by Michael P. McGillicuddy, LCSW Profiles in Catholicism
This brief paper reflects on the experience of one retiree as an Ignatian Volunteer.
The reigning impression is that workers can’t wait to retire from formal employment so as to engage in other, more satisfying pursuits such as travel, grandparenting, and well-earned relaxation. I have no doubt that this profile fits the bill for many ‘seniors’ but there is another profile that is more common than you might think: retirement characterized by volunteerism very much akin to part-time employment…but without pay.
I loved the variety of opportunities afforded to me over my working years, first as a teacher, then as a Federal employee, a Certified Financial Planner, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Each offered formidable challenges, the prospect of making solid contributions, and the occasion for connecting deeply with colleagues and clients. In anxious anticipation of the day when retirement from paid employment would finally occur, I read a blurb in my parish bulletin about an introductory meeting for prospective members of IVC, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. The briefing included a presentation by IVC volunteer Sue Carsello, a friend and coworker dating back to the mid-1980s. She shared her experiences as an Ignatian Volunteer…service, community, and faith formation. Sue’s testimony resonated deeply within me. I eagerly applied for IVC affiliation and was accepted. Now, more than eight years later, I can honestly report that this was one life decision I got right. IVC affiliation is a core part of my identity.
Nationally, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps is a lay Catholic organization that animates the expertise of individuals over 50 who have the passion and commitment to direct their attention to issues impacting our world. Volunteers devote time, typically two days per week between September and June, to give back and make a difference within marginalized communities. We seek to be servant leaders. That is, we offer our life experiences and skills to churches, schools, and nonprofit organizations as resources but in the role of servants rather than as paid staff. Many organizations in struggling communities find these contributions vital.
Our service is sustained by the community we create among ourselves as well as by our commitment to Ignatian spirituality. In seeking God in each person we encounter, especially ‘the least of these’, we bring our stories back to one another in community to reflect, enrich, each, and learn. In addition to our direct service, we meet monthly for mass and a day of recollection.
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps is comprised of 20 regions in 18 states and the District of Columbia. More than 600 volunteers serve over 300 organizations in person or virtually. The Chicago Region’s contingent is the nation’s largest, with 70 members and approximately equal numbers of women and men. Two Jesuit priests serve as our chaplains. Each volunteer is assigned a spiritual reflector trained in Ignatian Spirituality. We conclude each service year with a retreat at Bellarmine Retreat House in Barrington.
Some IVC volunteers seek service experiences distinct from their pre-retirement careers; others seek service in continuity with their professions. My personal experiences as a volunteer social worker have been profoundly rewarding. Initially I served as a counselor in an immigrant social service center. Currently I serve as an instructor and group facilitator in a jail. These experiences have been among the richest and most rewarding of my professional career. I am convinced that we Ignatian Volunteers are having a transformative impact in the communities we serve…and on each other in the IVC community we build.
Interested in hearing more about IVC? I urge you to explore the IVC national website, https://ivcusa.org, or the Chicago website, https://ivcusa.org/ivc-offices/welcome-to-ivc-chicago/. Chicago Regional Director Tom Galvin may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630.290.3857.
Aside: a virtual IVC introduction hosted by James Martin, SJ, is scheduled for March 21st. Information is available at this link: https://ivcusa.org/info/.