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Community Through the Lens of Our Shared Photo Album

James Dooley and Danielle Villhard, ACE 27 - New York City

ACE 27 NYC First Community Photo

When we moved to New York in August 2020 as the latest “NYaCe” community, the many usual attractions of the city—museums, shows, stores, restaurants, etc.—were closed due to COVID-19. So, our community—Tait, Christina, James, and Danielle—often looked within the four walls of our tight East Harlem apartment for the little moments and shared experiences to build community. Looking back over the year (and counting) we’ve shared in NYC, we made the most of it. Through the lens of our shared photo album, we present a snapshot of life in NYC.

Waking up early for school and getting ready in close quarters was a challenge at first, but our commitment to the quintessential first day of school picture showed when we gathered our tired, nervous selves and posed before our first day as teachers!

ACE 27 NYC First Day of School

Each day, we split off in four directions, each hopping on a different bus or subway line, but when we return at the end of the school day to the familiar “ding!” of the elevator, the doors open to an apartment where we can’t help but smile and share a hug (yes, we actually hug) to celebrate another successful day.

ACE 27 NYC Community Eating

James and Danielle at the MetFood is a key part of our community. While our apartment may have tight quarters, we’ve developed a “dance” of sorts in preparing, cooking, and eating meals. Ranging from family classics, to any incredible creation Christina whips up in the Instant Pot, to themed holiday meals (like the St. Patrick’s Day Shepherd's Pie that James and Christina did not let go to waste!), Sunday community dinner has become the capstone of the week. The dinner views over Manhattan from our porch don’t hurt, either!

James: It took us a while to get there—what with COVID closures and busy teaching schedules, but we were not let down when we finally made it to the New York Metropolitan Art Museum. Danielle is an artist, and I mean an ARTIST. So when art museums, and indeed all museums, were closed for the first few months of our time in the city, she was having a rough time of it. Her desperate need for art ended up spilling out in unexpected ways, most memorably, art prayer. Here is my art prayer project that I produced under Danielle's tutelage:

ACE 27 NYC James At Project

As you can see, "Mary as the road to Jesus— out of darkness and towards the light of the Cross" might just be the MET's next featured exhibit!

ACE 27 NYC T-Shirt Reveal

As we drove past the Manhattan skyline in June to embark on our long road trip back to South Bend for ACE Summer, we wondered what community would look like without the familiar places, spaces, and faces we’d grown accustomed to in New York. It didn’t take long, however, for us to find time for community at dinner in the ND dining halls, sitting together during Dillon Hall mass, or strategically standing near each other in the iconic ACE T-Shirt Reveal picture. Wherever life takes us beyond our time in ACE, our shared commitment to community and capturing memories (whether they have photo evidence or not), are bound to last.

ACE 27 NYC Year 2 Community Photo

In a community, different people get placed together. You could say that Danielle and I are a perfect example of this. Take food— Danielle is a vegetarian; I buy and cook a few pounds of meat per week. Or interests: Danielle is an artist; I'm a bookworm and amateur philosopher. She's from the midwest and says stuff like "ope" when she bumps into something and "Mahm" rather than "Mom." I hail from the Boston area, making me a complete foreigner to her mid-west niceties and bringing verbal idiosyncrasies of my own better left unpublished. Still, as the picture of our community leaping into our second-year shows, it takes different people, sometimes standing opposite each other, to hold a community together.


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