I hope that this finds all you happy and healthy. I’ve been praying for everyone in their new sites - I just know you are all doing great things, even if it is sometimes difficult to see.
I’m very excited to be living in Lawrence this year. The city is an interesting combination of despair and hope. Lawrence, once a major industrial center, is now the poorest city in Massachusetts; one fifth of all families here are living in poverty. Driving around, I see old, empty, mills and factories, trash-filled rivers and dirty sidewalks, and more police cars than I would like to see. Yet, more importantly, when I take more than this initial passing glance, I see bright-eyed children on their way to school, various organizations that are striving to bring positive change to this community, and a beautiful God-given sunset over the Merrimack River. Lawrence holds great potential - it’s really both a blessing and a challenge to be a part of a community that has so little but can truly become so much.
My roommates - Michelle, Tony, and Chris - are amazing. Each one of them has such special gifts that they are able to share with the rest of us and at their sites. They may not know it, but I’ve already been touched by them in our daily conversations, prayers, meals, and laughter. We really have had some good times together! I know that I have much to learn from their steady example of dedication and giving to others and their good hearts. All four of us are greatly enjoying life in the Hennigan Center, a house in Lawrence owned by Merrimack College. Eight Merrimack students, who have committed to doing service this year while taking classes, live downstairs (we live on the third floor). They are all wonderful people - it’s inspiring to live in a home where everyone has decided to offer a piece of themselves to the Lawrence community! We’ve made it a weekly tradition to have all the HC residents gather in our apartment on Tuesdays to hang out, chat, and just catch up with each other - it’s always definitely a good time!
I’m very much enjoying my work in the Campus Ministry office at Merrimack College. The staff - Tricia, Kevin, Peggy, Rick, and Charline - exudes such a great joy and love of life. I feel at home when I go to work each day. My primary roles in Campus Ministry are to help coordinate the weekly volunteers of the MerrimAction program and to create more one-time service opportunities for students. Everyday, I get to go to the various sites with the students and do service with them. This semester, we’re tutoring at two after-school programs, bowling with disabled adults, caring for animals at the MSPCA, babysitting the children of teen mothers, and serving meals at a local soup kitchen. This past weekend, we offered Merrimack in the City Day - 130 students worked most of Saturday cleaning up the Spicket River in Lawrence. It’s a blessing to work with students wanting to participate in service opportunities, but it’s also a challenge to bring others to the knowledge of the poverty that exists literally down the street in Lawrence. I’m hoping to organize a type of urban immersion for the students in the spring - I’m really passionate about issues involving poverty and I would like to share this with others. I pray often that God will help me with giving all the students the encouragement and the confidence that they too have the ability to make a difference in this world.
The Augustinian community here has been treating us very well! We have prayer and dinner with St. Ambrose community on Wednesday evenings and will hopefully be doing the same on Monday evenings with the St. Mary’s community very soon. All the former volunteers have been incredibly helpful as well. Sean Chase took us into Boston a few weekends ago, and we’re looking forward to helping Dave Lemay out with his variety show in a couple of weeks.
Almost four weeks ago, I stood up at Mass and declared my desire to be an Augustinian Volunteer. “I, Mary Ronan, commit myself to be an Augustinian Volunteer because I wish to more deeply discover God’s love in and for this world and to reflect this love with all those I will be serving next year and in the future.” These past few weeks, I’ve prayed for the ability to open my heart, mind, and soul to the new experiences that this year will bring. All in all, I’ve very much enjoyed my first weeks as an Augustinian volunteer and I’m so excited to continue on this great adventure in my life.
Lawrence, MA 2005-2006