Ignatian Volunteer Corps brings spiritual dimension to service

A group of retired employees from the State Street Corporation work with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps to furnish an apartment for homeless elderly May 22. Pilot photo/Courtesy Cristina Nelson

DORCHESTER -- There are many organizations that provide people with opportunities to use their lifetime of experience to give back to others, but the Ignatian Volunteer Corps provides something many others do not -- the opportunity for spiritual growth.

Jesuit Fathers Jim Conroy and Charles Costello created the IVC in 1995 to allow retired or mature men and women the chance to use their experience in ministry. The priests combined the principle of direct service to the poor with a process of faith-based reflection rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Before joining the IVC, Cristina Nelson used her doctorate in history to teach as an adjunct professor for more than 12 years. She said she began to feel "burnt out" with that line of work and took time off to make a transition away from the frontlines of education.

"I needed a break. The Ignatian Volunteer Corps was suggested to me as a way to do good work and also as a spiritual practice, which is important to me," she said.

Nelson interviewed with five different organizations before she found a place to serve with New England IVC.

"I interviewed at each one of them, and they interviewed me," she said.

She found a fit with a Boston organization called Hearth, which provides housing for the elderly homeless.

"Hearth stood out to me because of its mission to help the most vulnerable population. All of the other sites did also help vulnerable populations, but this really resonated with me," she said.

She said that created two-way sense of familiarity between her and the organization.

Nelson soon took up her work fundraising for Hearth's Adopt-a-Room campaign for their new Olmstead Green residence in Dorchester.

In her role with Hearth, Nelson coordinates with donors to furnish each of the rooms at the facility with furniture, decorations, and some basic necessities.

Nelson said the goal is to create individual living spaces that can become a home for residents.

When three weeks ago Nelson was showing potential donors from St. Ignatius of Loyola in Chestnut Hill the rooms, one of Hearth's clients joined the group.

"He had just signed his lease and wanted to take a look at the building," she said.

Nelson welcomed him to the tour, but while they were looking at one of the rooms furnished by the Hearth board of directors, the man began crying.

"I asked him if he was OK," she said.

The man described a list of losses in his life that brought him to homelessness. An immigrant, with no job and no family, he had nowhere to go when his health failed him.

The sight of the furnishings and the care extended to him had moved him to tears.

"The last thing he said to me was 'God bless America,'" she said.

Nelson will complete her time with the IVC in June, but said the experience has enriched her life.

"I have enjoyed the Adopt-a-Room program immensely. I will be real sad to leave, to tell you the truth," she said.

Nelson plans to pursue an administrative position in higher education, as she returns to the working world.

The New England IVC helps the poor while providing a meaningful spiritual experience for volunteers, as part of its core mission.

"The mission is basically to get men and women with gifts, talents, skills and life experience to put those at the service of people who are materially poor or marginalized in society," regional director Dave Hinchen said.

Hinchen said the growth in Catholic values and reflection on their service are an important part of the volunteer experience.

"The needs of the poor bring them back to reflection on their own faith. They do that together in a community kind of way so that there is also a building of faith community going on at the same time," Hinchen said.

IVC collaborates with other organizations in pursuit of opportunities for retired and mature volunteers to serve, so the regional director works on a person-to-person basis to find the right fit for each volunteer.

Sometimes this means volunteers interview at multiple locations before starting their work. After making sure that the organizations they work with share the values of the IVC, Hinchen sets up meeting and interviews for the IVC volunteers with potential work sites.

"We do not just assign somebody to a place without them meeting one another ahead of time. They have to interview. The agency has to say, 'This person would be good here.' The person who is going to be the volunteer wants to make sure that this is someplace that she or he is going feel comfortable in and be able to give," Hinchen said.

Once the individual finds a site, they undertake their volunteer work in the spirit of IVC ministry.

The IVC ministry has its roots in the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish knight who underwent a conversion after being wounded in battle in 1521, swore off military life to devote his life to God, and started the Society of Jesus -- the Jesuits -- as approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.

The ten-month, two-day-a-week commitment includes keeping a journal and a regular schedule of spiritual reflection with a peer called a "reflector." The commitment also includes an overnight retreat, and monthly meetings with groups of volunteers.

Hinchen said with that level of commitment put forth by volunteers, the IVC makes an effort to make sure volunteers end up working in a place which nurtures the spirit of community, even allowing volunteers to suggest new places to place volunteers.

"For the most part, we have those lined up before the applicants come in, but we are always looking for new places to put volunteers," Hinchen said.

According to the organization's website, most IVC volunteers are over age 50. The New England branch is in its third year, and has 15 volunteers currently serving.

Hinchen stressed the importance of the idea that service with the IVC requires serious commitment.

"Sometimes people call me up and they are hoping they can work an hour or two in their neighborhood or something, and with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps it is not that simple. It is a substantial commitment of time and self," he said.

More information on the program is available at www.ivcusa.org/ivc-offices/welcome-to-ivc-new-england.

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...