What do Kathleen Gardner, Kate Stone, Liz Supple and Megan Hannon have in common? Up until the third Thursday in August, not too much beyond the usual Facebook accounts and a willingness to serve other people. But on that day they became the newest members of AMA Associate Missionaries of the Assumption and discovered not only that they could cook up a pretty good pesto together but that they were now part of the worldwide of family of the Assumption. (They found out a lot of other things they shared, too, as they worked their way through the four day Orientation held in Worcester on August 18-22.)
Kathleen and Kate were preparing to leave the country for service, with Kathleen heading to KidsKabin in Newcastle, England and Kate to l'Arche in Cork, Ireland.
KidsKabin is a project of the Assumption Sisters for children living in Walker, a underserved district of Newcastle, an old industrial city in northeast England that's been plagued by unemployment and neglect for many generations. KidsKabin has a wide range of creative arts, performing arts and crafts facilities for the use of local young people and the community. Three American volunteers served there during 2010-11, leaving a distinctly New World mark on the place; this year, Kathleen will provide the U.S. accent (and a Virginia one at that!) with volunteers from Brazil and the Philippines. She arrived there in late August, flying out just ahead of Hurricane Irene! You can get a great idea of the things she'll be doing with the other volunteers and the children of Walker by visiting their website.
Kate, meanwhile, the only New Englander of the group (New Hampshire!) was setting her sights on the l'Arche community in Cork. According to Declan Counihan, the community leader, "L'Arche Cork, a member of the International Federation of L'Arche, has a role as a Service Provider which welcomes adults with intellectual disabilities into residential and day care.
However, at heart L'Arche is a place where people with and without disabilities share life together in community, in the spirit of the Gospels and of faith in the goodness of our common humanity as revealed in the grace of friendship and hope. We also have Filte Mornings once a term, where we invite local groups and friends to come and share a bit of music and craic."
By now Kate knows that Filte means Welcome in the Irish language, while craic means a good old sit down conversation on every possible topic under the sun! You can see a little more of l'Arche, Irish Style, by visiting their website.
Meanwhile, Liz and Megan had a different itinerary: no airplanes or passports necessary, though some language skills definitely advisable! They are now the two AMAs living in Assumption Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. (Or, as these two Pennsylvanians have learned to pronounce it: Wustuhmass.) They're being introduced to the joys of life in the Main South neighborhood of the city, in the parish of St. Peter's-St. Andrew's, lots of work in the first few weeks at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, the food pantry of the parish, and a project called Matthew 25 which seeks to rehab old houses for needy families. At the same time, they're getting ready to begin teaching ESL classes with the large immigrant population of the area and helping to run an afterschool program called mentoring, which brings together local children and college students for two afternoons a week. The children get help with homework, projects and time to play; the college students enjoy friendship, time away from campus, and a sense of how many people are living in the poorest census district of the city. So Megan and Liz expect to be in the thick of things there. Other projects that stem from the Assumption Center include a spiritual library (Liz's experience at Borders helps here) and a knitting circle (no experience for either one there, but lots of willing teachers and two very good natured students.) When Liz finishes her electric green scarf, we hope to post a photo of it on the AMA website.
To return for a minute to the Orientation: after a packed few days of talks and activities, the Orientation ended with a beautiful Mass of Sending celebrated by Fr. Salvator, AA and the traditional weenie boil later at Emmanuel House, the residence of the Assumptionists on the Assumption College campus. About forty people turned out to wish the AMAs well. The next day Kathleen, Kate, Megan and Liz were on their way, carrying the prayer and affection of all who'd met them.
So, that's the story on this year's crop of AMA: four cheerful, loving, and determined young women for now! We hope to update you on their doings in the months to come.