Is It the End of a Service Year?

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By Linda Wihl

Friday, May 20th, Gloriajean Wallace, Ignatian Volunteer with the Greater Cincinnati Region, graduated from United Theological Seminary in Dayton with a Masters in Divinity.  Not only did she win a prestigious award but gave the sermon at the Eucharistic Service which began the day of celebration.  Seeing Gloriajean reach this milestone and preach an inspiring sermon really was an Ignatian experience of “setting the world afire!”

That day Mike Slaughter, Pastor of Ginghamsburg Church received a Doctorate of Divinity and gave the commencement speech.  His talk reminded me so much of Pope Francis, it was amazing!  I had purchased one of Mike’s books when I got to the church, an hour and a half early, to “kill time”.  Instead I found it enlivening my spirit!  Mike could be describing Ignatian Volunteers when he writes, “Principled Christian leaders are Kingdom difference makers.  These folks are more than just fans of Jesus; they have made the commitment to follow Jesus in the costly way of the cross.  They have moved beyond volunteerism to a lifestyle of servanthood.   Disciples of Jesus make whole-life commitments to be the hands, feet, and bank accounts of Jesus in the world.  By following Jesus in the way of the cross, a disciple adopts a lifestyle of nonconformity with the values of the world.”

So when I was asked to write this blog to commemorate the “end of the service year” for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, I said “yes” but was conflicted.  Traditionally our service year runs September 1st to June 30th.  And some of the volunteers do have part of the summer off, i.e. those in schools.  But for most of our volunteers service is a lifestyle, the routine may change but the spirit never wains.  I’ve run into a volunteer in a grocery store buying food for a single mom and her children.  We have volunteers who in addition to their IVC service placement take communion and visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the year. I hear from my husband, who works at a nonprofit that is one of our service sites how wonderful it is to have their IVC volunteer contribute her insights to the solution of a concern—yes, even in the summer!  It doesn’t stop when the page of the calendar flips.  They HAVE “moved beyond volunteerism to a lifestyle of servanthood.”

But this is where the topic of Gloriajean’s sermon is important to remember.  Gloriajean is an expert in Aphasia—communication troubles that arise from trauma like strokes, brain injuries (i.e with veterans at the VA Hospital where she serves).  She shared a story about a minister who was so busy taking care of his congregation that he didn’t take time to care for himself.  During his sermon one Sunday, he suffered a stroke and as symptoms appeared a nurse in the congregation diagnosed it and called 911 for help.  He learned the hard way that you can’t be of service to others if you don’t take care of yourself.  She cited Jesus’ examples of self-care: taking time apart to meditate, walking, eating grilled fish instead of fried, spending time with friends, letting go of hurts.  She admonished her classmates to follow in the footsteps of the Master’s self-care.  James Martin, SJ shares, “Ignatius places a surprising emphasis on the need to attend to a ‘proper concern with the preservation of one’s health… The requirements for a healthy life include maintaining a regular schedule, caring for food, clothing, shelter, bodily needs and exercise…to help both the body and spirit’…”

I hope that each of you take care of yourself this summer and always!  You can’t fuel someone else’s tank when your own is running on empty.   Take a vacation when you need it. And as a reminder that retreats are a valuable part of our lifestyle, I love reading Facebook posts, from our Spiritual Animator, Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, SJ. While on retreat “I went to the Nature Center today. A variety of things: rich green of spring grass, dew covered ground webs, rock hopping across streams, the sweep of a meadow. God is good.”

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!”

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