When I first heard about the IVC, it was in 2002 in the context of Pastoral Formation Institute, a diocesan school for lay people on Long Island, NY. One of the IVC members was traveling a great distance to a school in Brooklyn, and she wanted to know if there were any service opportunities closer to home. Three of us sat down and came up with a plan that resulted in the Long Island Chapter of IVC. There are plenty of financially needy people here, and they are now benefiting from the gentle and loving presence of IVC volunteers.
What really touched me was the eagerness with which the retired business people, teachers and other older workers embraced a life of service to those in need. I listened while those serving spoke of being touched and changed by those they serve. I see God as very mutual, co-creator, and this model of mutual benefit through loving service certainly fit my relationship with God.
In my own personal service, I run support groups for women in need, in English and Spanish. It has been truly gratifying and enriching to my life, and I have come to love the women and their families. IVC gives me a place to process my feelings and my experience of God in the midst of my volunteer service.
I really get a lot out of the retreats, spending time with other volunteers from all over the NY area, and from all over the east coast. The presenters are always in tune with our mission and ministry, connecting us to Jesus and the mission we are given by him, to God’s love and omnipresence “in all things”, and connecting us with the Jesuit ways of praying and thinking.
Monthly connection with a spiritual director helps to keep the focus on God’s ongoing call and presence in every day, every effort at service.
One of the things I did in my ministry was to organize a bilingual retreat, “We are God’s work of art”. Many of the women I serve attended and shared with women from more affluent lifestyles. There was a deep connection and mutual respect. The women brought their children, and the bilingual presenter was very sensitive to all of their needs. Each woman made a clay work of art and shared her journey with God and with one another. I am sharing the story of one of the women with her permission.
This Mexican woman, mother of 5 boys, came to the retreat after a difficult night with her youngest at the hospital with fever. Her figure is a woman that God made, but God didn’t make her perfect. She asked God why the person wasn’t perfect and God said that no one is perfect. She asked “what is that by her eyes?” God said, “I made her able to cry. She can cry when she is happy, or sad. She can cry with all of the emotions. She needs to be able to feel everything.”
She explained that she felt she had her own change of heart. She used to be cold or indifferent, and now she has compassion for everyone and is always helping others.
Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector who is also the volunteer Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY. She is a pediatric home care nurse, and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.