I have been a coordinator of volunteers since the age of eighteen; that’s 43 years! I have seen how vital volunteers are to the functioning of churches, agencies, hospitals, even government. The safety net provided by volunteers strengthens our society and not only benefits those directly served, but all who live in communities enriched by their service. As good of a job I always thought I did in volunteer coordination, these last two years have seen exponential growth in my abilities and that’s because of IVC.
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps provides what Henri Nouwen says we all long for: compassion, community and contemplation. Our volunteers offer compassionate service with others, share in the communities of the nonprofits and the IVC community during monthly gatherings, and are called to reflect on their service in the Ignatian tradition. The Spiritual Direction component enriches the lives of volunteers in ways no volunteer support I provided ever could.
Raising money for spiritual purposes, especially for volunteers, at first glance, seems like an oxymoron. “Why do you need to raise money for volunteers? Isn’t volunteering supposed to be free?” That’s a common refrain when we talk about the need for funding for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. The material reality is there are expenses to pay, the Regional Director’s salary, the spiritual reflectors’ fees, the retreat facility, the retreat director, the food, the books and so on The spiritual reality is that great things are being done for and with the poor of our community through the generosity of our volunteers. And without the support of IVC, nurturing those who nurture others, there is another form of poverty, poverty of spirit that drains those who give till there is no more to give. The poverty of spirit can be more dehumanizing than material poverty. Inviting others to empower our work through financial support isn’t just a request for money; it’s an invitation to purposefulness, to be a part of our community, to reflect on what God is doing through and with us! “When we ask people for money to strengthen or expand the work of the Kingdom, we are also inviting them into a new spiritual communion.” Henri Nouwen.
One minister I once worked for shared a story about a woman who gave generously to the church. When her husband died, her resources became more limited and friends of hers asked him to let her know that she was no longer expected to give to the church at previous levels. When he approached her she scolded him, “Honey, I give with a spoon and God gives with a shovel!” When our fists are clenched to giving there is no openness to receive as well.
I once heard a priest speak about the gospel on the “widow’s mite”. He said, “There are three kinds of givers: grudge givers, duty givers and thanks givers.” In the last two years I’ve put in thousands of my own dollars to support the work we do and it is out of gratitude for being blessed to be with the women and men of IVC who witness God’s love for them and spread that love to others. I have been blessed and want to bless others! So in this season of giving, I invite others to share in the blessing; many of you have already. Thank you for your generosity in so many ways!
If you choose, you can make a donation to IVC here.
Henri Nouwen’s Spirituality of Fundraising https://www.gcx.org/LynnFamily/files/2013/07/Spirituality-Of-Fundraising.pdf
Fortune Magazine’s Article on Pope Francis’ fiscal responsibility http://fortune.com/2014/08/14/this-pope-means-business/
Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”). As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor. Her favorite title is “grandma!”