First Steps in SJV

by John O'Connor

After all this recent talk about SJV, some memories come back that I hadn't thought about in 40 years. One of them you might appreciate. I agree it's not the same as Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon, but for me at the time it was nearly the same. I'm talking about being the first kid to step foot into SJV, several months before it was officially opened. What a strange sensation knowing in advance that this would soon be my new home.

I was still living at the "old home" in Englewood Cliffs and one particular weekend, when I was with my sponsor, I had the chance to visit the Village. For some reason I don't think I ever knew, the wife of this couple was involved, along with some nuns, in organizing things at the Village, and she had to attend a meeting there. She took me and told me this would soon be my new home, but that I wasn't to tell anybody back at the old home about it, since it had not been announced yet.

Seeing as the adults needed to have their meeting and I was just an eight-year-old who wanted to explore, they let me have free run of the place for about half an hour. And run I did! I ran the main corridor literally from the girl's cottages to the boy's, trying to hit every ceiling beam along the way. I was too short, though, to reach any but a few in one section that was lower than the others, but it didn't matter. I was leaping with joy at the freedom and adventure in this new place, and knowing I had what I believed was a great secret! On the way back I walked and explored, checking out the dorms, the gym, the school, the cafeteria, all the way up to the infirmary.

It was a strange and exhilarating sensation to feel like I was doing something special. Later, keeping the secret was hard but harder still, I remember, was the day the official move took place, when on entering the grounds and looking out the bus window along with all the other boys, I had to pretend I was seeing it all for the first time.

This article originally appeared on the former stjosephsvillage.com website.