Flashback: July, 1994
Kate Maroney, 12, and I, her mother, slightly older, leave New Jersey for Wild and Wonderful West Virginia to be Passionist Volunteers for the first time ever. Attracted by the family- welcoming structure, and completely seduced by the incredibly charismatic Katie LaCarrubba, we plan to spend two weeks in Preston County, living in community and helping out where needed. Lacking a car capable of making the trip, we take a train, ending up in Cumberland, Maryland where we are met by the first PV’s we will come to know and love: the pre-Luke Mechmanns, who had graciously offered to fetch the novices and bring us’ Home.’
As the following ten days unfold, we learn Peggy and Ed, Michael and Clare, are representative of the other PV’s we will meet: the Schletzbaum family, as well as Trish and her two nieces from Massachusetts and the group we call the ‘teenagers’- Jill Wallace and Jenny Wiley (more about them later!) Jen’s brother John, Bill and Fabio- all living together in the big old parish house and going to work everyday- to run camps, to do house repair, to tutor. At night we pray and reflect on our day ( we especially like the ‘new and the good’ and will use it often in the following months.) We also have fun- who would have thought that Demolition Derbies were real? Remember Chubby Bunny?
When it is time to leave, Kate is in tears, so I figure our trip has been a success. Only when I promise we will return the following summer does she stop crying and start to plan for the following year.
Flash-forward: July, 2012
Kate Maroney, 29, and I, her mother, still only a teeny bit older, are leaving once again for West Virginia. Although we have been to WV many times since 1994, this is the first time in a dozen years we are able to drive down together. Much has changed: Kate, a professional singer, no longer lives at home; I have retired from teaching, and we have a car which will make the trip! The Passionist Volunteers are now the PV Volunteers, and Jenny and Jill, once apprentices to Katie, are the Co-Directors of the program. We are no longer working in Preston County, but in Wyoming County, and this year in a completely new location. We are not as nervous as we were that first year, but spend a lot of time saying, “I hope so and so is there with us this year” and “I wonder what jobs we will be doing, and how many kids will come to camp” reflecting our veteran rather than newcomer status. Of course, we still criticize one another’s driving and argue about the music we will listen to, but after all, we have been mother and daughter for a long time, and some things will never change.
More important things have not changed, either. The welcome we receive from Jill and Jenny and the other volunteers, some whom we know and some we do not. The strong sense of being in the right place at the right time, doing worthwhile work in sync with incredible human beings, the volunteers as well as the people we serve. Our new Directors, Jill and Jenny, along with the unfailingly imperturbable Dan, follow Katie’s lead in running a program which allows dozens of different people to come together to work and live in an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and justice. In short, our PV experience is a microcosm of the world we wish to inhabit; we get a glimpse of that world whenever we serve.
No tears when we leave this time, because Kate and I know we will be back- and we don’t even argue until we hit New Jersey!
Maureen Maroney, NJ
Maureen and Kate continue to be a big part of the PVs volunteering not only West Virginia, but also in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.