Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Finding God in New England

by | Dec 16, 2020

This wonderful reflection was written by Mary and Tony Mahowald for the IVC Chicago Footprints blog. Mary and Tony are two long-time IVC Chicago volunteers who moved to Boston area and joined the IVC New England program. What a blessing to be connected by a common mission! Tony and Mary shared these thoughts after their move to Boston in 2013. They continue to serve at College Bound Dorchester, though Tony has joined Mary at her site.

Happy New Year to all of our Chicago IVC friends! We are delighted to be invited to share with you a little of what has been happening in our lives since we left Chicago last summer. The main theme for us, as you may guess, is that central theme of Ignatian spirituality: “Finding God in all things.”

All things” surely includes all places as well as all people, not only those that are familiar but also those that are new to us. Moving to the Boston area has definitely presented the challenge of newness to us. We left our “comfort zone” of many years, and spent the subsequent months making our new living space homey, getting acquainted with new people and a new parish, finding stores and health care, getting used to Boston driving habits, and walking a lot over the hilly terrain and curving streets that are so unlike those of Chicago. Amid all of these differences, we found one resource that very much resonated with our past: the New England IVC. Shortly after arriving, our reconnection with IVC has helped us meet like-minded friends, and find a setting where we continue the type of work, with the type of support, that meant so much to us in our former home.

Through IVC New England, we both work in the Dorchester section of Boston in a College Bound organization whose aim is not only to help people earn high school degrees but also to support them through their college years. Tony tutors “over-age middle schoolers” at one site, where he also helps to develop science content for the program. The students remind him of the characters in Fr. Greg Boyle’s book Tattoos on the Heart. Most have been kicked out of a number of previous schools and in many ways this is the place of last resort. To the school’s credit, they have a record of getting more than 75% of their students through high school and into college.

Mary works at another site where the aim is to help adults obtain their high school equivalence; she mainly tutors in the math program and sometimes substitutes for the teacher. Many of our students come from Cape Verde; others are from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, and some have grown up in the neighborhood, which is about an hour away from where we live. We are as new to our students as they are to us, and not only geographically. For legal or social reasons, most have been out of (regular) school for years, and English is often their second language. Many of the adults are single parents whose toddlers accompany them to school.

Our volunteer work can be exhausting, especially when coupled with the added time we give to our grandkids, their busy parents, and our daughter, who live nearby. More importantly, we feel privileged and thankful for the opportunity to do what we do because it says who we want to be. Without these involvements, life might be pretty boring, and we might even be less healthy—physically and mentally as well as spiritually.

New England thus presents another place where we are challenged to find God among people who have clearly been less advantaged than we have been throughout our lives. The finding is not always possible, but the ongoing search is what we have come to realize is all-important.