Eileen Byrne Borland
CFET lost one of its greatest champions on Friday, June 9, 2017. Eileen was one of the founders of CFET, a long time member of the Board of Trustees and a fierce protector of the spirit and mission of our small, but powerful, institution. A celebration of life will be held this coming Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 11AM, with visitation with the family beginning at 10AM. All this will take place at Sacred Heart Church, on the corner of S. Broadway and Ferry Ave. in Eileen’s beloved Camden, NJ. There is no doubt that Camden lost a powerful advocate in this brilliant, sharp witted and faith filled woman.
I met Eileen 17 years ago when my wife, Cathy Nevins, and I found our way to the Catholic faith community of Sacred Heart Church in 2000. Cathy had had the pastor, Michael Doyle, as a religion teacher her freshmen year at Camden Catholic HS. She wanted to see what he was doing in Camden, though we had heard already many stories, having been involved in the Heart of Camden, Inc. activities. We quickly learned that Eileen Borland was a mover and shaker at Sacred Heart. She led the Vincent de Paul Society for most of our time. She was very involved in the monthly gathering of neighborhood women. She regularly took charge of a Saturday dinner at Joe’s Place for neighborhood residents. She was a fixture of the sixth pew from the back of Church on Sunday morning at the 10:30AM mass, with her husband John. In a word, Eileen knew everyone, had an idea of how they could contribute to the mission of Sacred Heart Church, and she was convinced that the City of Camden, like a phoenix, would rise again.
Outside of Sacred Heart, Eileen was a long serving member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Family Services in Camden, NJ. This immense organization started out humble, but it stayed true to its core mission, and over the years has become the depository of such community trust that it now oversees multiple programs, touching the lives of thousands of Camden residents. Eileen never stopped speaking in glowing terms of the staff of the Center or its work.
I know Eileen best, however, in our role together in the birthing of CFET. Eileen was the midwife, if I can be bold enough to continue the metaphor (though the pains of birth were real!). Her experience on multiple boards, her knowledge of the community, her connections beyond Camden: these all were indispensable guides in the process for the rest of us who were “newbies” to this kind of adventure. Really, when we met for the first time around the table in the Sacred Heart Rectory back in late fall of 2005, none of us knew what the future held for our baby aspirations! All we knew is that Earth, like Camden City, was calling us to focus efforts on encouraging people, all people, to walk more gently on her soil!
There were many times when Eileen would intervene in particularly idealistic conversations with the question that pulled us back down to earth. There were many times when she helped us to be humble enough to say “no” to financial opportunities for the sake of our mission, and other times when she challenged us to see that a particular opportunity, like taking on the greenhouse and Eve’s Garden, might be just the thing to do to pursue our mission, even though many of us were skeptical. She challenged all of us to reach for the stars, but to always keep our feet firmly planted on Mother Earth.
One of the more memorable conversations I had with Eileen was after a particularly contentious board meeting. I served as the chair of the board for 9 years and as acting Executive Director for 8 of those years. I did some things very well, but was also quite aware that I did some things not so well. After that meeting, after expressing my frustration, Eileen approached me, and looking me straight in the eye, firmly and gently said this: “Mark, you are a good leader; where would we be without you? But I know you can be a great leader; I want you to believe that too.”
In the moment I was not able to respond to her comment with anything other than a nod. I take this moment, far too late, to say to Eileen: “Thank you for your faith in me. Thank you for your faith in all those with whom you came in contact throughout your life. The world is a much better place because you have had a place in it. I am a better person because of you. “
There is no greater tribute to a human being than the recognition that she leaves the world better than she entered it. We will miss Eileen. I will miss Eileen. To her husband John, her daughters, her grandchildren and all her friends: Today is a sad day, the passing of your wife, mom, grandmom, friend. But it is also a day of gratitude, that we had our time with Eileen, and received the blessing of her love, attention and undying belief in us. I hope the gratitude makes the grief a bit easier.
Eileen Byrne Borland, a founder of CFET, a board member of CFET during its entire existence, a friend of many in Camden, has died. May she rest in peace! May God bless her with eternal life!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
CFET, Board of Trustees
Wish List from Farmer Jon
1. several 14 gallon rubbermaid totes with lids
2. any heirloom, open pollenated (not hybrid) vegetable seeds
3. any fruit bushes / berry plants (raspberry, aronia, gooseberry, strawberry, blueberry)
4. A Pop-up tent for our Farmer’s Market