My Birthday Gift

May 27, 2010

Tomorrow, May 28, 2010, is my birthday.

Most years, when my parents ask me what I would like for my birthday, I don’t have very many good ideas (sorry guys!). I’m not real big on gifts, and we usually just enjoy a special homemade dinner or a meal at O’Connor’s and my mother’s delicious delicious chocolate cake.

This year, however, I know what I would like. I actually need your help, to be honest.

JVC's Four Values: Spirituality, Simple living, Community, and Social Justice

Each year, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps East invites each of its participants to hike part of the Appalachian Trail to travel to Dis-Orientation, our closing retreat in August. It’s a great end of the year tradition, but, more importantly, it’s a crucial fundraiser for the JVC. In order to take part, each hiker must raise $500 in support of JVC.

I’m asking for your help in raising this money.

This fundraising effort will help JVC continue its mission to offer the opportunity for people like me to work for justice and peace around the world during a year of service. It helps to defray the cost for our job placements, provide the support we need through retreats and field visits from staff, and cover health insurance expenses. This fundraising not only allows for my experience, but it also allows for agencies like Cristo Rey Jesuit to save around $20,000 a year, money that can go directly to the people we serve.

I’ve had an amazing experience with JVC. It’s allowed me to work at a place like Cristo Rey Jesuit, it’s opened my eyes to the people and issues around me, and it’s introduced me to countless people who are just as passionate as I am about working for social justice.

This experience has shaped who I am, and I’ve been lucky to have the chance to play a part in shaping the lives of the students I teach. Now, I want to make sure that this work continues far after I’ve left JVC.

I know times may be difficult right now, but this is not just an opportunity for you to help only me. I’m also asking you to help future Jesuit Volunteers and, most importantly, the people they will serve.

For my birthday, please consider supporting me, future Jesuit Volunteers, and, most of all, the people we serve through this opportunity. It would really mean a lot!

To donate, CLICK THIS LINK to be taken to the Hike to Dis-O Fundraising Page. From there, click the link shown, then click “Make a Donation”. Select “Donate toward a Team or Individual’s goal” and search for “Thomas O’Keefe”. Select my name, click next, and then fill out the required fields. (I know it seems like a ton of steps, but it’s really very easy!)

You can also send donations to the JVC office at:
801 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Checks should be made out to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps with my name in the Memo section.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at
TomOKeefe1 [@] gmail . com.

Thank you for all of your love and support!



P.S. Special thanks to Mike Schaffer for the idea!

The Sound of What’s Happening.

May 17, 2010


Listen to it.

What do you hear?

The Sounds of Silence

May 11, 2010

I’m a pretty extroverted person. I like talking. I like listening to others. I enjoy sharing conversation and laughter. So, when I learned back in August that JVC would hold a mandatory Ignation (read: Silent) Retreat, I was pretty nervous.

Ignatian Retreats, the longest being 30 days, have been a Jesuit tradition since the order’s early days, and have been a way for people to become closer to God through silent reflection, meditation, discernment, and prayer.

Ours was 40 hours long at the Loyola House of Retreats in Morristown, New Jersey. JVC provided us with various activities including prayer services, an all-night Peace Vigil, meditation, and yoga and resources like spiritual direction, books on personal growth, and prayers, but, otherwise, we were on our own in silence.

Like I said, at first, I was really nervous about spending so much time in silence, but the retreat actually came at the perfect time for me. I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed lately, but I’ve definitely been “whelmed” with community obligations, friends, work, and some big decisions coming regarding my future.

The retreat gave me time to bring God back into my life and my decision-making.

I was able to meet with my spiritual director for the weekend, Toni Moore-Duggan (from Baltimore, incidentally), twice during retreat for help in the best ways to reach out to God and listen. She advised that I think of God as a friend, rather than a judge, within me, who is continually reaching for me, guiding me, and talking to me. After that, praying and talking with God, rather than at or to God, became infinitely easier for me. I began praying out loud and started and ended my conversations with God with a specific prayer. It kept me focused and more able to listen.

Did I come away with all the answers? No. Am I now spiritually enlightened? No. Those things will take some more time to figure out.

I did, however, learn how to bring the G-man into my decisions and my every day- simply by looking, listening, and feeling.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.”

How and where do you hear God? How do you reach out? Have you ever been on a silent retreat before? How was your experience?

April Travels

May 3, 2010

Okay, I’m back. I know I haven’t posted since the very beginning of April, but this year ain’t over and neither is this blog (gosh darnit!).

It’s been a busy month. The winter has quickly turned to spring (or summer if you take into account that it’s currently 80 degrees at 11am as I write this!), and, boy, has it been nice to walk out the door in the morning without a coat!

Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to while away from the blogosphere:

  • After returning to Baltimore from a relaxing Spring/Easter Break at home in Massachusetts, the housemates and I made the trek southward to meet up with the Washington D.C. Jesuit Volunteer communities for a cookout. It was a perfect way to kickoff spring, plus the folks down in D.C. are top notch and a welcoming bunch. (By the way, you should check out their blogs, and other JV blogs, here)
  • On the 12th, we had our monthly dinner with the Wheeler House Jesuit community. As usual, the food was deee-lish, and the company was great. The Jesuits even donated some new kitchen supplies to us. It’s amazing how supportive they’ve been all year!
  • On the weekend beginning on the 16th, Scott, Kelly, and I made an epic, weekend-long journey, hitting southern New Jersey and the Connecticut JV communities in Bridgeport and Hartford. On Friday evening, we stayed at Scott’s family’s house in Pittsgrove, South New Jersey (I had been told that South New Jersey is a totally different state than North New Jersey, and now, I believe it! What beautiful country!). The Donovan’s welcomed us like long, lost sons and daughters and treated us with food (meat!), drink (good beer and soda!), and cable television (in HD!). On Saturday, we drove up to the Bridgeport Community intending only to drop off Kelly and pick up our friends Jeff and Alex to head to Hartford, but, instead, we spent the entire afternoon with the Bridgeport Brigade, and ate some dinner with them. They’re a pretty cool bunch, too! Finally, around 9pm, we arrived in Hartford to celebrate any early Cinco de Mayo with the 7 ladies of Agape House. It seems to be a weird pattern with JV communities, but the women of Agape House were fantastic hosts, and it was great to see them and my favorite Villanova “frienemy”, Karen. Finally, on Sunday, we made the long drive back to Baltimore (but not without a quick pit stop in Pittsgrove for lunch of course!) to begin a new week.

    My greatest of frienemies, Karen.

So, that was my April in a semi-long nutshell.

May should prove to be another busy, but great month. On the docket, I have a Baltimore Tweetup (when you actually meet Twitter friends in real life- weird, I know), a visit to the Philadelphia JV community, our Silent Retreat (yes, complete silence for a weekend), a potential party for our house, Stand Up for Comedy night with CRJ, and, my birthday on the 28th.

Have a great week, everyone, and I’ll see you when I return from Silent Retreat!