Thursday, June 25, 2009
BASE Camp - Day Four+
Today at BASE Camp - Day Four+ we had a relatively easy day. And the group certainly deserved it after the volume of work they did yesterday. But that doesn't mean they didn't work at all. The youth still cleaned up three blocks, helped out at the community service center, and managed to squeeze in time for some of our group to visit a local "arab" stable. "Arabbers" as they were called used horses to pull carts full of fruit and vegetables around Baltimore, a sort of "home delivery" service of fresh produce. A Baltimore cultural institution for nearly a century, there is now only one arabber stable still in existence, and it's in the Hollins Market community of Southwest Baltimore. Our "newbs" enjoyed visiting this bit of Baltimore history, learning about the arabbers, and seeing the many horses and carts at the stable.
In the mid-afternoon we took the group on a field trip to Jonah House. Their brochure states that "Jonah House began as a community in 1973 with a group of people that included Philip Berrigan, a Catholic priest, and Elizabeth McAlister, formerly a Catholic nun. The community later called itself Jonah House. With the name, meanings accrued: 'If God could use Jonah for the works of justice, there is hope for each of us.' 'Are we not all reluctant prophets?' From its inception, the community included religious and lay people, married and single people, children and adults, younger and older people.
"The community lived in a row-house in west Baltimore for 23 years, and moved to St. Peter’s Cemetery in 1996. The Jonah House community lives in the 22 acre cemetery and cares for the grounds. One third of the cemetery has been cleared; the rest is woods overgrown with vines. The community maintains a vegetable garden and dozens of fruit trees, berry bushes, flowers and ornamentals.
"People at Jonah House are committed to making nonviolence a way of life. We agree that 'Thou shalt not kill' has no exceptions: we believe that we are commanded by our faith not to kill and, beyond that, to resist killing in our name. More – we know that nonviolence involves the utmost respect for each other, for all people (individually and collectively), and for all creation."
The youth very much enjoyed their tour of the cemetery property (which includes the burial site of Philip Berrigan), seeing the variety of animals there and sampling some plums from the trees. Most importantly, the opportunity to discuss systemic violence in our world with the residents at Jonah House. For some of the adults in our group it was an honor to meet Liz McAlister. The youth were especially taken with her explanation of Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek." The youth asked if we could make Jonah House an all-day stop next year, to help out on the property and continue to mine the great wisdom of the family there.
Our theme for the day was "discipleship," and we heard about what it means to be a disciple in a very vivid way at Jonah House. But throughout our BASE Camp 2009 experience I have seen discipleship displayed in an equally vivid way by our young people. They have repeatedly reached out to anyone they could, taken on every task offered, and displayed a great deal of self-motivation and camaraderie. They were talking this evening with a bit of sadness about how our BASE Camp experience for 2009 is nearly over. At Mass tonight Fr. Marty implored them to continue doing what they do, but also to continue taking it to the next level, to walk boldly as Christians, true models of discipleship in our world.