Monthly Reflections

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November 2019

How Do We Read and Hear and See the News?

by Don Gimbel, IVC Volunteer


I recently met with my reflector, Fr. Mark Henninger, and we got on the subject of “How, or with what lenses, do we view the news as we listen to the radio, watch TV, read newspapers or magazines, or surf the internet?”  We decided to each think about and come up with suggestions. These are my thoughts


When looking at events and actions of individuals, local, state, and national governments, and other groups and organizations in the domestic political realm, consider the following:

  • Look through God’s eyes. Does it build or block God’s kingdom on earth (as in the Our Father)?*
  • Who is helped? Who is hurt?*
  • How does it affect the poor and marginalized?
  • Does it help or harm individuals, groups or society as a whole?
  • Will it lead to greater good or bad?
  • Does it serve or detract from the common good?*
  • What virtues or vices are on display, if any?
  • Does it foster peace and fraternity or dissension and conflict?
  • Are we our brothers’ keeper?
  • What Gospel values are advanced, ignored or gone against?
  • What is realistically possible?
  • Should this lead to any action on my part?*

Looking at events and actions in the international realm:

  • Are we our brothers’ keeper in the international realm and if so, to what extent?
  • All of the above from the domestic realm.

*If you have limited time, I suggest focusing on these questions.

When we see people who are hurt and suffering, whether it be from natural disaster, accident, sickness, disease or sin by another person, group of people or nations, consider the following:

  • Pray that they know God’s love, that God sends people to alleviate their suffering, and to the human extent possible, that action be taken so that it not happen again to anyone.
  • Should this lead to any action on my part?

October 2019

Going In: A Story from the Kolbe House Jail Ministry

by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus

Two years ago, I was an Ignatian Volunteer Corps member, beginning my service at Kolbe House Jail Ministry.  Through Kolbe House, I would visit detainees at Cook County Jail. Cook County Jail has two primary categories of detainees.  In the first category are those charged with a serious crime and awaiting trial. These detainees cannot make bail. The second category are those who have been convicted of a crime and have less than one year to serve to complete their sentence.  Once convicted, if their sentence is over one year, they will be sent to one of the 24 (yes, 24) prisons in Illinois.

Most of the jail population is composed of African American and Latino males.  Black males make up 6% of Illinois’ population yet they represent 60% of the total prison population.  When I began my service at Kolbe House, the jail was huge, with over 7,000 detainees, and grim.

On that first day, I was visiting with Fr. Mark Bartosic, then director of Kolbe House (and now a bishop) and Brother Jay, a Franciscan doing an internship with Kolbe House.  They were going to lead a bilingual bible study and I was tagging along to observe.

We went through one level of security and waited.  We went through a second security check and waited. Finally, we got into a lower level tunnel system and walked and walked and walked. We were headed towards a maximum-security section of the jail.  There were no signs to indicate which way to go.  It was explained to me that in the event of an attempted breakout, the jail administration did not want to assist a detainee in any way.

We got to the maximum-security section and Fr. Mark yelled “gas!” One second later, my throat began to burn, and I started to cough.  I learned that minutes earlier, officers used gas to neutralize one or more detainees.

We did not get our own space for bible study; instead, we held it in an open space in the cell block where other detainees were playing cards and chess and socializing.  There was a high level of noise and we struggled with our meeting.  I never felt in danger since there were many officers around us.  However, I did feel the pent-up anger.  The environment was less than relaxing.

We finished our meeting and made our way out through the various check points.  As we reach the street, I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief.  I had gotten out.  I thought to myself, “what a water.  How have we allowed our society to get to such a point?  The United States has 6% of the world’s population yet we are responsible for 21% of all prisoners.”

Things are starting to get better, but improvement is slow.  So, what is to be done?  What can we do? Will it make a difference?

Since I first visited the jail two years ago, the population has been reduced to about 5,500 detainees because of changes in the bonding requirements.  This has allowed judges to be more liberal.  In certain cases, detainees can not be released with little or no bail.

This year, I am no longer an IVC volunteer, but I continue to visit the detainees.  We now provide prayer circles where we gather in small groups, hold hands, and pray out loud. These groups have proven to be very popular.  We do 10 or 11 circles during each visit with between 80 and 100 detainee participants.

I am very hopeful for the future.  As Pope Francis said about hope, “it is very important because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints but hope does not.”

September 2019

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

by Maureen Kennedy Barney, IVC volunteer

As we finish a summer of relaxation, hot sunny days, walks on the beach, brilliant sunrises and breath taking sunsets it takes some transition to move into the cooler, crisp days of fall, the shorter days, the regularity so absent in the summer; but, with the transition comes a sense of structure, a sense of readying for those shorter days and a more urgent sense to prepare.

In this passage so familiar to all of us, I see a parallel to what each person here today is approaching. The harvest…and for any Midwesterner, the urgency need not be explained….but the labor involved is one most of us have not experienced personally.  The harvest requires many hands, many laborers.  And as IVC prepares for a much deeper harvest in the work ahead, as laborers we need to spend time reflecting on what we will do as we move to the “fields” of Chicago as laborers for the Lord and his message to those we will serve.

If Jesus sees the world as a garden…an image we’ve so often heard… then he indeed is the gardener preparing the fields and gathering us, the laborers.  Ignatian Spirituality Program, Cook County Hospital, Trinity Volunteer Corps at Old St Pat’s, Cristo Rey, and on and on…the places we’ll serve. And the kind of laborer we’ll be does, I believe, grow from the way we see and understand Jesus and the type of gardener he is.

Some may see Jesus as efficient, results oriented, careful that the garden is always healthy, meticulously tended.  The weaker plants plucked and discarded, uprooted and abandoned.  Yet others see him as one who shows care and tenderness for all, for the weaker plants especially so that they might become healthy, thrive and bear fruit. Just as we see in the parable of Weeds and the Wheat where the weeds sown are allowed to remain. This gardener has what I call the more “gentle” heart.  Whichever gardener we identify with God will have real consequences in the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, the way we see God and the way we’ll see the people we’ve been called to serve this year.

I believe that the second type of gardener, the compassionate and tenderhearted one, is the more accurate way of describing Jesus.  To say that he takes a preferential approach to the weak seems fitting as we see him spending time with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors during his time on earth. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one who leaves the 99 to seek out the one who is lost.

God does not leave the weak and sinful behind.  Yes, he sees the world as a harvest, but he does not uproot those who appear lost; he tries to recuperate, to heal and to strengthen them instead.

And what then is our challenge?  Our challenge is to work with Jesus, to be his hands and his voice in the streets of Chicago.  Jesus wants us to care for the weak, the sorrowful, the forgotten, the ones discarded by society’s definition of success.  He wants each of us to be the compassionate gardener wherever our harvest will be found.  “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”  When Jesus looks at this world he sees an opportunity.  He sees a plentiful harvest, but not a perfect one.


See the archives for more reflections.