WelCom November 2023
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ – Matthew 25:35
Berrigan House, a Catholic Worker Youth Ministry, opened its doors in 2016 on the footsteps of Victoria University Wellington’s Kelburn campus. Its leadership has changed several times but the kaupapa [foundation, principles] has remained the same.
‘The manifesto of the Catholic Worker movement highlights a commitment to pacifism, personal responsibility for the welfare of our poor and destitute neighbour, the promotion of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy as found in the Gospels, and the living out of the Beatitudes in daily life.’
Jack Leason and his brother Finn began the Berrigan House ministry after Jack had returned to Aotearoa from his OE. He was inspired by his stays in Catholic Worker communities around the USA, and he had just finished reading Laudato si’. At first Jack and Finn squatted in an empty Wellington city building. After they were removed from that site, Chris Duthie-Jung and Fr Gerard Burns from the archdiocese offered them Berrigan House on Kelburn Parade.
Not long after they had moved into Berrigan, Jack and Finn were joined by others whoshared their vision of living communally and opening their home to people who needed somewhere to live, particularly those who were homeless and sleeping rough. They had regular meetings where everyone had a voice, and prayer and liturgies were celebrated together.
Jack said the process of bringing people who were homeless to their community was quite simple. ‘It was just a low-key approach where I introduced myself and told them if they needed it, there was a bed at our place. Kevin and his dog were the first to arrive and it grew from there.’
The main learning for Jack living at Berrigan was about balancing the relationships. Living in a radical decentralised and family environment with people of diverse backgrouns required a commitment to the kaupapa and a wider political world view.
Here are shared thoughts from some of the people who have experienced Berrigan House hospitality and community.
‘Berrigan House is a place of belonging for people on the outskirts of both community and Church.’
‘Community is the ultimate answer to loneliness and I have fulfilled both in the people who live there and those who seek refuge there.’
‘People at Berrigan are actively involved in positive social change that often directly impacts the people they serve. We are called as people of faith to be actively involved in God’s outworking of justice and to do so in and out of love. There a few other places that exhibit this so fully than Berrigan House.’