Making sense with the homeless
British Jesuit novice Luke Taylor, of the inter-provincial Novitiate in Birmingham, recently completed work experience with Peter McVerry SJ in Dublin City. He lived with the Gardiner Street Community, and apart from his work with Peter, he helped out in the parish, especially with the Lectio Divina scripture group and the reconciliation Mass. He found the whole experience to be invaluable for its pastoral insights.
“I regularly recall hearing the question ‘What’s the story?’ during my 6-week Advent experiment with the homeless,” says Luke. Experiment is a term Jesuits use to talk about the various activities (designed by St. Ignatius) that test a man’s vocation throughout the two-year novitiate period. Luke, who was raised in Scotland, became a literature professor before entering the Jesuits.
At the drop-in shelter in Upper Sherrard Street and the café in Berkeley Street, Luke notes: “People who found themselves homeless shared their life stories with me. They talked about social exclusion, addiction, inadequate social care, prison, and physical or sexual abuse. All I could do was listen”.
Back at the Jesuit community in Gardiner Street, Luke prayed over these stories in his daily reflection known as the Examen. He took them into the Lectio Divina Scripture group in which he was involved. And he brought them to the reconciliation mass which he helped to organise at Saint Francis Xavier Church.
“The Christmas story helped me make sense of the broken pieces,” says Luke, “Jesus was still homeless at Christmas. Let us always remember to welcome him in our brothers and sisters.”
The other second-year novice, Pascal Calu, did his work experience with the L’Arche community in Preston, England, while the three first year novices Paulo Beltrame, Matthew Tumulty (Irish Province), and Ian Jackson, went to St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales to make the full Spiritual Exercises 30-day retreat.