However, I am increasingly giving people who ask - ‘how’s your flat going?’ the full rundown of what my living situation actually is.
So what is Te Ahi Kaa?
Te Ahi Kaa is a Catholic young adult community in Palmerston North. Established in 2011/12, it is now in its second year of being home to young Catholics aged 19-35 as they go about their studies, training or work.
The main focus of Te Ahi Kaa is to provide young people with an experience of living in community for a year.
Choosing to spend a year in community is a commitment to developing your faith through action. This is brought about through; formation activities, actively participating in the parish St Patrick’s Cathedral - to which the Te Ahi Kaa family belong, and the wider community through service, ministry and hospitality.
This year there are six of us living together, eating together, laughing together, and praying together. Our community, which is very much like a family, is built on a foundation of faith, and it is our faith that leads us to share a common goal – to growing our relationship with God.
The Te Ahi Kaa family includes; Mary Grace Williams & Jonny Boon, Andrew Aitken, Anna Burrell, Janice Krishnan and myself, William Warren. The extended family include the young adults that lived in the Te Ahi Kaa home last year and all those who are enjoy our hospitality.
Husband and wife duo Mary Grace & Jonny lead our community. They both bring a love of people and a spirit of hospitality and service, as well as a great deal of experience in various aspects of youth ministry to the table. They do a stellar job of bridging the gap between spiritual guide, friend, and quasi parent/older sibling.
All four of us community members are engaged in tertiary study. Andrew is studying social work, Anna is studying veterinary science, Janice is studying post-grad animal science and I am studying international agribusiness.
At its heart our community offers something different than that of a 'flat family', the life of home includes;
- Praying together four times a week (Monday – Thursday)
- Providing hospitality to the parish community and young adult community every Sunday while university is in session
- Actively engaging in formation activities together to grow in understanding of each other and our faith
- Encouraging discernment– using our time at Te Ahi Kaa to discover more fully who we are and what God is calling us to in our lives
The half-way point of my time at Te Ahi Kaa is now approaching, I’ve had the time to reflect on how things were and how they are now. A lot has changed since the start of the year. I’ve got to know and become close to 5 other people, who I consider a second family. And, I’m feeling like my faith journey is in overdrive. And the year is not over yet! I get the feeling things will just continue to escalate and amaze me. I’m truly blessed!
I should say that I have not had one moment where I have regretted the decision to be a part of Te Ahi Kaa. And, I can also say, that as a community we have not had one falling out. We all get along really well. However, there seems to always be one rogue glass in the house that I must confess I’m nearly always be responsible for. That sometimes causes miniscule tension – just like in regular families.
My decision to apply to become a member of the community stemmed from my involvement with the ministry Te Ahi Kaa provides to young adults. I was a regular at the various events Te Ahi Kaa hosted in 2012. As an outsider looking in, the hospitality provided was truly admirable. Selfless service, and the creation a sense of community for all young adults was something I noticed and valued. Being part of the team that is continuing to foster the sense of community in 2013 is truly rewarding. Meeting new people and being part of the facilitating the notion that you can live out your faith outside of Mass on Sunday, and have fun along the way is really cool.
I think that much of the growth and development that I am experiencing this year won’t become truly apparent until I leave (sadly, we can only stay for one year), but, I think that is part of the beauty of partaking in the initiative that is Te Ahi Kaa– you get spiritual food for the journey. I’ll have lots of moments to top me up later when things maybe aren’t so flash.
So, I’ve given you a taste of life at Te Ahi Kaa and I ask that you would keep us as a ‘family’ and ‘extended family’ in your prayers, that we may be Christ to each other and all those we encounter. I look forward to sharing more about the life of Te Ahi Kaa and delve into the sometimes comic nature of our existence together and how our journey of discernment is going.
William Warren is a university student currently living in community with a group of young adults at Te Ahi Kaa (meaning the hearth place) in Palmerston North. Here William writes about what is at the heart of the Te Ahi Kaa and what it means to live in community.