Radius of a Community

Posted on: November 12th, 2014

Mary Buttita (’14), a graduating senior in Economics and Urban Agriculture Intern, reflects on the influence of Loyola’s intentional community program on her perception of social justice.


A line drawing of a circle, with the radius marked, overlapped with a globe.

In Geometry, the radius of a circle is the length of the line segment that connects the center of the circle to its perimeter. It is the link from the interior to the exterior. That is the reason the undergraduate student intentional community in which I live adopted the name Radius. In fall of 2012 I joined Radius, an intentional community dedicated to respect, understanding, and joy. The underlying concept of Radius is to create an environment that fosters the idea that each individual is linked to the rest of society, implying a responsibility or dedication to others. Community living has expanded my world view in ways I would never have imagined and I am grateful for the enriching, and often challenging, adventures I have had.

Each intentional community defines and expresses itself differently, but for Radians, living as an intentional community means going beyond merely sharing a living space. We dedicate ourselves to social justice through helping each other become our authentic selves, maintaining a safe space to have open and honest dialogues, and promoting awareness of the world outside of Loyola. Sounds great in theory, but how is this translated into reality?

At the beginning of the semester, we decide on three focus areas, or topics, that will be explored sequentially throughout that semester. All five Radians dedicate ourselves to promoting social justice, but because of our diverse experiences and passions, what this looks like varies among all five of us. For example, one of the founding Radians strives for education equality whereas my passion lies in environmental sustainability. Thus, we pick topics to help unify and guide the conversations we have about social justice that in turn fuel our individual work. Each week we come together as a community for a meeting hosted by one of the Radians. At this meeting the host brings forth an activity related to the given focus area we are currently working on. The activity can take the form of a presentation, discussion questions, a video, guest speakers, really, the options are endless!

For example, for the topic Solidarity we invited a guest speaker to come to our community house and talk about her work with various demographics of people experiencing homelessness around the nation. We talked about everything from the root causes of homelessness to whether or not to give spare change to someone on the street. What I still carry with me from that night is the importance of humanizing people experiencing homelessness by acknowledging just that – it is much more appropriate to talk about people who struggle and experience homelessness rather than refer to “the homeless people” as if that is a defining and permanent characteristic.

The conversations that constitute and follow our community meetings are always fruitful and, for me, very inspiring to continue working towards a more just and peaceful world. Community living can be quite a life-changing experience and I believe it is an excellent way to cultivate meaningful relationships and awareness of others in such a way that generates action to work towards the betterment of all. For me, it certainly has been the radius that connects me as an individual to the world and compels me to think of others in everything I do.

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