The Journey – Whose Is It Really?

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A Christian retirement expert wrote: “the Holy Spirit gives us time, talent and strength to define our life meaning.”

As IVC volunteers, we all have made a conscious decision to search for life’s meaning for us. We have found IVC as the conduit to our continued spiritual growth, which justly includes service “to and with” others.

We are all on the journey. And everyone’s journey must take different turns.

We came to IVC by chanceor was it?

Since our move to St. Louis in 2009, we had been looking for a volunteer opportunity, after having served at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit weekly for 7 years. Our experience at the soup kitchen was a turning point in our lives. As we began to more fully understand the people we were serving, and learned their stories, we came to realize that their lives were not so dissimilar to our own. The major difference being that we may have had resources in our lives that they did not. Or for whatever reason, we made a different choice at a crucial time in our life than they did in theirs. Regardless, these were persons with families, wanting the same things we did – food, clothing, a roof over our heads, a decent job, friendship and love. No frills.

We learned to respect them, their resilience, their love and their appreciation for the smallest act of kindness. We found that what we were able to give was dwarfed by the feelings of serenity and warmth we received by just serving. For this reason, and it may appear selfish, we wanted more of this. Thank goodness for Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, Author of the book, Tattoos on the Heart, who says it is not selfishness, but rather: “It’s the kinship that makes us feel good.” We like that better.

More on our journey.  In the Summer of 2011, we saw a small IVC ad in our church bulletin. As our sons were all Jesuit educated, the idea of anything connected to St. Ignatius of Loyola, immediately caught our eyes and we called that same week. What we subsequently learned about the mission of IVC caused us to pursue a deeper connection. We shared our personal backgrounds and reasoning for becoming an IVC volunteer, still not really knowing for sure what we were getting ourselves into.

The questions lingered for us. Did we really have anything to offer of real value? Where would we serve? Were we willing to make the time commitment? What is this “spiritual reflection” stuff that IVC talks about? What are IVC volunteers like? What about those monthly meetings?

Over the next several months, we visited four agency sites, looking for the “perfect fit” for us.  What we came to understand from our visits is that there is no such thing as a perfect fit for you, because this is not about you. It is all about the agency, its clients and THEIR needs.

Over time, we have come to know that the journey we are on really is all about kinship. The journey, it turns out, is all of ours, simultaneously in concert with each other!

Our journey ultimately led us to Midtown Catholic Charities in St. Louis. We met its Director, John Pachak, whose passion for serving the seven neighborhoods within his boundaries was overwhelming. As he shared his story and the beginnings of Midtown, it became apparent that the mission John had set out to achieve was taking place. It was evolving … always new ideas to better serve his clients. It was fast-paced, yet John knew full well, that success would only come with time, commitment and the never-ending search for positive resources.

What really convinced us that John was truly making his mark were the people coming through the doors. This was a safe haven for them and a place to get help. We decided then a there (a process we now understand as “discernment”) that Midtown was where our nurturing would begin … where we would willingly be taken out of our comfort zone.  (PS: We are now in our third year out of our comfort zone at Midtown.)

Stay tuned for Part II of Sue and Craig’s reflections next week!

Craig and Sue Schoenfelder are now completing their third year of service together as Ignatian Volunteers in St. Louis and they look forward to their fourth.  Craig grew up in Kansas City and Sue in O’Neill, Nebraska. They have moved 15 times domestically and internationally, because of Craig’s military service in the Air Force and his over thirty-year career with Chrysler.  Sue was a stay-at-home mom and later a part-time librarian at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.  They will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this month.  Their greatest treasure is being the proud parents or four terrific, Jesuit-educated sons. They have six grandchildren ranging in age from 16 years to 8 months.
Sue and Craig say, “Our IVC volunteer activity has been extremely rewarding for us – giving us courage to open the next door, a keener compassionate ear, growing us spiritually while strengthening our marriage”.

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