Fargo, North Dakota
The Fargo Community inhabits a remote corner of the U.S., far from any other CL Community. What generated that beauty?
An Interview with Matt Prendiville
by Madeleine Wicker for the C.L. Newsletter
CLN: Tell us about the Fargo Community.
Matt: Over the past fourteen years, the Fargo CL Community has had many and varied members. These have included young converts to the Catholic faith, teachers, university students (local and foreign), artists, and other professionals, as well as priests and seminarians. For most members there was an initial attraction to the ideas in the readings, but eventually the attraction was from the encounter with those in the community–CL affirmed that for which many of us were searching.
Brian, Tom, Amanda, and Valentina were the first to start School of Community in Fargo. Brian met the Movement through a seminary professor who was a Memores Domini, Amanda at Benedictine College, Tom, while director of Catholic Education in Fargo. Valentia grew up in Italy, with her family in the movement. In 2007, their paths crossed and the Fargo School of Community began.
Thomas and Katie were invited to our Fargo School of Community in 2017. A few years after they left the Fargo community and moved to Aberdeen. Thomas expressed to me that it wasn’t the community’s charism that first attracted him, but how, when he came to School of Community for the first time, he was offered a cup of coffee and something to eat before we began. He didn’t realize how much a simple hello and cup of coffee would mean to him, especially at a time in their lives when they were dealing with challenging circumstances.
Corie was informed that her time with a young adult group was ending since she was approaching the age of forty. She wondered where she could go. The following day, Adam from the young adults’ group asked Corie if she would be interested in a new group of people he met, CL. She was unfamiliar with CL but followed and has attended almost every School of Community since. Her recent contribution was read at the National Assembly.
We know Fr. John from South Dakota quite well (we consider him a very good friend). We came into contact with him when a good friend of mine from Colorado, Jonathan, met Fr. John in North Carolina. When the two started talking about the Dakotas, my friend asked if we knew each other. Father immediately got in contact with us and since then we have leaned on his guidance, as well as that of the regional responsible, Bunny, for School of Community. We’ve also been grateful for the regional assemblies!
CLN: How did you personally end up in Fargo?
Matt: We met CL in Colorado via Fr. Accu and Fr. Michael. We were in Colorado for my grad school, and I believe God worked through our five years in Colorado to introduce us to the Movement. By happenstance, we were parishioners at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Broomfield, Colorado when the Missionary Priests of St. Charles Borromeo arrived. Fr. Michael had such an attractive way of just looking at us--he wasn’t like other priests we knew! An old acquaintance, Dave, was also at the parish and he invited us to join him at School of Community--I couldn't refuse because I was fascinated by how Dave had changed from our college days.
After grad school, we returned to North Dakota. We stayed in touch with our Colorado friends but there was no CL community back home. “Life is going by me, I feel like I can’t engage,” I told Fr Michael about our return to North Dakota. We then moved to Fargo, where there was a small community. They were on break for the month but hadn’t decided on a meeting location so, in 2017, my wife Lisa and I offered our home for School of Community on Monday evenings.
CLN: What has that experience been like?
Matt: When tasked with leading the Fargo community I felt a bit inadequate. But, we wanted to host, to continue this experience. . . and also we didn’t have to worry about finding a babysitter!
I have struggled with sensing the responsibility for increasing numbers, and awareness of CL. When I shared these concerns with my spiritual director Fr. Jared, he said, “Few programs in the diocese lasts more than nine months. What you’re doing is incredible. There’s something here!” After reading some of Giussani’s texts with him and sharing my path with him, he even said, “This is where the Church is going.” Personally, I’ve been with other Church groups, all good stuff with big binders, but none of it has felt sustainable, a life like this.
In deciding to both host and lead School of Community, Christ has helped me grow in awareness of Him, truly changing me. I pressured myself with feeling like I needed to open and close every School of Community with the “right” words. It was not until one evening when I was expressing my frustrations to my wife that she (lovingly) said to me, “You need to get over yourself, no one is coming to School of Community to hear you! We are all coming to be together to affirm Christ in our lives, that’s what matters.” These words completely stopped me and changed my perspective on how to lead our community--simply be present and know that everyone who comes and shares their given experiences are there to assist.
CLN: Your wife is so funny, what a great reality check! What is School of Community like now?
Matt: These days, when we get together for School of Community to sing and pray, it’s so beautiful to see how my kids will join us without prompting. We just have a recording because no one plays a guitar, but we are so happy to be together. We are both in-person and Zoom for people like Anna, in North Carolina, who is originally from Fargo.
CLN: You have mentioned that you are going to be moving soon. What comes next for you?
Matt: We are in transition as my family will be moving to Bismarck, ND (about 2 ½ hours west) to be closer to family. The Fargo community will have a new responsible after May, and Lisa and myself will join from Bismarck via Zoom. There is no community in Bismarck–we don’t plan to “start” one but we are not closed to the idea. We will see what is given once we get settled.❖