I’ve heard Greg Boyle say, “The reasons you join an order like the Jesuits are not the same reasons you stay.” The same is true for me about Casa. I came to Argentina thinking the grand adventure would change my life. I arrived hoping to master the Spanish language, meet cool people at my Praxis site, take interesting classes outside my science major, and plan awesome weekend trips to practice my amateur photography. And most of that did happen, to some extent. But I think I had the greatest personal growth in the soft, quiet moments. Washing dishes with my community mates. Chatting in our stairwell while the kitchen floor dried. Swinging in a hammock with a friend, staring at our dusty feet. Waiting for the colectivo (bus). Playing soccer. Sharing mate. Walking a familiar route to La Luci and greeting new friends I’d see along the way. The simplest ways of living had become the best parts of my days. Everything and everyone was so new. I looked, sounded, and acted so differently than the Argentines, but they welcomed me so warmly and so fully as myself. That love and attention I received opened me to my own full self. I didn’t realize that was happening at the time, but two years later I can see the effects. As a science teacher in Milwaukee’s inner city, I see that all my students want is my love and attention. I hope my classroom, my own Casita, is a place of belonging for them, where they are fully known and come to know themselves. But in my personal life I can feel the “Casa effect,” too. I think I’m a better listener now, more open and eager to show hospitality. Sometimes the most calming, meditative part of my day is when I stand at the sink to wash dishes–carefully, with a good playlist, like my community did. I’m still learning why Casa was so important to my life. The experience is etched into my sense of self, and I know I can never be separated from it. There is no greater gift.
Eileen Malloff, Marquette University, Casa attendee Spring 2015