by Mary Fritz
My name is Mary Fritz, and I am a senior at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, N. Y. My sister Maggie and I have been a part of the Troy Chapter of the Junior Ladies of Charity for the past five years, and I can confidently say that being a part of this organization has enhanced my life in ways I never thought imaginable.
I first became involved with the Junior Ladies of Charity (JLOC) in 2010. A neighbor of mine, who at the time was an officer of the group, told my sister and me that we would be great additions to the Junior Ladies of Charity. I was originally hesitant, as I had never heard of the group, and had no idea what to expect. However, upon arriving at our first meeting, I saw how passionate everyone was about their service, and immediately decided that it was something I wanted to pursue.
Since our first meeting as skeptical middle school students, Maggie and I have each taken leadership positions among the group. This year, I was elected President, and my sister was elected Secretary. Our group has remained small over the years, consisting of about twenty-five girls, but I would not want it any other way. My Junior Ladies group has become a second family, and my JLOC friends are some of my closest friends today.
Once a month, usually on a Sunday afternoon, we all come together for a meeting, to discuss future service opportunities, fundraising ideas, and retreats for our group. However, we remain active in the community with our service year round. Some of our most recent acts of service include participating in a Bead For Life Fundraiser directly benefiting the poor women of Uganda, donating Thanksgiving dinners to Sacred Heart Parish of Troy, sending funds to Catholic Sr. Mary Felice working in the Congo, and collecting items such as canned goods, winter coats, and school supplies, to be donated to drives taking place all over the community. We are able to fund these service projects through a number of fundraisers, such as selling raffle tickets for themed gift baskets put together by our group, and by hosting parish bake sales.
One of my favorite events of the year is the Victorian Stroll in Troy, which takes place in early December. Each year, our JLOC group volunteers at the Roarke Center, a Catholic outreach center in downtown Troy, during its Victorian Stroll event. The basket seen in the picture is a Movie Night themed basket, and was one of two baskets our group put together for the event. The basket will be raffled off at the Roarke Center, and all of the proceeds will benefit the shelter. Besides the raffle taking place, many people come in to purchase donated and used items as Christmas gifts for their friends and family. This event is a perfect way to get into the true Christmas spirit, by giving our time and efforts to those who are less fortunate.
While service is an extremely significant aspect of our group, the importance of a strong faith is also very much emphasized. The Catholic identity of the group is felt through events such as our May Crowning of Mother Mary, our annual retreat, and by having a number of Catholic speakers come to talk to us about the importance of our faith as young women. One of my favorite traditions is picking our monthly Prayer Partners, which is a practice that the Ladies of Charity in Troy have now adopted. Every month, we draw names randomly out of a box, and the name you pick becomes your Prayer Partner, whom you are responsible for praying for over the course of that month.
The motto of the Junior Ladies of Charity is “To Serve Rather Than Be Served”. This is a phrase that my group has wholeheartedly embodied throughout the years, as we have given of ourselves so generously in service to others. However, I feel that this organization has served me in a number of ways that I never thought possible. Being a Junior Lady of Charity has allowed me to realize the gifts I have been given, and how to use them in a way that will positively impact others. I learned how to become a leader through this organization, and I have gained life skills throughout my time as a Junior Lady that will serve me in all of my future endeavors. My faith has undoubtedly become stronger over the past five years, as surrounding myself with religious role models, like our group’s moderator, Mrs. Kehn, who has provided the perfect environment for my faith to flourish. I have found that by simply giving of my time and talents to someone that needs it, I am able change not only their life, but also my own. I hope that other young women across the country have the opportunity to be a part of a group like this, where your faith can further develop, your talents and gifts can be put to the best of your ability, and you can see firsthand the influence you can have on your community. Service is not a chore; it is not something people my age should feel obligated to do just for a resume or school requirement. Service is something that should not only benefit the community, but also have lasting impacts on those who perform the service, as it has for me.
As I prepare for my last year as a Troy Junior Lady before heading off to college, I feel a huge sense of despair. This organization has been the most influential aspect of my life over the past five years, and it is something that I do not want to lose touch with as I start the next chapter in my life. My hope is that, come the fall, I can become involved with, or even start, a Ladies of Charity group at the place I will call home for the next four years.