This post by Ignatian Volunteer Camille Devaney first appeared in IVC Chicago’s Footprints Blog.
I have been at the same volunteer site for four years. Nursing home ministry is not anything I would have chosen. However, at the time when I interviewed, there were very few IVC service options in Lake County. I went to the interview at Most Blessed Trinity Parish not feeling very positive about service in a parish setting. There, I met the pastor who became my mentor. I fell in love at that first meeting. This man worked very long days and was always available to those who needed his help. His dream was to better serve the 4 to 5 nursing homes in the vicinity of Most Blessed Trinity and so my work began… This pastor has since moved on and thankfully, our new pastor has also been very supportive of our nursing home ministry.
Though I joke that it was love at first sight with my IVC mentor, the love affair has really been with those I serve. A few years ago I promised myself that I would bring any nursing home residents who were interested to Mass at least once a month. It started with maybe six or seven but has settled down to about three regulars. One of the regulars, Peter, is a Waukegan resident and does on occasion see his family, primarily on holidays. Driving away after Mass, he thanked me over and over for taking him because the Christmas lights and decorations reminded him of past Christmases with his family. “Camille, at our Xmas dinner my sister always has a small birthday cake and we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, just like my mom did.” I told Peter he and his story revived my Xmas. He is one of my many love affairs with Love, loving saying, “see I loved you first so you can love one another.”
At another nursing home, I fell in love again. A woman with no family in the area, Catherine, is 86 and a widow. Her one adopted daughter died of sickle cell anemia a few months ago. Catherine was in one home while her daughter dying in another. I told Catherine I was adopting her and so I did figuratively. So, like my own kids when we have holiday meals or friends over, I bring Catherine any special leftover food and dessert. The smile on her face is worth every extra trip.
Falling in love is dangerous because it gives and gives even when at times it hurts to see how little some have and how little it takes to make someone happy. How blessed I am for my first mentor who believed these poor men and women on Medicaid and permanent disability deserve the best. We can all find and see God in worship before the beautiful gold tabernacles in our parishes but you can’t fall in love until you meet a Peter or a Catherine.
Ignatian spirituality tells us we find God in all things and all places. I think it is more appropriate for me to say I do what I said yes to and God finds me, over and over. His will becomes clear. He became like us so we can be more like Him and He will always be there with us and in us. In our day to day interactions, Teresa of Avila’s saying becomes very real.
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
For me, IVC is the best possible “Match.com” with so many opportunities to love and be loved.
Camille Devaney is an Ignatian Volunteer in Chicago. She retired from Abbott Laboratories four years ago, where she worked as a scientist in manufacturing with the last ten years mainly in Europe. Camille met the Jesuits at 17 as a student at Marquette, which she describes as “the beginning of my road in Ignatian spirituality or as they often say, ‘being ruined for life’ “. She is the mother of three sons and three grandchildren.