Happy New Year!
No, it is not that day we celebrate with champagne and football each January 1. It is the beginning of a new year of service for all IVC regions across the United States and we celebrate a bit differently. First of all, the IVC New Year follows a traditional academic calendar beginning in September and running through June. It does, however, mirror the January 1 celebration as it centers around people gathering together to share a meal and look toward the future with hope. In the case of IVC the celebration includes reflections on what the ensuing months will bring to each volunteer and the people they serve. It is a time of commitment and re-commitment much like the New Year’s resolution many of us make.
The IVC New Year celebrations varied across the country. In St. Louis the volunteers focused on their baptismal vows. At their initial meeting they gathered around the baptismal font, lit the Paschal candle and renewed their baptismal vows, aware that their commitment to service was a distinct and hands-on way to live out their baptismal vows.
In Omaha the New Year was kicked off with a cocktail party that welcomed volunteers, both new and returning, and their spouses, the spiritual reflectors, Advisory Council members and local Jesuits. The collaboration of these groups, each doing their part to bring comfort and hope to others, is what energizes local IVC communities.
More than 60 people from the Baltimore, Northern Virginia and DC/Metro Maryland regions chose to usher in the IVC New Year with a two-day retreat. The theme of the retreat, led by Msgr. Ray East of the Archdiocese of Washington, was “The Church as Servant of the World” which exemplifies well the mission of IVC volunteers.
In Los Angeles, volunteers both returning and new gathered for a day of orientation, reflection and commissioning. Fr. Joe Spieler, SJ and Sr. Pat Krommer, CSJ joined the group to offer their wisdom on the theme of the year: social justice. The volunteers voiced their expectations for the coming year. Over lunch, everyone had a chance to share stories, and the veteran volunteers answered questions posed by new volunteers as they embark on service for the first time in the context of IVC.
Similar celebrations took place across the country as 441 volunteers prepared to move into action in hospitals, homeless shelters, schools, food banks, social service centers, battered women’s shelters and jails, among other sites, to share their lifetime of experience making a difference in the lives of others as well as growing in their own faith as they reflect on their service.
While IVC volunteers are serious-minded, dedicated Christians, they are also fun-loving people who appreciate a good meal and a good party. Cheers to all 16 regions as they begin the New Year with energy and enthusiasm!
Anne Hansen is Regional Director for IVC Los Angeles and has written a column for the Tidings newspaper for many years (nearly 20) – Family Time. She co-authored Culture-Sensitive Ministry (Paulist Press, 2010) and offers workshops and retreats throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.