In this month’s Featured FJV post Jane Salisbury (St. Mary’s, AK ’78-80, Portland, OR ’80-81) reflects on her years as a JV and the lifelong friends that came of it – friends that will convene at this year’s 60th Anniversary Portland celebration.
“In 1978, I went to St. Marys, Alaska to work as the librarian at St. Marys High School, placing all my hopes for adventure and service in that one decision to light out for the territory. Nearly forty years later, I think of it as the best move of my life, one that has colored and steadied everything since. The friends I made in those two years have stayed close. We understand each other in a way that allows us to push right past the anxieties and chitchat of other relationships. Our friendships were forged over fried baloney late at night in the school kitchen, or trudging down the airstrip in the cold, for a few minutes of private conversation away from the kids and the hubbub of that crowded boarding school.
Every third Saturday for the last two decades, a group of old friends, anywhere from three to twelve of us, convenes somewhere in Portland to have dinner together. We are all rooted directly or indirectly, somehow or other, to Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. Half of us have been volunteers or staff for JVC Northwest, and the other half are friends and spouses (ex- and current, both). We are one another’s confidantes, best critics and sounding boards. We have been godmothers, witnesses, and mourners. Two of us have presided at each other’s weddings. This group has not faltered or fizzled. We keep going, even as the list of things we cannot eat grows longer with each successive supper. We speak of marriage, children, our own frailties and yes, the beauty and challenges of aging. We say a prayer of gratitude for each other and hope for our fragile world before every dinner.
We lean on our shared values together. Our careers, serving as teachers, chaplains, librarians, and counselors, stem from those days. Being a Jesuit Volunteer was not a lark, though it certainly felt like one sometimes, as when one was skiing down the river in the moonlight, perhaps. It was a seminal time that marked us permanently with the ideals of compassion and community that we try to keep before us still.
As the 60th anniversary of JVC Northwest approaches, it seems even more important to keep our circle whole, and bring the wider circle back together. Midlife takes people away for years at a time, it seems, as we launch children into life and parents into death, and dig in to the work we have chosen. As we live into our 60s, we need each other back, to get through the next adventure together. So, we hope, in June, to bring together more old friends from around the country, from those long-ago years in Alaska. If we cannot all have supper together every single third Saturday for the rest of our lives, at least we can come together and remember those stellar times, and what brought us together in the first place.”
Jane lives in North Portland and currently fills her days with writing, working at Multnomah County Library (from which she will soon retire after 30 years), laughter and gardening. She will attend the 60th Anniversary event in Portland on June 18th, 2016 at Jesuit High School, learn more and join her here.