The Jesuit Spirit in Action

Graduation from Holy Cross, where volunteerism runs high, does not mean leaving the Ignatian call to help others behind. Through the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps, opportunities for lifelong service to the neediest in our communities abound.

Founded 15 years ago by two Jesuit priests, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps is now present in 12 states with more than 270 members. This organization, which welcomes people 55 years and older, is dedicated to helping the materially poor. Working with existing service sites to extend their influence and aid them in helping others, IVC volunteers can be found on the ground at innumerable non-profit service centers, including homeless shelters, food pantries and ESL learning labs. Adhering to the motto “Finding God in All Things,” IVC’s spiritual component is central to the volunteer experience. In order to strive for spiritual development, all of its members take part in journaling, a yearly retreat, individual monthly meetings for spiritual reflection and monthly meetings with fellow corps members. 

With an average volunteer age of 68, IVC offers the opportunity for volunteerism in one’s retirement years. Suzanne Geaney ’76, director of IVC, says: “The most important thing someone can do can happen later in life. Giving to others can be the most meaningful time.”

When asked what it takes to thrive as an IVC volunteer, Brother Steve Jubin, director of the New England region, replied simply “You’re not called to be successful, you’re called to be faithful.” Through his experience working with IVC, Brother Jubin says he is able to tap into a pervasive happiness that comes from volunteering with the poor.

For the recently graduated, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps offers an avenue to serve in the Ignatian spirit. Living right alongside the people they are helping, young people dedicate a year or more to striving for social justice. 

Having spent two years in Chuuk, Micronesia, A.J. Cabrera ’05 looks back fondly on his time volunteering in Jesuit Volunteer International (JVI), a division of JVC. He offers this advice to any Holy Cross student considering the opportunity: “This is the best time to do something that puts you out of your comfort zone. There is no rush at this point in your life.” Similar to IVC, the JVC also places Jesuit spirituality at the center of its organization. According to Cabrera, there are four core values that the experience revolves around: community, social justice, spirituality and simple living. “No matter what you did, you had to live out these four values, and I want to live them out for the rest of my life,” he says. 

When researching different volunteer organizations, Sarah Bernardi ’09 immediately knew that JVC was the right one for her. “Although I could have taken any number of other volunteer positions doing direct service in the community, it was the Ignatian spirituality that drew me to JVC,” she says. “JVC offers me a chance to work directly with marginalized populations and live in a community, while giving me the chance to grow in spirituality and understanding of what it really means to be Catholic.”

The need for IVC and JVC volunteers is now greater than ever as economic woes linger and more people out of work are moving below the poverty line. Brother Jubin gives this advice to any Holy Cross alum thinking about joining one of the Jesuit volunteer groups: “Don’t be afraid, because that’s what holds us back…IVC is the best investment portfolio on the market, because it stays with you for eternity. Invest in your future by giving back to your neighbor.”  —Kristen Rooney ’09