Before I joined the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in August, the phrase “finding God in all things” was foreign to me. Even though I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools and taught Religious Education in my parish for many, many years, the belief that St. Ignatius held was not part of my spiritual framework. Now, as a member of IVC and with my work at the Ignatian Spirituality Project, “finding God in all things” has become a way of life for me.
It all started as a whirlwind in August of 2012, when a friend called to tell me about IVC. We had both been talking about finding something worthwhile to do with our extra time and this organization seemed promising. I called the IVC office that afternoon, talked to Christine Curran, who told me the last informational meeting of the year was the next morning. I made it to the meeting the next day and after hearing two of the current members talk about the work they were doing, I decided IVC was where I belonged. I scheduled an interview for the next week and found my placement at the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) just one week later. In a matter of two weeks, I went from having no knowledge of the IVC program to having a ministry position–Chicago Women’s Retreat Coordinator. When I look back, I can see that God was working through everyone and everything around me to lead me to ISP.
The Ignatian Spirituality Project is a program designed to use the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in adapted form for homeless men and women. In essence, ISP offers overnight and one-day retreats to homeless men and women in recovery to help them find meaning and purpose as they reclaim their lives. Those words became crystal clear to me on the first and second weekends because I was fortunate enough to attend two different ISP retreats. I certainly found God in all things during those weekends.
God was there in the tales that the women told of their addictions, their lives on the streets or in prison, and their eventual roads toward recovery. One thing that struck me immediately is the faith that these women have. They aren’t sour and bitter. They don’t blame anyone else for their problems. They take full responsibility for their lives and they have faith that God is walking with them step by step. They are grateful for what they have been given and for the opportunity to attend a retreat and to continue their recovery. I found God in each and every one of them.
Another place I find God is with the wonderful people I work with at ISP and with the dozens of amazing volunteers who give their time and talent to make these retreats so successful. I have never had the privilege of working with such passionate people and I am humbled to be among them. I see God in all of them because they are doing what they love, with devotion and conviction, never asking anything for themselves. They bring the light of God’s love to the organization and I am blessed to work with them.
“Finding God in all things” is something that I now ponder every day. I’ve found that it’s not hard to find God’s hand everywhere. His loving presence is all around me and my experience with IVC and ISP has cemented that belief. I will be forever grateful that He has led me down this path.
Jan is the Chicago Women’s Retreat Coordinator for the Ignatian Spirituality Project. Jan is a former elementary school teacher and before joining ISP she spent many years as a stay at home mom and community volunteer. After the last of her four children graduated from college, she decided to become more actively involved in regular volunteerism and that led her to IVC.