Finding home in heritage, apartment living, and public spaces

Meet Jean-Daniel Ó Donnċaḋa.

Jean-Daniel Ó Donnċaḋa is the Ecumenical Protestant Chaplain at McGill University and associate priest for children, youth, and students at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. He grew up in Massachusetts and has lived in Québec for seven years. He has two perfect children, two unappreciative but beloved cats, and, according to Marie Kondo, far too many books.

Jean-Daniel and I know each other from our church circles, regularly bumping into each other at inter-faith and Ecumenical gatherings and events, especially where youth or students are concerned, here in Montreal.

Born in New England, Jean-Daniel was introduced to Canada on childhood vacations to rural New Brunswick. He strongly identifies with both his French-Canadian and Irish heritage. And those familial identities are strongly tied to his ideas of home and where he has chosen to make home in his life.

Physical home for Jean-Daniel and his twin twelve year old daughters is a book-filled apartment in Montreal. Apartment living with a family presents certain challenges, which I'm very familiar with as an apartment dweller myself. But it also presents unique opportunities in a city with good public infrastructure and resources like Montreal.

Where we live and how we use private and public space is a statement of our values. For Jean-Daniel, the sharing of resources through publicly funded and maintained facilities allows him (and many other families like my own) to live in vibrant and diverse communities.

In this interview we discuss the value of shared public spaces and resources. And what it looks like to live with an ethic of sharing resources for the common good of many vs. individual ownership for benefit of a few.

We also discuss small-space living hacks and how apartment common spaces and bedrooms can become multi-use spaces for the enjoyment of all, while still allowing for individual space and privacy. As Jean-Daniel's experience shows, it doesn't take a huge budget but it does take creativity, and maybe an eye for used furniture deals.


In our interview Jean-Daniel tells the story of how this room, which doubles as both his bedroom and cozy family media room, came to be.

So many interesting ideas about how we find and make home bubbled up in this interview with Jean-Daniel. Here are a few I'd like to highlight.

  • By paying attention to what we enjoy we create an internal framework, conscious or not, for how we define and make home. What do you enjoy? What brings you joy and pleasure? Those things can guide us in our home making. It's almost like defining what brings you joy is a way of defining how to make home.

  • For some people home is very much attached to ancestral land and heritage. Indigenous people have been telling us this for years. But how does this play out for the descendents of colonizers and settlers? Jean-Daniel talks about his own experience in this regard.

  • Home as the space we live in is always evolving and adapting to our needs, it's going to change as our family life changes.

Listen to the interview

Join my Patreon at the $5/month tier and have access to this and all previous interviews. A new podcast episode is released every month.

This season I'm producing the Finding Home series so each episode will be about that theme.

Although I'd love long-term listeners and supporters, if you only want to listen to this particular interview with Jean-Daniel you can sign up, listen to the interview, and then cancel your support at any time. But while you're signed up make sure to check out all the other interviews I've released.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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