Jerusalem Farm: Community Charism in Action

by Barbara Roberts, director of KC Mission Advancement Office

It was the vision of Associate David Armstrong, director of Mission Effectiveness and Campus Ministries at Avila University, to establish a Catholic Intentional Community in Kansas City. Buoyed by Armstrong’s enthusiasm, Sister Rose McLarney and Jude Huntz joined the call. In May 2012, their dream became a reality with the establishment of Jerusalem Farm. 

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Avila University embraced the group’s belief and became founding partners. With their financial support, the farm, located in a historic northeast Kansas City neighborhood, was acquired. Armstrong then recruited Jessie and Jordan Schiele, whom he met at Nazareth Farm (which Jerusalem Farm is modeled after) to lead the community. Jessie, who serves as executive director, and Jordan, project director, live at the farm with their two children and three full-time community members.

Built on the four cornerstones of prayer, community, service, and simplicity, Jerusalem Farm is designed to provide service retreat experiences, sustainable living and home repair. “We take a lot of inspiration and wisdom from the sisters who have lived in community for hundreds of years. Our charism is similar to the sisters’ love of their dear neighbor by serving, listening and advocating for them. We want to keep that tradition, the sense of community alive,” says Jordan.

The community members'  imprint of service has infused their community beyond its original roots. Through their caring charism, they have built an indelible bond with their neighbors. They provide restorative justice by advocating for their neighbors, many whom are elderly, with city code violations. Seeing that their neighbors lacked basic tools for home repair, they established a tool library. They also began a bicycle powered compost curbside pickup program, with over 80 neighbors helping to be good stewards of the earth.

Now, with a loan from the sisters, the farm has been able to achieve its five-year plan. In April 2018, the Jerusalem Farm community will move into a new Common Home, while also having completed renovations to their current farmhouse. 

With land obtained from the city’s free land-grant program, ground was broken in February 2017. The home, the first new construction in the neighborhood in 50 years, includes common living space, a reading room and sacred prayer space, along with nine bedrooms, four bathrooms, a communal kitchen and laundry room. Its energy-saving features, including insulated concrete forms, will result in a zero net energy use.

A multitude of benefactors have helped to make their vision a reality including Kissick Construction, Helix Architects, Lexington Plumbing, AmeriCorps, and student volunteers. Their generosity has helped to keep construction costs, “far below average building costs,” says Jordan, who also serves as the project’s general contractor.

With the additional space, more volunteers will be able to experience and take back to their home community the joy of serving the dear neighbor. As community member Sunny Hamrick shares, “We are showing people that through small changes, with love and compassion, you can reap radical love.” Just as our sisters have done for over 350 years.

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