Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

History of the IVC

In September 1995, two Jesuit priests, Jim Conroy, S.J. and Charlie Costello, S.J., gathered a small group of retired men and women to form the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC), an organization that combines service to the poor with a unique process of spiritual reflection.

For Jim Conroy, S.J., the seeds for this initiative were sown when he was Novice Director at Wernersville, PA in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. For Charlie Costello, S.J., they were in his long experience working with Jesuit secondary school faculties across the country. They found that both teachers and parents of young Jesuits sought concrete ways of serving the poor and opportunities to build community and grow spiritually.

Out of their experience came the realization of a shared vision: a program for retired and semi-retired women and men, age 50 and over, with two major components: ministry to the poor and reflection on that ministry. Drawing on their Jesuit tradition, Conroy and Costello designed a unique process of Spiritual Reflection that includes keeping a journal, engaging in one-to-one spiritual conversations, participating in a group reflection process, and attending a series of short retreats each year. The reflection process would, in effect, transform a volunteer’s activity from service into mission, thus setting IVC apart from other volunteer programs. Those who volunteer through IVC serve as members of a robust corps throughout the country.

From this inaugural meeting of two Jesuit directors and eleven lay service corps members, IVC has grown to encompass several regional chapters across the country, with close to 600 corps members serving at over 300 social service nonprofit partner agencies. Headquartered in Baltimore, MD, IVC is presently served by a Board of Directors and is administered by a National Staff, Regional Directors, and Spiritual Reflectors.

In 2002, IVC co-founder Jim Conroy resigned as the executive director to explore other Jesuit ministries. Since 2002, IVC has been led by laypersons with a commitment to Ignatian Spirituality and in the spirit of Jesuit-lay collaboration.

In 2003, IVC co-founder Charlie Costello moved to an assisted living facility due to ill health. On October 29, 2004, Charlie was called home to God. Yet the vision he and Jim shared over twelve years ago lives on in the spirit and works of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.

During the leadership of Frs. Conroy and Costello, IVC grew to include programs in New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Minneapolis. Since 2004, IVC has grown geographically and in the number of corps members. IVC has nearly 600 members across the country.

In 2010, IVC’s Board voted to initiate a major organizational transition towards greater responsibility, ownership, and sustainability at the regional level. This shift recognizes that the strength and the future growth of IVC lies in the relationships that form at the local level between IVC and the service sites and between the corps members and the people they serve.

In 2018, IVC’s Board announced a major fundraising effort to support crucial capacity building at the national and regional levels. The Ignite! Campaign set a goal of $3,000,000 and has been implemented in about half of the regions.

In 2019, IVC initiated a new major initiative, the Currie Alumni Partnership for Service (CAPS). The program is named for Fr. Charlie Currie, SJ, who was a tireless supporter of IVC and service of the poor by Jesuits and alumni of Jesuit colleges and universities. The pilot program at five Jesuit universities (The College of the Holy Cross, LeMoyne College, Loyola University Maryland, Marquette University, and The University of Scranton) was a huge success. IVC now works with the alumni associations of Jesuit colleges, universities, secondary schools, and other programs to recruit new service corps members.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, like all of society, IVC faced serious challenges but pivoted to meet the new and continued needs of people living on the margins. IVC launched a “virtual” region. With the explosion of electronic communications tools, IVC recruited generous service corps members who matched with nonprofit partners virtually. The success of this program may allow for growth into areas that do not have sufficient nonprofit activity to warrant a full regional program.

IVC is posed for additional growth throughout the 2020s. The Board of Directors is developing a Strategic Plan that will serve as a roadmap for future infrastructural and programmatic growth.