Karen Jones finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010 in just under six hours.
Inspired by a friend who was dealing with serious health issues, Jones had joined Run for Vocations, an effort to raise money to support future priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
On Sunday, the Rockville resident will again join Run for Vocations, as captain of a team of 19 from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Rockville. She’ll be walking the 10K race instead of running in the 37th edition of the marathon through the streets of Washington, DC.
“I can’t run six miles,” Jones said.
After Jones completed the 2010 marathon, “I felt a little run down, like I had allergies,” she said. A few months later, on Ash Wednesday 2011, she was hospitalized. She had six liters of fluid drained from her right lung and received an unexpected diagnosis.
Today, Jones is battling Stage 4 cancer.
“They think it’s lung cancer, but can’t find the point of origin,” she said.
Looking back, “I don’t know how I did that marathon without God working through me,” said Jones, who called the run “a strong spiritual experience.”
Today, she uses the experience as inspiration.
“I’m doing great,” she said. “I’m on maintenance chemo right now. I can walk. I can work. There’s so many who are worse off than me.”
When Jones ran in 2010, she carried in her hand a group photo of the seminarians studying to become priests in the archdiocese. Today, one of those seminarians for whom Jones and other Run for Vocations team members were praying as they trained is a member of the first-ever Run for Vocations team at St. Patrick’s.
Fr. Michael Paris, St. Patrick’s parochial vicar, will join Jones and other parishioners on the 10K, which is run simultaneously with the marathon.
In 2010, Jones said, “I was praying for him, not knowing who he was.” When Jones was hospitalized in 2011, an oncologist put her name on a prayer list. Paris was a deacon that year. “So he was praying for me,” Jones said.
The archdiocese’s 2012 Run for Vocations team has 204 participants. Of that group, 28 will run in the full marathon and 176 will participate in the 10K. Seven priests and 10 seminarians are on the team.
Team members running the marathon pledge to raise $500 each. Those running in the 10K pledge to raise $250.
The money is used to cover unexpected expenses for seminarians, such as medical costs, travel expenses in the event of a family emergency and spiritual enrichment opportunities. Last year, the team raised more than $74,000. This year, 74 men are preparing for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Jones said she had raised about $500 by Oct. 12. But her family’s goal is at least $750. This year her sons—Michael, 13, and Mitchell, 11—are running the 10K.
Jones isn’t worried about reaching the fundraising goal.
“People, I know, are going to respond,” she said.
Jones also isn’t worried about the 10K.
“I may not finish it,” she said. “Who knows?”
No matter, she said. “It’s not to run and get a good time.”
Jones said she keeps in mind the church’s “Year of Faith,” which Pope Benedict XVI declared earlier this month as a way for Catholics to rediscover and share their faith.
She is participating the 10K, “to spread my story of faith” and to support seminarians studying to become priests, she said.
“Without our priests we really can’t come together to celebrate the Mass,” she said.
Jones is hopeful for the church’s future—and for her own. One day she’d like to return to the marathon. It's up to God, she said.
“If it’s His will to heal me I’d love to do it again,” she said.
Donations to Run for Vocations can be made at the St. Patrick’s rectory, at 4101 Norbeck Road in Rockville or online at www.dcpriests.org.