Ignatian Volunteer Louise Wright gave this reflection at IVC Baltimore’s Advent Evening of Gratitude December 2014. She graciously shared it with us for the blog.
The reason I joined IVC is best expressed by one word: Gratitude. I have experienced a life filled with blessings and small miracles—none of which I earned or deserved. I saw the Ignatian Volunteer Corps as an opportunity to return a small portion of the services and kindness faith filled persons had given me generously throughout my life.
I stayed longer than the original one year commitment simply because the need is so great. The Franciscan Center in Baltimore City serves 500 to 700 persons a day, and the number is increasing. People come seeking food, clothing, or help with utility shutoff prevention or help to prevent an eviction. Mothers come for help to obtain a child’s birth certificate so the child may be enrolled in school. Others come for a Maryland state ID, needed to obtain employment after a lengthy illness or incarceration. Still others come because they lack the funds to have a tooth removed, or funds to purchase eyeglasses.
I soon realized that the concrete services provided by the Franciscan Center, and now at my 2nd placement at Catholic Charities Senior Housing, make a real difference in peoples lives. But perhaps even more important than the material goods provided, it is the warm welcoming smiles and the respect for the dignity of those seeking assistance, which are transformative to the least of our brethren. On many occasions I was touched by donors who shared that years ago the Center had been there when they were at a low point in their lives, and it was the volunteer or staff person at the Center who gave them not only financial assistance, but most of all, they gave them hope.
I confess, however, that the main reason I stayed with IVC for the third year is due to what IVC has given me. It is a cliche to say that I’ve received more than I have given. Nevertheless, the cliche is true. IVC helped open my eyes….to see Christ in those most needy brothers and sisters we serve. IVC has helped open my ears to hear more fully the joyous message of the Gospel.
And finally, although I was gifted with over 16 years of Catholic education, I cannot claim to ever having been a “devout” Catholic. (My faith has been tenuous and at times barely present.) The IVC meeting discussions, readings on Ignatian Spirituality, retreats, spiritual reflection, and most especially the example of the lives of fellow volunteers, have helped me see the ways in which Christ comes not only at Christmas and the End of Time. IVC reminds me to be sensitive to the way God comes into our lives all year long in the person of those we serve with joy.