Eileen Shirey serves the IVC Albany community as a Spiritual Reflector. Eileen was part of the team that provided the firm foundation that led to the approval of IVC Albany as a region in 2019. Since then, Eileen serves as a Spiritual Reflector to plan the monthly spiritual program for the IVC Albany community. Eileen and her husband Dick live in Watervliet and are parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Albany.
As I look back over my 78 years on this planet, a main component of my life has been my Catholic Christianity. However, given my timespan of Catholic experience, my commitment has been rather convoluted. Active church membership consisted of 18 years formed by the pre-Vatican II church and about 55 years by the post-Vatican II church. For about six years, I stepped away to struggle with questions about God and the Vietnam War. Although I had welcomed the teachings of Vatican II, the changes that they initiated did not evolve fast enough to address the spiritual and cultural dislocations of the 1960s.
My return to faith and to prayer resulted from a cannonball moment long ago. I was riding through the night, expecting to find that by morning Momma, my beloved mother-in-law, would have died in the hospital. Without faith, I was terrified of facing death and I feared I would be unable to give the kind support to my husband and son that could be given by Momma with her deep faith. I decided maybe I should try to break my six-year rejection of prayer.
But who would I pray to? How would I even address a prayer? Finally, I simply prayed, “Are you there?” The cannonball experience immediately followed. I was overwhelmed by a sense of Loving Presence along with deep peace that lasted for a long while. The wordless message was unmistakable: “Yes, I am with you!” That was all the assurance I needed to face, not only whatever might happen in the morning, but whatever might happen ever.
Many years later, in my struggles with the death of my Dad, I was invited into spiritual direction by the wonderful priest, Fr. Jack Jones, who suggested I do an eight-day Ignatian retreat at the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester MA. Over the years I have been blessed with the experience of many such retreats. As a result, the Ignatian form of prayer has stabilized my spiritual life.
So it was with great delight that I accepted Kate’s invitation to help the startup of IVC Albany! I saw immediately that this program would introduce many folks to Ignatian spirituality as well as provide an opportunity for meaningful service. As I became involved with this exciting project, I have enjoyed working with new friends in a growing faith community grounded in Ignatian spirituality. It has become a particular pleasure both to watch new volunteers discover the power of Ignatian prayer and to be inspired by the depths of their shared insights.
My participation in IVC Albany has resulted in receiving two marvelous and unexpected gifts. Beyond the renewed commitment to Ignatian prayer, I have received the privilege of helping to construct the prayer services of the monthly gatherings. The planning meetings have allowed me to be introduced to the wisdom and spiritual depth of our featured reflectors. As part of “Team Monthly,” I have been introduced to new ways of understanding Ignatius and of appreciating the Jesuits who bring his spirit into today’s world.
As I look back over the past seven years, I realize that many friendships have deepened among the IVC folks with whom I serve. I am especially grateful for the Friday morning Zoom faith sharing group that started during COVID and has continued until today. The folks faithful to this weekly prayer have grown ever deeper in friendship and in mutual spiritual support.
I am grateful for this opportunity to share this reflection and realize the wonderful gifts that IVC has brought into my life.