ICSA Today, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2011
Profiles On …
Edited By Mary O’Connell
Judy Pardon is living the life she always wanted. “My ultimate desire was to help others change their lives for the better,” she says. Judy is Associate Director of MeadowHaven, a long-term rehabilitation center for people who have survived the trauma of cults.
As a young teacher, Judy became aware of the problem extremist and destructive groups caused. She educated herself about the issue, and, spurred to help, became involved. She earned a Master’s in Counseling and eventually became a founding member of the New England Institute for Religious Research.
Side by side with her husband, Robert Pardon, Executive Director of MeadowHaven, she helped found the center, working on the renovation of the building, along with many volunteers. What MeadowHaven is meant to provide for its residents is sanctuary, a place to rest and recover. For Judy, one of the saddest things is that people are abused “in the name of God. Their experience of God has been tainted.” The center is non-denominational. Judy explains, “We never ‘preach....’ I simply live my life as a Christian before them and pray that they gain a different understanding of God.”
As a little girl growing up in Watertown, Massachusetts (until age 14), Judy’s grandmother was a tremendous inspiration: “She lost her sight in her early 20s to retinitis pigmentosa. From an early age I watched her function without sight and with a grateful attitude and real joy in her heart....Her faith was her bedrock, and, because of her influence, it became mine as well. She died at 92 and her legacy will always be with me....I strive to live my life in such a way that I will be an example to my own family as my grandmother was to me.”
Judy’s family consists of her husband, Bob, three children: Christine, 47, Caron, 46, David, 43; two stepchildren: Traci, 25, Becki, 22; three grandchildren: ages 24, 23, 22; two stepgrandchildren: ages 24, 23, 22; three step great grandchildren: ages 5, 2, and 1 month. And the family shares their life and work with Cooper, a cairn terrier, who is a therapy dog and reports for duty at MeadowHaven every day. Mrs. Pardon enjoys gardening, cooking, and reading, and, when time allows, knitting and crocheting.
After so many years’ experience with former cult members, Judy’s advice is that “their experience in the group was not all ‘bad.’” At MeadowHaven, “Part of the healing process is to sort out what they want to keep from their experience and what they want to throw away. They will gain the categories with which they are able to make such assessments and then they will be able to help others to heal as well.” One of the things that Judy admires most about ex-cult members is their perseverance, loyalty, and commitment.
Judy Pardon loves her life. “We have had so many incredible moments.... We are so blessed.”