New IVC Region Opens in Buffalo, NY
The IVC National Board of Directors voted in September to approve a new IVC Region in Buffalo, NY. This is IVC’s 18th regional office.
“The core leadership team in Buffalo has been working very hard and has demonstrated the commitment to bring the IVC mission there to serve the needs of those in poverty. It takes strong dedication to the mission and faith in the work of the Holy Spirit for a team to bring a new region to life,” states Mary McGinnity, IVC Executive Director. “I want to thank especially Kevin Merriman who spearheaded this effort locally and Tom Ulrich of our national staff for bringing together everything necessary for this launch.”
The inspiration to open an IVC Regional Office in Buffalo began with Kevin Merriman’s experience making the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises at St. Michael’s Jesuit Parish in downtown Buffalo. He thought that participating in an effort to start an IVC Region would serve several needs. “I felt it would fulfill my personal need to live my life in a more meaningful way, that it would serve St. Michael’s parish’s need to provide faith formation and service opportunities to the community, and it would serve the needs of the poor and human service agencies serving them in the greater Buffalo community,” says Merriman.
“I began to share this idea with others, and we have a really dynamic team of professionals and religious working together. In consultation with the IVC National Office, we conducted a needs assessment and gauged the response of local human service organizations. We reached out to a dozen organizations to see if they’d be interested in collaborating with us, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Once it was determined that there was a need for IVC in Buffalo, we began fundraising and working to secure IVC board support,” Merriman describes.
Working in partnership with national staff who provided professional organizing guidance, “how to” materials and on-going support, an eight person core team of committed leaders has been working for over a year to establish IVC Buffalo, first through a feasibility study and then fundraising. To date, IVC Buffalo has the local Jesuit Community’s support, office space in St. Michael’s parish, and signed MOU’s from five agencies who will welcome Ignatian Volunteers. They are now working to recruit Volunteers and to raise funds to hire a Regional Director.
Tim Lafferty on the Core Leadership Team has led efforts to establish relationships with partner agencies where Ignatian Volunteers will serve. Lafferty states, “In general terms there’s a lot of excitement about IVC. The idea that an experienced professional would be available to human services organizations at a minimal cost to help with operations, accounting, fundraising, is very appealing to the organizations. They see it as an opportunity for great returns on their investment. They can improve their operations and back office efficiencies with an Ignatian Volunteer instead of hiring consultants or additional staff. What we bring is the expertise that comes from a career well spent. The organizations’ budgets are tight, and IVC expands their capacity and allows the agency to focus on their mission.”
Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with five organizations –Food Bank of WNY, Buffalo City Mission, Meals on Wheels for Western New York, The NativityMiguel Middle School of Buffalo, and Little Portion Friary. “These organizations are doing the Lord’s work. There are a couple more groups in the wings, but we want to build up our volunteer pool before we recruit more partner agencies,” Lafferty says.
Fr. Benjamin Fiore, SJ, pastor of St. Michael’s Parish, is Chaplain to IVC Buffalo and has been integral in the planning process. He states, “I think IVC is a great initiative and offers people something they can do productively with their years of work experience in retirement. The extra aspect of Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Reflection is such an important and unique part of the program.”
“I was very happy that when I proposed this idea to other Jesuits here, for them to accompany me in support of IVC, I received a very enthusiastic response.” Fiore continues, “It’s very heartening to know that we will have Spiritual Reflectors from Canisius High School and Canisius College ready to work with Ignatian Volunteers. The Provincial is supportive and there is a lot of cooperation among the Jesuit Apostolates here. IVC will fit right in. And while IVC will be housed here at the parish, we have great collaboration with other parishes and the high school and college. This bodes well for the diocese as we work to recruit Volunteers and begin the ministry here.”
“Our core leadership team is very excited that the IVC Board has recognized the work that we’ve done to prepare for this point. We’ve identified the needs in our community and are ready to recruit Ignatian Volunteers to bring IVC’s mission to Buffalo,” Merriman says.
“It’s been a joy to see this develop and grow,” affirms Mary McGinnity. “A new region joining with the other stellar regions will enable IVC to have an even greater impact on poverty in the U.S.! In light of Pope Francis’ on-going call to be servants for and with the poor, what could be better than that?”