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By Clara Atallah

Imagine a world where, instead of being chased out of dilapidated spaces, squatters were invited to live in a beautiful home, to bring the space to life, to create relationships, to make the space their own and to meet a wide variety of people… 

That’s more or less what happened at Magis House, which opened in Paris in October 2018. 

“This place has taught me the meaning of welcome and what it means to put people at the centre of our actions.”

In the beginning, due to a combination of circumstances, and in response to expressed needs, the Jesuits decided to make 12 rue d’Assas a place that would house five “squatter” associations that had a real need for space: the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the Magis Network  (coordination of Jesuit pastoral work with young adults in France), Magis Paris (Paris branch of the Magis network), Inigo (international volunteering), and Cowork Magis (shared workspace).  

Today, this house has become a true “alternative space,” a place that encourages encounters between people from different communities, different cultures, and different economic levels. 

This challenging project would not have been possible without a commitment to the values that are at the heart of this place: hospitality, listening, interculturality, accompaniment, sharing. “We needed to create bonds between all those in the house in order to preserve the spirit of this project,” confides Marie Julienne,  who was deputy director of Magis House for four years. 

Samuel Milleville, a member of the Magis Paris team (Ignatian pastoral ministry for 18–35 year-olds), talks about the evangelical spirit of the place: “You find such different people here, with very different lives, professions, and backgrounds. An occupational therapist, a bookseller, a history-geography teacher, an engineer—they’re all keen to share something. That’s what makes this house so rich. And sometimes there are unexpected bridges that can be built with the experiences of other people.” 

A Place that Responds to Needs 

Bridges, links … yes, these days bridges are becoming rarer, and polarization is gaining ground. All over the world, communities are increasingly facing social isolation, cultural divisions, and a shift away from their spiritual roots. A recent study by the Fondation de France revealed that, in 2023, 12% of the French population was living in total isolation, illustrating the growing scale of this phenomenon. 

Marie Julienne told us that she herself had become involved in Jesuit pastoral care to escape the anonymity of big cities like Paris. 

Magis House offers a concrete response to these challenges: As a space that combats loneliness and cultural isolation, young asylum seekers, for example, find support in their search for employment, in managing administrative tasks, hospitality in families and learning French, thus reducing isolation and promoting integration. 

From different backgrounds, they’re all keen to share something.

“Having a place where we know their first names, where they can charge their phones, play a game of table soccer, have a coffee … that means a lot to these young exiles!” explains Marie Julienne. 

She adds, “It’s also good for them to be in beautiful premises, as migrants are often relegated to outlying and less attractive parts of Paris.” 

Accompaniment 

In addition to belonging to an inclusive community, people are increasingly seeking help in navigating their lives, and the Ignatian community (made up of Jesuits, religious sisters, and qualified lay people) is there to accompany them. Spiritual exploration, and personal and communal development are essential aspects of holistic growth and development. Research in psychology and sociology highlights the positive impact of spiritual practices on self-awareness, the search for meaning, and general well-being, both individually and as a group. 

Spiritual exploration and personal and community development are essential aspects of holistic growth and development.  

For many young people like Samuel, the house is an inclusive environment where not only can they meet together, but also be accompanied on their unique spiritual journeys. He also speaks of the need for young people to find a place where they can talk freely, where there are no ready-made answers, and where they don’t feel judged, especially in matters of faith.

In this place, accompaniment is not exclusively spiritual: with the coworking space there’s even professional accompaniment!  

Fr. Thierry Anne, SJ

“When young professionals knock at the door of the coworking space, they clearly have a practical need; they’re looking for a pleasant, inexpensive place to work. However, they are also looking for professional and human support and an opportunity to meet others. Often they know that this is where they will find more than just practical support. They talk about kindness, a spirit of fellowship, and community,” says Fr. Thierry Anne, SJ, director of the house. 

Starting a business comes with its own share of worries and uncertainties. For young entrepreneurs who can’t predict their success, receiving support and being part of a caring community can really make all the difference. 

He adds, “It’s also a house where you can volunteer with asylum seekers, go to Mass, get to know the Bible better, make a retreat in daily life.” 

“This place is special because it has several incarnations, it’s unique,” explains Samuel. It allows for unlikely encounters with people you’d probably never meet anywhere else.  

Attentive Listening 

“This place has taught me the meaning of welcome and what it means to put people at the centre. I’ve also learned how to be a good listener, an essential quality for making good decisions,” says Marie Julienne, who now works for JRS.  

The attentive listening and openness of the Jesuit community is also apparent in Fr. Thierry’s testimony: “At the beginning, the Jesuits hadn’t imagined at all settting up a business incubator (Magis House), because it’s not in our tradition. It was the young people who asked us to create it. Seven years ago, there were three young people; today there are 47! We would never have organized this professional network, if they hadn’t asked us to.”  

“At the beginning, the Jesuits hadn’t imagined at all settting up a business incubator (Magis House), because it’s not in our tradition. It was the young people who asked us to create it.” 

He adds, “Today’s young people are very enterprising; they’re taking us to places we’d never thought of … especially from an ecological point of view. They’re pulling us along.” 

Magis House is an inspiring place where learning is reciprocal, a true home for others, teeming with life and encounters; it’s a model to follow:  

“Young people help us to be more in tune with the times, and not just with the tradition we offer. They teach us new ways of living, such as being more attentive to ecology, taking risks to create crazy projects like Magis cowork, and working together in a co-responsible way,” concludes the French Jesuit. 

What if our actions went beyond a specific place? Perhaps we too need to be “squatters” in our communities: to better listen to needs, to welcome difference, to create a new path, and to work to build societies that are more just, where everyone can reach their Magis.**

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Magis House

Magis House was opened by the Jesuits to accompany young adults in their spiritual, professional, and social lives in the spirit of St. Ignatius. It offers opportunities for formation and sharing, times of prayer, and also intercultural encounters. The house features a coworking space, various areas for sharing a meal together, a cafeteria, a chapel, and even a community bar, “Chez Ignace.”. 

Magis House welcomes more than 2,000 young people a year and offers around 100 activities a month:

At JRS France nearly a thousand forcibly displaced people are welcomed and supported every year. In a way, the house becomes a real home for these people who have lost their homes. 

Cowork Magis currently supports 47 young freelancers and independent entrepreneurs in its incubator, with a particular focus on projects with a social and environmental impact. 

The Magis Network and its local branch Magis Paris offer activities in a variety of areas — spirituality, formation, service, and sharing — to help young adults gain renewed energy in the sometimes stressful Parisian environment.  

Inigo Volontariat offers opportunities to experience volunteering in an international context. With doors wide open and Christ as its firm foundation, Magis House is a beautiful face of the Church and a genuine place of hope, given the trials that the Church is currently going through. 

*Squatter: A person who occupies an empty dwelling without legal right or title. 
**Magis: In Ignatian spirituality, Magis means moremore connection with God, with the aim of promoting growth and service for the common good.

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