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.”
“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.
“Jesus was resolutely determined to travel to Jerusalem to be lifted up.”
by John Hynes, IVC volunteer
Please note: This reflection was written after hearing the readings at mass on Sunday, June 30.
I entered high school as a 74 pound 12 year old with the nick name “Howdy Doody”. I knew I had to get tough quick. So I began delivering the morning Tribune in the dead of Winter.
That first morning the wind howled! At 5AM I crept down the attic stairs so as not to awaken my seven sisters. I felt scared, all alone and completely inept. I walked into the kitchen. My mother sat there in the dark. She had alreadly folded all the newspapers, tucked them in my canvas bag and had a cup of steaming hot chocolate at my place. “Johnny,” she said “I want you to be safe and warm out there. You can do this” I walked into the winter darkness resolutely determined…and with a little chocolate still on my face.
Julian of Norwich says that Christ revealed himself to her as an unconditionally loving mother who continuously breaks herself open and pours herself out to her children.
Hold this image close to your heart. Today Jesus is inviting the IVC to journey to Jerusalem with Him… to be lifted up.
Happiness usually comes from circumstances outside of ourselves. So today’s gospel makes it very clear that Jesus does not promise us any happiness. Jesus says we may not have a place to lay our head. We will not get the inheritance from our father’s death. Family values do not seem to have a high priority. And we cannot even call down fire on those who disagree with us!
Joy however comes from an abiding presence that transcends every circumstance. Jesus does promise us Joy. But how so?
Listen to Thomas Keating the architect of centering prayer:
“Christ disappeared in his Ascension, not into some geographic location, but into the heart of all creation. In particular, he has penetrated the very depths of our being. Our sense of a separate self has melted into his divine person. Whatever we do, it is Christ living and acting in us, transforming the world from within.”
This is why Paul can say that those 8 words from the second reading, “Love the other as you love your self” shatter any reliance on the Law. For it means that we can love the other as our very own being…there is no separation; your sense of a separated self has melted into His Divine Person. We are each a luminous cell in the universal body of Christ.
Now don’t get annoyed by Paul’s apparent dualism, Flesh versus Spirit. By flesh I think Paul means that sense of a separate self.. the false self ..the ego that has but one agenda: to be separate from and to be superior to everyone else. Flesh is the Teflon by which we slide into isolation.
Spirit, on the other hand, always merges. Spirit seduces us toward solidarity. Spirit is the cartilage that knits IVC as one. Teilhard de Chardin says that ” Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God ” Where there is Spirit, there is always joy. At Catalyst Circle Rock where I volunteer Joy fills the Literary Brigade room like the scent of lilacs in early Spring. Sister Donna and Sister Helen are the gifted gardeners. Each child that we sit with becomes a sacred icon; to gaze into their innocent faces is to look into the Heart of God. It is not difficult to abide in His presence in the midst of these beautiful children.
But real soon we return to flesh…our separate self…separated from God…separated from others. So Jesus the wisdom teacher offers us volunteers two practices so we abide always in His presence.
First Eucharist! Simple bread and wine engraft us into the very body of the risen Jesus .We become Christ at a cellular level. Call it an explosive inter-abiding! No wonder the writer Annie Dillard says that as we line up for Communion, we should all be wearing crash helmets!
The other essential practice is the discipline of contemplative prayer. Two periods of daily meditation that act as anti-biotics to free us from the toxic illusion of a separate self.
The Signs of the Time cry out for intervention….a radical, self-sacrificing spiritual intervention. I shudder to think that in 20 years my great grandchild will ask my grandson Brendan this question: “Why didn’t your grandfather do something? The house was burning down…and all he did was put up a lawn sign. However, the Flesh ..the false self ..the separate self cannot be the incubator of our response to systemic evil. Anger is not the answer. But Spirit is longing to brood over us as we sit together in silent surrender. The Spirit of Jesus will give birth to our resolute determination in forms unimaginable! IVC itself is an example!
Then we volunteers can walk down those attic stairs together.Let the wind howl We will first be comforted by Mother God…and then filled with joy, be sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God, without looking back…but with a little chocolate still on our faces!
The Lion and the Mosquito
by Rich Pozdol, IVC alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having a traditional Friday night fish fry at Steve’s , an old-fashioned corner tavern. We were both having the seafood platter with shrimp, scallops, frog legs and, my favorite, lake perch.
Father “Bo” asked, “Do you remember a book by the name of Mr. Blue?
I replied, “I do. I read it as a teenager, so very many years ago. I remember loving the character Mr. Blue.”
“I have been rereading the book” said Fr. “Bo”. “What did you like about Mr. Blue?”
“Well, as a teenager I liked someone who did his own thing. Blue was different. Anyone who lived in a packing crate on the roof of a tall building was an intriguing character. He flew kites from that roof and released balloons to celebrate any occasion.”
“Think back,” said Fr. “Bo”. “Who did he remind you of?”
I thought for a while and then it came to me. “Saint Francis of Assisi. Yes, Blue was a modern-day St. Francis.”
“Quite so,” said Fr. “Bo”. “Listen to this quote from the book when Blue is challenging the narrator’s status as a Christian. ‘I suppose you consider the exhortation “love your neighbor” as a figure of speech. You would love only the lovable. Did you ever try to love someone who was mean, petty, shallow, selfish? Try it.’
The narrator responded to Blue, telling him that he was willing to try to love a villain, but that he could not arouse any affection for a mere annoyance, an irremediable nobody. ‘I think I could love a lion,’ the narrator said, ‘but I doubt very much if I could love a mosquito.’”
I laughed and responded, “I know God cannot make a mistake, but if He could I have always said that the one mistake God clearly made was creating the mosquito.”
Fr. “Bo” responded, “Myles Connolly wrote Mr. Blue three years after Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to provide a counterpoint to the materialism of Gatsby. For me, Blue raises the question of my calling today. He echoes so well what Pope Francis is asking us to do…to go out to the margins, to love the mosquito.”
“Yes,” I responded. “I think we IVCers have tapped into Mr. Blue’s spirit. So many irremediable nobodies to the world’s way of thinking. And yet, we have come to know them as members of the body of Christ.”
A Prayer for Compassion
Oh God, I wish from now on to be the first to become conscious of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;
I want to be the first to seek, to sympathize, and to suffer; the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,
to become more widely human and more nobly of the earth than any of the world’s servants.
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, S.J.
The Courage of Spring
by Mark Avery, IVC Volunteer
“All the buried seeds crack open in the dark, the instant they surrender to a process they cannot see.” (Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo, 2000). Recently, that quote has challenged me to reflection and action which has moved me to grow in new and different ways. There are “buried seeds” in each of our hearts that hold possibilities and invitations to think differently; to respond to needs in our cities, neighborhoods, on our borders and across the oceans. This process of introspection may also be helpful in our various IVC ministries as we serve and accompany those persons we are privileged to serve. In all of these examples, we respond to the cries of the earth and the universe.
Poet Mary Oliver, who passed away earlier this year, loved the world and its various creatures;she saw our world with the eyes of her being and her heart. In her poem, “Spring,” she writes: “There is only one question: “How to love this world?” Perhaps that is just the question that prompts one of those “buried seeds” in our hearts to crack open and to bud! It may be an opportunity to accept the nudge of grace, to be open for the seeds, of who knows what possibilities still lying buried in my heart, and to surrender to the process?
“How to love this world?” is both a gift and a challenge. Perhaps this Lenten season, and the approaching spring, will give us opportunities to meet Jesus alive in those we serve. It may also occur with the opening of a bud, and the first sight of the morning sun. We pray for slow, steady growth and continued unfolding.
What gifts and challenges do you perceive in the coming of spring? May we have the courage that spring offers!
The Challenges and Rewards of Service
by Mike Reidy, IVC Volunteer
Since I have been volunteering at Cristo Rey St. Martin in Waukegan, I have found it both challenging and rewarding.
It takes a lot of time and dedication to provide the guidance and administrative support to prepare these kids for success. Each kid has their own set of skills and needs, and it takes a while to develop a good guidance plan. Along with a good guidance plan, accurate record keeping is essential to provide them with grades that identify and reward behaviors that will help them be successful in work and in school.
I am also impressed by the how the academic and work study staff do their jobs in a way that will help these kids. I believe most of the kids realize that they have an opportunity to prepare themselves for a better career than their parents and that they have that opportunity because of the generosity and dedication of others.
I am trying to apply the principles that we teach these kids to my life. Just because I am an adult with years of experience and education does not make me a finished product. I believe I have grown as a person in the process of trying to help others grow.
Making Room at the Table
by Maureen Kennedy Barney, IVC Volunteer
One of the most integral aspects of Jesus’ public ministry was that he welcomed all at the table. Sharing a meal together in Jesus’ culture held a unique weight; it reflected RESPECT, ACCEPTANCE and FULL INCLUSION. Jesus expected his disciples to promote a community that welcomes and honors all.
For the past four years as an IVC volunteer, I have been blessed to be at Old St Pat’s with the members of the Trinity Volunteer Corps, people with disabilities volunteering together, providing each person with an outlet to express their unique talents and gifts. Inclusion through volunteerism guides TVC. Gathered together at our table, the mail room table on the third floor of the Jack Wall Mission Center, our tasks are many and varied.
Preparing the 5000 cut outs for the Giving Tree, assembling Valentine Cheer bags for shut ins, sharing liturgy at the Special Friends Mass, participating in the Mass with the IVC members, assisting at all of the Ronald Mc Donald Houses to serve a meal for those on a journey with a seriously ill child, bringing the light at the Easter Vigil, assisting with any task for the many ministries supported by the wonderful folks who make Old St Pat’s a place where one experiences the God who loves us all, greeting at the Block Party or welcoming guests to Deck the Halls, we work together in a spirit of inclusion and companionship as we are JOY to each other on our journey.
Perhaps our greatest efforts consist in our preparation of weekly food bags that OSP provides for the homeless: a bottle of water, a package of crackers and cheese, raisins, canned sausages, and a protein bar…some hundred people a week find their daily nourishment in the food bags. As we walked together one Wednesday to the noon Mass, we passed a young man holding a very small child. Seated on the curb which was their table, they were sharing their lunch…the bag they had just received from Old St Pat’s. We stopped and spoke with the pair learning of the hardship they were enduring and of the gratitude they felt for this daily meal.
And as we moved on to church, one of my buddies said quite simply what God wants from all of us:
TO SEE HIM IN ALL WHO CROSS OUR PATHS AND TO WELCOME HIM….TO LIVE THE BEATITUDES.
God meets us wherever we are…caring for each of us and also challenging each to prepare to welcome HIM… for it is Jesus who is in those he sends into our lives, those who cross our paths. Witnessing that with each person who is part of the Trinity Volunteer Corps allows me to understand the message of HOPE…and HOPE is the door that opens onto a future where all are welcome at the table!! As Jesus tells us:
“Here I am knocking at the door. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door I will enter his house and have supper with him and he with me.”
As we take our places at the table we are blessed to have the support of those who share our vision. Fr Tom Hurley, Beth Marek, Bea Cunningham and the staff at OSP are examples of the inclusion that makes each member of Trinity Volunteer Corps feel welcome….and valued.
Actions not Words
by Dick Pabst, IVC Volunteer
One of the things I always kept with me during my career in health care was a quote from St. Ignatius Loyola that stated ” Actions not Words “. I adopted that as my philosophy and it has influenced my search for spirituality and for finding God and the meaning of my life.
My current IVC site, Beds Plus in La Grange, is an agency for the homeless that offers shelter, programs, and support. It has opened my eyes to the issues of homelessness and the people who experience it. I can see their struggles with depression, loneliness, lack of self- image, and hopelessness. I experienced these same difficulties when my wife passed. I can identify with their struggles and their search for hope and, in my own small way, do what I can to assist. I see the residents and guests of Beds Plus as images of Christ and follow the words of St. Matthew’s Gospel:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25)
Across the Table
by Janet DeRaleau, IVC Volunteer
As an IVC volunteer at the Lake County Catholic Charities Food Pantry, I meet many people who need help. We don’t just pass out food. We sit down with the clients, listen to their needs and try to offer some encouragement with referrals to other food pantries, clothes pantries, and agencies that can assist. I encounter many people with multiple problems but yesterday, I met a woman who was a refugee from Africa. Accompanying her was the pastor of a local church that is her sponsor.
Across the table from me sat a woman, who only months ago lived in an exceedingly hot and humid climate, bundled in a puffer coat, with her one-month-old baby snuggled in a carrier. She looked exhausted and yet was polite and patient as I worked to pronounce her name. The pastor explained that the woman’s husband was involved in an uprising in Africa and she didn’t know if he was dead or alive. In addition, the woman, pregnant at the time, had escaped with her three year old, but her two sons were still in Africa living with family members. The pastor’s church was trying to get them out.
The trio had spent the day making the rounds of Lake County social service agencies registering for services. After leaving Catholic Charities, they planned to stop at one more. Despite their apparent weariness, their day was not over.
I’ve seen the news about immigrants and refugees as I watch TV in my cozy family room, but yesterday, I met someone who is living that horror. I saw her fear, confusion and exhaustion. I saw the love in her eyes as she showed off her newborn. I also saw the embodiment of Christ in that pastor, who tirelessly led the woman through the maze of social services and red tape. As I celebrated Thanksgiving, I carried that woman with me. I prayed for her and her family and will continue do so, hoping that they will all be together by next Thanksgiving.
Let it Be
by Rich Pozdol, IVC Alumnus
Father “Bo” T.M. Lyons, spiritual director extraordinaire, and I were having dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant, Rodity’s. We were both having the combination plate — stuffed grape leaves, mousaka, and lamb. We were talking about prayer.
Father “Bo” asked, “do you know what the two greatest prayers are in the gospels?”
“Hmmm, I would say one would be the Our Father,” I responded.
“Good guess,” replied Father “Bo”, “but the two prayers I am thinking of are basically the same prayer, but they were said by different people.”
“Well, I would say one of them would be Mary’s Let it Be Done to Me According to Your Will.”
“Yes,” said Father “Bo” excitedly. “Very good. Now the second one?”
I thought for a while but was getting nowhere. “Could I have a clue?” I asked.
“Let me quote from Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Divine Dance. ‘Prayer is not primarily the spoken or the read word. That might be a second or third level of prayer, but not the primary one. Primal prayer is where you can in truth pray always, where you can live in conscious communion with the divine indwellings, with the spirit who was poured out so universally and graciously upon all creation, upon all nations and languages. Primal prayer does not mean waiting for some mystical, projected, future, “spiritual” state, but waking up inside your life right now in the present moment.’
“O.K. I can see how you get to praying always, but I am not seeing how it is similar to Mary’s Let it Be prayer, I replied.
“Mary shows us that our ‘let it be’ matters to God. God does not come into the world uninvited. He needs an invitation,” Father “Bo” answered.
“I think I am going to have to give up,” I responded.
“Think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus embodies the same willingness his mother had. When Jesus asks if this cup can be removed……”
“Ah” I replied, “Yes, Jesus responds,’ not my will, but thine be done…. let it be.”
“Exactly” said Father “Bo”. “Mary’s prayer starts everything. Jesus’ prayer ends it by leading to His suffering, death, and resurrection. Let it Be is one of the most beautiful and powerful prayers you can pray.”
“It reminds me of my favorite Beatles song, Let It Be. Paul McCartney wrote the song and he claims it was about his recently deceased mum, Mary. I always thought it was about the blessed mother, and that is why I like it so much. After all, Mary is known as the seat of wisdom,” I replied.
Accept, O Lord, and treat as your own
my liberty, my understanding,
my memory – all of my decisions and my freedom to choose.
All that I am and all that I have you gave and give to start:
now I turn and return all to you, looking to find your hopes and will in all.
Keep giving me your holy love, Hold on me your life-giving gaze, and I neither need nor want anything else.
Joseph Tetlow S.J.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Camille Devaney
I did my first trip as a single person 16 years ago and oddly to Peru. The trip was with my parish, a vacation, not a mission or pilgrimage. We actually built a church in Miro Flores, a community very similar to Lake Forest. We were hosted for fine meals by parishioners. I assume this parish does outreach to communities in the area. We did the normal, Machu Pichu, Cusco, Valley of the Sun and a cruise down the Amazon.
Three summers ago, our Province offered a Pilgrimage to Peru to visit the sites where the Jesuits serve. I booked but had to cancel for personal reasons. Last summer the trip was offered but not sufficient takers. Finally, this past June it became reality with Kevin Flaherty, SJ as our guide. This was a totally different trip, now we were with the poor and marginalized. What I call poverty is probably a vast improvement of what the Jesuits found when they first came. It was amazing to see and experience not what these men did for the people but to see how they empowered the people to help themselves, Community Kitchens to prevent staving for many, micro industries, local banking, retreat programs, a University, a second college just started and a school where possibly the kids do not have college degrees but are trained for the industries found in their area. The Jesuits were there with the people through the terrorist years of the Shining Path.
We also did the tourist things, Machu Picho, Cusco and Valley of the Sun and the Inca places. Even in these areas there were places where the Jesuits had missions. The most lasting impression was to see and feel the love the people have for the Jesuits and how it is reciprocated. In Lima, our parish is in an area called el Augustino. If Fr. Kevin were presiding at mass and mentioned, “Camilla is a friend of Padre Danilo” Dan Hartnett, SJ, I was showered by many hugs and kisses to return to him here in the US. Dan has not been in Peru for possibly 10/12 years. They don’t forget.
Dan Hartnett, SJ was my first IVC mentor when I started 8 years ago. I didn’t want to travel to Cook from Lake County so one school and a parish ministry were my two choices. I went reluctantly with our director to interview at Most Blessed Trinity (MBT), my first and only site. Richard Leonard, SJ says in one of his books that a friend is someone you are willing to follow, to die for on the hill. This is exactly what happened when I met Dan and we started a ministry at the nursing homes in the area. I knew I could and would follow with him no matter the task.
These two stories are actually related, how you might ask? The love and respect I saw from the people in el Augustino to the Jesuits and vice versa was how I started IVC. Two vivid impressions are:
- A man by the name of Frank Chamberlin, SJ, who I do not know, died in Peru a few months ago. He was an American from Chicago but lived his entire Jesuit life in Peru, a member of that province and actually became a Peruvian citizen. I went to his memorial service at Loyola Academy only because he was a friend of both Dan and Kevin. When in Peru, Kevin asked if I would carry back to Chicago, Frank’s personal stuff for his sister. I said yes, not knowing if this was a box, a suitcase big or small. When Kevin handed me a small manila envelope with family pictures, I learned what the word poverty means and even acquired a deeper understanding of The First Principal and Foundation. Every Jesuit jokes about Ignatius House being “Jesuit Poverty,” but that envelope was the reality. Not indifference but no excessive attachment to anything material or personal.
- Today I went to my nursing home with a box of “religious things,” pictures, statues, rosary and holy water, all acquired from my niece’s parish. One of the residents took the holy water and made sure I knew that she hadn’t any holy water for several years, “this stuff really works, Camille.” When Jesus said we need to become like children, this is what I experienced today. If it weren’t for Dan Hartnett, I wouldn’t be doing this ministry and, like all of us, getting back a thousand fold.
Peggy Cunniff: Howard Area Community Center, Chicago
I have been an Ignatian Volunteer at the Howard Area Community Center, Employment Resource Center since September, 2017. So far, it’s been a great placement! I learned about the program from my daughter, a Jesuit Volunteer serving Christ the King Jesuit College Prep.
I was given a few sites to consider for my volunteer service. When I was told about the Howard Area Community Center, I became excited for a number of reasons. I am a lifelong Rogers Park resident and have known about the Howard Area Community Center since I was a child. In 1967, my parish, St. Jerome, recognized the need to help neighbors in need. Parishioners organized a food pantry and clothes distribution program. Eventually those services, and numerous others, became the Howard Area Community Center, which just celebrated 50 years of service to the Rogers Park Community.
More significant to me, is that the position offered was as a member of the Employment Resource Center that exists to help adults prepare for and find jobs. To that end, I am tasked with helping people create resumes, search for and apply for jobs, and discuss and practice interviewing skills. My professional career was as a Human Resources Manager, and combining that with the parish connection to the HACC and the ability to walk to the volunteer site, made me think this placement was a match made in heaven!
The people I serve amaze me. They are kind and appreciative, hard-working and optimistic. They speak many languages and come from many cultures, but they are all looking to improve their lives and the lives of their families by getting quality employment. My volunteer service has made me more aware and appreciative of the opportunity to use my gifts to help others in such a significant way.
Christ has No Body Now but Yours
by Kate Kniest
“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
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.” ― Teresa of Avila
In the past few months, I observed staff at CRSM put St. Teresa of Avila’s words into action as they rallied to help a student. Their perseverance and dedication to help one student will never make front-page news, but stands as example of how individuals are Christ’s hands in this world. The work the staff did was unselfish, driven by love to provide physical and emotional healing.
Following an accident, a student had an injury that caused continued discomfort. The injury was not immediately visible but did affect the student’s ability to concentrate, sleep and eat.
The parents, immigrants with little English, had difficulty navigating the health care system, finding consults and referrals. So out of frustration they sought alternative medical solutions rather than completely following the recommendation of an emergency room physician. The parents were concerned but appeared stoic and expected their child to manage through the discomfort.
A faculty member noted that the student’s school performance was taking a nose-dive.. The source of the problem was verified, as was the need of intervention by a medical specialist. The faculty member persisted in encouraging the student to work with the parents and seek the proper help. Once a specialist was found the faculty member worked with the specialist to get the fees adjusted to fit the family’s budget.
A counselor, who spoke the family’s native tongue, was also enlisted to work with them. The counselor spent hours encouraging the parents as they worked through medical and insurance issues. In the end, the counselor accompanied the mother and child on the first office visit to the specialist. By interpreting, the counselor assisted the family in understanding how the condition affected all aspects of the student’s life.
Administration took up the cause, supporting the child, family, faulty member and counselor. Schedules were rearranged and funding possibilities considered. They gently pushed to ensure that progress was being made.
Christ was not physically present, but he did touch and heal this child through the effort of a remarkable group of people, who responded as St Teresa’s called us to ‘go about doing good.”
by Mike Schrauth
This past January, Catalyst Circle Rock Elementary Charter School, my volunteer site, got word that one of its graduates died in what was described as an accidental shooting. I soon found out that the 16 year old victim was someone I knew well from the time he was in 5th grade at CCR.
Our principal. Elizabeth Dunn, was in close contact with the family and when she found out there was little money to pay for a proper funeral and burial, she immediately went into action and raised enough to cover all expenses from contributions made by teachers, staff and others. All were encouraged to attend the services to support the family.
As the day of the funeral approached, I began to think about John. He was a happy face at school, a member of the orchestra, always attentive and respectful. The service took place before an overflow audience at a funeral home not far from school. I was struck by how many young people were present, some of whom gave testimony to John’s life. I heard about what John’s life was like after school from siblings and cousins who adored him, his mom who praised him, still in shock over his death. Emotions ran high and through it all I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence in the words about John, the beautiful songs of praise and the outcries of the faithful.
As I left, I expressed my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for putting me in that holy place to witness something so very special. That experience will be with me forever.
Just a few days ago, I read in my nightly prayer words by Pope Francis entitled “What the Poor Teach Us”. “The poor are the privileged teachers of our knowledge of God. They guide us to experience God’s closeness and tenderness, to receive his love in our life, his mercy as the Father who cares for us, for all of us.”
by Rich Pozdol
Oberammergau is a Bavarian village 45 miles southwest of Munich, famous for its wood carvers and passion play. In 1634 the village was threatened with a plague. The villagers prayed to God and promised Him that if He spared the village, they would put on a passion play every 10 years in thanksgiving of His help. No one died. Ever since, ever 10 years, the village has put on the passion play.
In 2010, over a half million people saw 109 performances. The village of Oberammergau is small, just over 5,000 people, yet the cast included 1,500 adults, 450 children, 100 musicians, 110 singers, and 41 stage hands.
In 2000, my wife and I booked a trip to Oberammergau to see their famous passion play. I had wanted to go for years, but my wife was somewhat reluctant. She finally agreed, and we made the arrangements. Several weeks after we booked the trip, she came home rather disturbed, she had just found out that the play lasted 8 hours and was in German. My rather unsympathetic reaction was “So what. You know the story.”
Several weeks before our departure, I had a gall bladder attack and had to have emergency surgery. I remember going to see the surgeon a week after the surgery and asking, “Do you think I can fly to Germany at the end of the week?” His look was one of grave concern. “Why would you want to do that?” he inquired.
I replied, “My wife and I have a trip planned to Oberammergau to see the passion play.”
“Well” he replied, “You are in a lot of pain and the trip would be difficult. Furthermore, why would you want to be in a foreign country if something goes wrong?” Before I could respond, he said, “Why don’t you go next year?”
My wife, who was in the examining room, and I both laughed. The doctor asked, “What’s so funny?” We explained that the play only took place every 10 years.
Fast forward 10 years to 2010. I was again contemplating a trip to Germany for the passion play. This time my wife was ill, being in the eighth year of a battle with ovarian cancer. She would not be able to go but urged me to go by myself. I was reluctant to go, but she convinced me that time was running out. In 10 years, I might be physically unable to attend, or even dead. So, after much debate, I again booked the trip.
In 2010 they had changed the format to a long morning session followed by a relaxing lunch, and then a long late afternoon and early evening session.
The play was extraordinary and well worth the effort to attend. Almost everyone in the town is somehow involved in the play. Families have participated for generations since 1634.
I saw the play on a Saturday. The next day was Pentecost and I attended mass at the town Catholic church. Liturgically it fit in quite nicely. I
I will share with you just one item about the play, although I was impressed by many things. The lady that had been chosen to play Mary was a somewhat overweight, or as my mother would have said “pleasingly plump” middle-aged woman with graying hair. Somehow, she did not fit my image of Mary. And it was somewhat bothersome to me. Where was the slender and attractive woman I had always pictured as Mary?
After some reflection it occurred to me that the play’s Mary was much more realistic. After all, at the time of the passion, Mary would have been 47 or 48 years old. It was also not unlikely that Mary had put on some extra weight by that time in her life.
All in all, the play was much more realistic and therefore somewhat jarring My expectations were for a sanitized version of Jesus’s passion and death. The horror of it all came home to me with a jolt.
Which leads me to the prayer that is prayed in Clarence Enzler’s “Everyone’s Way of The Cross” at the thirteenth station.
“The sacrifice is done.
Yes, my mass is complete; but not my mother’s and not yours, my other self.
My mother still must cradle in her arms the lifeless body of the son she bore.
You, too, must part from those you love, and grief will come to you.
In your bereavement think of this: A multitude of souls were saved by Mary’s sharing in my Calvary.
Your grief can also be the price of souls.”
I reply,“I beg you, Lord, help me accept the partings that must come from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones when you shall call them to yourself.”
Then give me grace to say: “As it has pleased you Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will.”
And if by just one word I might restore their lives against your will, I would not speak.
Grant them eternal joy.
My wife Sue passed away 6 months after the trip.
May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
Change of Heart: Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday
by Mark Avery
We now know that the calendar was not wrong. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day! What a combination! What better way to have begun Lent; to reflect on how we are called to change our hearts. What better way than to reflect on how we are called to become more loving.
God constantly calls to each of us: “Receive my love that is freely offered, and accept my invitation to have your ways of loving become more like mine.” Love is meant to be received and embraced, to be rooted in God’s faithful loving kindness, and to be shared with all of those who journey alongside us.
Lent’s basic message is to be open and ready to change so that our response to God’s love may increase. Lent isn’t just a time to remember that we are dust. Rather, we are to remember that God’s spirit of love was breathed into us when we were merely dust. That dust was transformed into a living being, capable of loving God and all creation. Lent calls us to return to our God, a season when our hearts should expand as God fills them with love.
As part of that transformation from dust to living, loving beings, Lent encourages us to ponder those times when we haven’t been images of God, when we have not loved as God wishes. This is a season of conversion, a time when we are meant to turn from thoughts and actions that set us apart from one another. Only then we can claim once more that we are Valentine people, full of expressed love and willingness to be gift to others so that they too will know God’s boundless love.
Let’s use this time to once more fall in love with God, with God’s invitation to live a Gospel life, and to be God’s valentines to our neighbors, and to those we serve. To love with all our hearts!
by Susan Olenski, first-year IVC volunteer
This is a reflection on my first “semester” with IVC.
Being part of IVC means, welcome to a world of constant surprises. God can do wonderful things with what the world views as “less than”, “failure”, “misfortune”. The students at this school where I am posted have endured traumas, rejections, drive by shootings. And YET, they try. They do not give up.
My companion is a veteran, thank goodness. We assist students in producing their Senior Portfolio Project. When complete, a student presents their electronic project to a panel of three adults. The portfolio contains a title, academic essays, resume, references, a photo or two, answers to specific reflection questions, an autobiography including past, present and future plans. It also contains an arts integration project that is integral to the school’s philosophy. The belief is that students, particularly those with challenges, need to express their understanding of themselves and their world with a greater variety of instruments. It’s a multifaceted summary that would be demanding for anyone but holds real challenges for young people with painful events in their history and/or present.
The Ignatian concept that comes to mind in thinking about this place, these students and me is cura personalis—care of the person.
Recently, one of the students sits next to me. She apologetically tells me she’s behind in the assignments because of her job. She works full time. She’s been independent for two years. Getting everything done is almost overwhelming. Then she told me what it is she does in her job at O’Hare.
She escorts people with special needs, like someone in a wheelchair. She gets them into and out of the stages of air travel in our day. I think of the trust she is given in doing her daily work. She thinks of herself as a student who isn’t being very successful. She focuses on her inadequacy as a student. I think of hundreds of ordinary HS students without responsibilities. I think of the care and patience needed to navigate a frail traveler, like my mom had been after her stroke.
We are called to care about our clients. But, it’s the care she gives that teaches me that day.
This is the Sound of One Voice
by Maura Rogan, Regional Director
The other day, I was listening to WBEZ and heard a story about an English choir composed of individuals with cystic fibrosis. Did you happen to hear it too? It turns out – and I never knew this – that people with cystic fibrosis cannot be together in the same room due to cross-infection. They cannot risk the possibility of picking up germs from one another. So, this choir actually came together virtually. One by one, the members (all of whom have CF) came to the studio and recorded the song. All their voices were then put together through technology to form the finished product.
Everything about this story touched me. And everything about it reminded me of IVC…in one way or another. In one sense, the choral members were reminiscent of those we serve. In the radio story, they expressed how they can feel isolated and alone…part of a larger community and yet not able to participate fully. They shared a desire to belong, to connect, and to be understood. In another sense, they reminded me of our volunteers. Each of them offered his/her gifts and, combined, they created something beautiful and meaningful. Each week, our volunteers serve at their individual sites – schools, shelters, hospitals, prisons, and numerous social service agencies. There are days, I know, when the volunteers question their impact on any grand level. And yet think of their collective contribution. They are changing the world.
Finally, the producer touched me. Not only did he spend a two-hour session with each choral member as s/he recorded; he and a partner scrubbed the studio down between each and every singer to minimize any risk of cross-infection. To me, that was so loving…it was a quiet, unselfish goodness. His commitment to the project, his behind-the-scenes efforts, and his desire to make it a positive experience for all brought to mind my colleagues with whom I am so blessed to work. Their dedication to IVC and their attention to the volunteers’ spiritual formation and sense of community provide the “music” for the “song”.
The song that the English choir sang is called “This is the Sound of One Voice”. Think about it…all of those separate voices and support people joined together to make something so much bigger than themselves. Impactful. Grace-filled. Challenging. Healing. Inspired and inspiring. Transformative. IVC.
Click on this link to watch a video about this story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyfuHSi3CIs