Ignatian Volunteer Corps joins service, spirituality

Rebecca Venegoni Tower

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

Service to others is an essential characteristic of Catholic life, and those who follow the Ignatian way dedicate their lives to being "men and women for others." In their efforts, many find the blessings returned in surprising ways.

The Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) offers retired and semi-retired adults an opportunity to serve people in need and grow in their faith through reflection on their work. This year, more than 25 IVC volunteers are contributing to nearly 20 agencies in the St. Louis area, and the numbers are growing, said Maria Rodgers O'Rourke, Ignatian Volunteer Corps-St. Louis director.

"Our partner agencies welcome IVC volunteers because our volunteers are experienced, ready to serve and supported by a community that shares their struggles and successes. The IVC program supports our volunteers in service and faith, and provides our agencies with people who make significant contributions to the mission of the organization," O'Rourke said.

For the IVC volunteer, the program is a blend of experience, service, reflection and spiritual growth.

"I think volunteering has made me more compassionate," said Mike Doherty, tutor at Holy Trinity Catholic School. "A disadvantaged child who I work with each week touches me in ways that are impossible to ignore. It's tapped a side of me that more empathetic than I was before."

Bill Smith, serving at Campus Kitchens at St. Louis University, added, "I've been involved in volunteer work before, but being part of IVC is different. I really like combining spirituality and serving people. Both components are essential, and what I am learning is that I'm doing the work for the glory of God."

In its sixth year of service to the St. Louis region, IVC-St. Louis has more than tripled in size, with Ignatian volunteers helping in grade schools, offering housing assistance, caring for infants and preschoolers, counseling women in transition, working in food pantries and food distribution and doing similar work in other venues.

For the fall 2012 program, volunteer opportunities are available in tutoring students, coordinating volunteers, assisting people in transition, helping people with job searches and training, mentoring middle school and high school students, assisting at preschools and more. An information meeting will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Jesuit Provincial Office, 4511 West Pine Blvd. in Midtown St. Louis. Another meeting for interested volunteers in the St. Charles area will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 17, at Catholic Charities Community Services, 221 Spencer Road, Suite I in St. Peters.

The Ignatian Volunteer Corps is an outreach of the Jesuits of the Missouri Province and is one of 16 IVC programs across the United States, with more than 300 volunteers. IVC volunteers give two days per week of service and meet monthly for prayer and conversation in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality and attend Mass together. Ignatian spirituality is characterized by contemplative prayer, discernment and involvement in service and mission. Spiritual reflectors meet individually with volunteers regularly to discuss their service experiences in light of the Catholic faith.

For more information, contact O'Rourke at (314) 361-7765 or ivcdirector@jesuits-mis.org, or visit ivcusa.org.

This article was provide by Ignatian Volunteer Corps in St. Louis.

Volunteer Corps

Looking for a way to give back in retirement?

The Ignatian Volunteer Corps of St. Louis is a group of retired and semi-retired individuals who volunteer at agencies that serve people who are poor. Currently, nearly 30 IVC volunteers are contributing two days or 16 hours of service per week to 20 agencies throughout the St. Louis area. Volunteers meet monthly for prayer and conversation in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality.

Two information meetings are set:

• Wednesday, May 9, from 2- 3:30 p.m. at the Jesuit Provincial Office, 4511 West Pine Blvd., Midtown St. Louis.

• Thursday, May 17, from 10-11:30 a.m. at Catholic Charities Community Services, 221 Spencer Road, Ste. I, St. Peters.

For more information, email IVCDirector@jesuits-mis.org, call (314) 361-7765 or visit ivcusa.org. 

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