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 were seeking not only concrete ways of ministering to the poor, but also a spirituality in accordance with the vision of Vatican II and Catholic Social Teaching.
Out of their experience came the realization of a shared vision: a program for 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.
Other parameters of the program specified that volunteers would remain in their present living situation, and they would commit to the equivalent of two days’ service each week with people who are materially poor or in organizations that address the structures affecting people who are poor. The volunteers would receive no stipend, and they could renew their commitment annually.
The eleven initial volunteers who joined were attracted to IVC in a variety of ways: through articles and advertisements in Jesuit alumni magazines, parish contacts, lectures, and networking. From a roster of interested agencies and organizations serving the poor, these first volunteers, assisted by IVC directors, would identify a ministry project that utilized their skills, interests, and life experiences.
From this inaugural meeting of two Jesuit directors and eleven lay volunteers, IVC has grown to encompass several Regional chapters across the country with over five hundred volunteers. 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 from his position as the executive director to explore other Jesuit ministries. Since 2002, IVC’s leadership has been served by lay persons 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.
Since 2004, IVC has grown geographically and in the number of volunteers. IVC has added 4 regions during this time, to a total of 19 regions and over 500 volunteers 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 volunteers and the people they serve.
IVC is poised for additional growth in 2017.