Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Retirees among this year’s Jesuit Volunteers; ‘we’ve always been service oriented’

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Oct. 1, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Edward and Lauri Sweeny of San Luis Obispo, Calif., are among the mostly-20-somethings who make up this year’s batch of Jesuit Volunteers in Spokane. (IR photo)

Edward and Lauri Sweeny look a little out of place in a Jesuit Volunteer Corps community otherwise made up entirely of young adults in their early 20s. That’s where the difference ends, however, because this San Luis Obispo, Calif. husband and wife are every bit as enthusiastic about being JVs – if not more so – as the young people with whom they live and work.

Edward, 64, and Lauri, 58, are retired, he from the food service industry, she after many years as a parish liturgist and religious educator. After retirement, they took a couple of years to travel and engage in other leisure pursuits. But they realized that they still had plenty of energy, so they rented out their house and began a new adventure. “We’ve always been service oriented,” Lauri said, “but more than that we wanted community life, so that’s why we chose the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, for the community.”

Edward works at the House of Charity, Lauri at St. Margaret Shelter. Prior to being accepted by the JVC, they were each interviewed extensively, by phone, by JVC representatives. “We were asked more than once if we expected to be like house parents,” Edward said. “We said no, absolutely not. We’re not going to be making sure that the housecleaning is done, and the dishes are done, and the laundry is done. No, no, no.”

Lauri said that they had no difficulty turning off their “inner parent” when they moved into a JV community. “We have so much respect for these people that we live with. They’re so intelligent, and so committed, and they’re in the same mindset as far as what we’re all doing. We have a different way of seeing the world, of course, and we’re from a different timeframe.”

The couple’s adult offspring supported their decision to join the JVC. The youngest, however, quipped, “You love the homeless more than you love us.”

“We reassured them that this isn’t true,” Lauri said, “but we love the homeless as much as we love them.”

In their JV screening interviews, Edward and Lauri were asked if they could stay up late and socialize, or “party” with the young adults, and they said yes. “We don’t stay up until 3 a.m.,” Edward said. “They do. But we always participate in community social activities and so forth.”

“They’ve been very patient with us. They’re wonderful,” said Lauri.

There is no official JVC rule about this, but it turns out that the Sweenys live in a house that has no TV, no video entertainment gear. A couple of laptop computers are used mainly to play digital music files. “The pendulum is swinging,” Lauri said, “and their music is very similar to the music we grew up with.”

There does tend to be something of a “culture gap” between the Sweenys and their young housemates, however. “We haven’t seen all the movies and the TV shows that they have,” Lauri said, “so sometimes we don’t know what they’re talking about. But they will explain it to us, and they laugh – not at us, but with us. So we’re getting an education.”

As a married couple, the Sweenys do occasionally welcome a chance for some couple time. “We went to the park tonight for 30 minutes,” Lauri said, “and we have a room of our own. But we’ve been very busy, and we come home tired, and it’s fun to come home and lay on the old couches and just visit. We enjoy being with the young people.”

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