Celebrating 20 years…it began with a dream
Betsy Conway, CSJ, Director of Spiritual Life at Regis College, was the founding Director of the New Beginnings Program at Bethany Hill School for 17 years. She reflects on those early days at Bethany Hill and her own gratitude for the risks taken in service of a larger goal.
It began with a dream. And an empty building. Our dream, birthed from God’s dream – care for every kind of neighbor, responding to the needs of the times. A home, the birth of other people’s dreams, dreams they didn’t even know how to have since survival was their goal. Giving birth to a dream is hard work, demands courage and collaboration, God’s grace in abundance, and continuing to push through the pain. The labor pains involved in the birthing of Bethany Hill were perhaps beyond our expectations. The neighbors gathered in fear and sometimes judgment using harsh words and challenging us for changing the tone and value of the neighborhood. This was a dream tested in fire again and again for a long time.
And yet, the people came, carrying their own unique burdens and looking for a safe haven. And we offered with our own growing pains, hope, healing and community. And the miracles began to happen – recovery at last, reunification with family, a personal goal beyond survival. We heard things like, “I’ve never had keys before,” “I used to hear gunshots at night, now I hear crickets” “You believed in me when no one else did” and the most often “Bethany Hill saved my life.”
When the basic needs are met, there is room for the larger goals, the dreams. These came in so many ways – a GED, a year of sobriety, health, a job, literacy, learning English, belonging. We who were witnesses to this began to understand in a new way the healing power of community, of what is made possible when there are opportunities and relationships that empower those with many struggles to achieve things beyond their imaginings. The stories are endless.
My gratitude is boundless for those early dreamers, the ones who risked so much. When I would meet them, I would say the “the dream is coming true.” And to all the Sisters on “the hill” who walked with, prayed with, tutored, celebrated with and were and are neighbor to – you have made this a “holy hill” for so many who say they feel peace as soon as they enter the property. The full circle of this was revealed to me the day I saw one of our Sisters, who was a key force in the dream, sitting at the kitchen table of one of our residents, sharing a cup of tea. They were healing each other. Bethany Hill School is ever widening circles of communion, love of neighbor without distinction, and a living expression of God’s active and inclusive love. It is a dream born of God’s great love for us and our great love for God and all that belongs to God.
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