From 1985-2022, 183 Jesuit Volunteers served with JVC in the city of Camden.
Entering the 2022-23 Program Year, JVC paused our presence in Camden, but we are hopeful to return when our JV numbers increase.
Out of gratitude for the service of our Camden FJVs and the wider JVC community that has supported them, we have set aside this space for reflections, photos, and tributes in celebration of Lillian Santiago House.
If you have a story or photo from your time in the Camden community, please email email@example.com to add it to this page!
While Camden isn't the most attractive city to an applicant at first glance, the community of FJVs who served there is a unique one. It's almost impossible to come out of serving in a city that's regularly on the list for poorest and most dangerous cities in the US, not having been affected by the immense resilience of its community and the deep self-reflection required to live there for a year or two as a JV. It doesn't offer the fame of Homeboy in LA, beaches to retreat to in San Diego, exciting free events in NYC, or the quaint cobblestoned downtown of Portland, ME. But the realities of Camden's historic oppression offer JVs no other choice than to face the brutal realities of inequality in America on a daily basis. I was constantly humbled by my neighbors and community leaders in Camden and my time there rooted me forever in the vital nature of trauma-informed care and a person-first lens. An experience, I know from meeting many Camden FJVs, is not unique to me. Walt Whitman once wrote of Camden (the place he spent his last days), "I dreamed in a dream, I saw a City Invincible..." a sentiment I know the greater Camden FJV community shares.
- Katy Caldwell (Camden, NJ 2012-13)
Though this year was heavily impacted by Covid (several quarantines, positive cases, scares, etc.), we--and I think I can speak for the rest of my housemates--still had a really positive experience in Camden.
In fact, I would say that due to Covid restrictions, we probably spent more time in our house on Vine Street, hanging out with each other than we otherwise might have. As a result, I have so many special memories in Camden and in the JV house specifically, it's hard to separate just a few. Time with each other (and with JVs of the past watching over us in picture form) around the dining room table and in the living room was probably the most special of all.
The Camden House, as with all the other closed and still operating JV houses, echoed with so much laughter, so many tears and so many thoughtful conversations over the years. JV houses in general are such special places, and I'm grateful to have spent 2 years of my life in one.
- Liam O'Toole (Camden, NJ 2020-21 | Detroit, MI 2021-22)
This JVC community and Camden will always hold a special place in my heart. The memories still hold strong decades later- the laughter, the tears, the support, the love. And then there was the smells of the city, the moments of what were we thinking, and nods from the locals who hung out on our stoop guarding our home since we were “good people with the church.” Living out your faith on daily basis was never so challenging and yet spiritually rewarding.
Cheers to Camden the Beautiful ❤️
- Kristin Engel (Camden, NJ 1996-97)
We are so grateful for the individuals who have shared their memories of the Camden community with us. If you would like to share a photo or reflection from your time with JVC in Camden, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.