November 14, 2018 // Special

A ministry of hospitality: fostering community

By Bea Cuasay

Hosting others in one’s home requires no pomp and circumstance. It all begins with an invitation.

John and Jill Boughton, longtime residents of South Bend, invite people they’ve met in different contexts for hospitality dinners on Saturday nights. This is no recent development: They’ve held these weekly dinners for the past 44 years.

The couple’s ministry of hospitality was one of the expressions of faith they embraced when they became active with People of Praise, a charismatic Catholic group that experienced a renaissance during the late 60s and early 70s. The group’s members abide by a solemn agreement to form community, or “be together.” It’s an ongoing promise to remain with one another and grow in holiness, resigning their wills to God’s and allowing Him to form them and their community.

The idea shaped the Boughtons’ way of living: Community became central to how they carry out their lives and getting to know people became an essential part of their ministry. They decided to open their home for a weekly meal, and invited people from their neighborhood; the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker house; their parish, St. Joseph in South Bend; book clubs; and faith-sharing groups.

Dinner begins with a prayer commemorating the Lord’s Day. This entails blessing the candles, wine and bread. The candles are lit and prayer begins. A cup of wine is passed around as each person shares one blessing the Lord bestowed on them in the past week. The feast begins in thanksgiving.

Following this “eucharistia,” or giving of thanks, the bread is broken and shared.

As the ice is broken as well, great food and conversation are shared. Though the people gathered around the table may not know each other, they find out they have much in common.

Oftentimes, people make hospitality harder than it has to be, Jill said. “People don’t do hospitality a lot because it’s a big production,” but it’s is not necessarily entertainment or a time to break out the fine china. All one has to do is invite others in, regardless of a grand presentation.

The Boughtons provide hospitality in more ways than just Saturday night dinner. They’ve opened up their house to overnight guests and those needing a longer-term stay, such as college students and other singles, a couple of single moms with their children, family groups of foster children, and homeless folks working toward a better living situation. On Monday evenings, they gather around the dinner table with a group of adults with disabilities. The couple would eventually like to establish a l’Arche-type residence in the area for these adults to live in.

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