Sister Jean Iadevito Reflects on Reconciliation


Nicole returned to class today, no longer pregnant. She decided to have an abortion last week. At the age of eighteen, with one baby boy already, she believed that she could not deal with another child. She had spent the past couple of years in a youth treatment facility. And since she had invited some friends in to smoke weed, she had been thrown out of two shelters within the past month.

After class, I went up to the roof, walked past the solar panels that heat up the water for the women at The Gathering Place to do their laundry and to take showers, past the children’s play area surrounded by a vegetable garden ending up at the Memorial Wall. Touching each of the round clay pieces naming all of our clients who have died on the streets, I let the tsunami of sadness flood over me, and I wept.

I call this my "daily dying" time. Like most of the women who come to The Gathering Place, Nicole has many issues. And like many other women, she is surrounded by a cadre of caregivers, both within the community of The Gathering Place and other outside entities: Department of Human Services, case managers, probation officers, child care providers, and mental health clinicians. In order for Nicole to get other services, I have to take her on as a student. The linchpin for every other service that a young homeless/near homeless mom will receive is education. It takes a village!

The whole process is one of intense communication and deep listening. We each have to get beyond our own biases, blindness, antipathies, guilt and illusions around the situation. In his book, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates the process. "Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace." It is to remain in the moment, and to accept your own baggage.

This past January, a good friend of mine died of a heart attack. We had taken art classes together at The University of Notre Dame many years ago. He had just celebrated his 25th year of being sober. Jim had also directed an addiction clinic in a hospital outside of Washington, DC. He believed that all of life can be summarized into the continual process of dying, rising, and embracing what is.

Last summer, Jim and I spent an afternoon in that magical spot called the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado. Little did I know that it would be the last time that I would see him. I was complaining about how stressful my job had become. Suddenly, he started laughing. "Oh, Jean, get over yourself! This is your most creative stuff!"

When I reflect on my role at The Gathering Place, I have to reconcile myself to accepting that this is how I have to be with this community of the dear neighbor. It is a process of being with their woundedness while it touches my own, over and over again. Frequently, I go back to the writings of Henri Nouwen, particularly the book, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. We often think that we can best serve others when our own wounds are healed. But, that’s not true. We become real servants of the mission when we enter freely into our own woundedness knowing that the healing is also there for ourselves as well as those we serve.

 In the words of Nouwen: "the way out is the way in, that only by entering into communion with human suffering can relief be found…every Christian is constantly invited to overcome his neighbor’s fear by entering into it with him, and to find in the fellowship of suffering the way to freedom."

Sister Jean Iadevito is the adult education coordinator at the Gathering Place in Denver, Co. offering women and their children experiencing homelessness and poverty shelter from harm and opportunities for learning and personal growth.


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