by Linda Wihl
When I meet with potential volunteers I become keenly aware of how our culture squanders one of our greatest resources, retirees.
When I ask retirees, “What do you find challenging about retirement?” I hear three common responses:
“I miss the sense of purpose I had when I was working.”
“I miss conversations with my co-workers.”
“I find myself asking God, ‘is this it’?”
IVC can help! It is like a three-legged stool, providing purpose, community, and growing closer to God.
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps provides purposeful volunteer work in agencies that serve those in need, or teach the “haves” to care for the “have nots”. As I heard another regional director share at our National retreat: “As I watch the capacity of love grow in the generosity of volunteers, I have found that reality overwhelming.” It is transforming for those who are served and those who serve. Omaha’s Regional Director, Becky Ehrman, shared: “One of the internal goals of most business is to maximize resources. The goal being, to put the best resources towards the greatest needs. When that can be done a business has achieved maximum resource allocation. I have often thought about this theory and how it pertains to our mission with IVC. When we bring our agency partners such rich resources in the form volunteers, they can direct them toward great needs. In my mind, that is the kingdom of God.”
Ignatian volunteers gather monthly from September to June and share how they’ve “found God” in their service experience or life that month, they eat together, celebrate Mass together and study together. We as a community lift one another and refresh our spirits together. Volunteers find community at their service sites as well as with other IVC members.
Through reflection, “finding God” in their service experience and lives, the volunteers have a growing awareness of how intimately present God is. When participating in Spiritual Reflection with a Spiritual Director volunteers are encouraged to see God “reflected” in themselves and their encounters with others. Many experience a deepening relationship with God.
Gary Yerke knew that when he recently retired he wanted to join IVC; his wife, Paula was already actively involved. He shares, “The best retirement advice I received from a retired Proctor & Gamble executive was the ‘1/3 rule’ — spend 1/3 of your newly found time on relaxation, fun and leisure, 1/3 on self-development or something that stimulates your mind, and 1/3 on ‘giving back’. Obviously, there is a lot of overlap here but it seems like a simple and reasonable guideline (and better than the 8-9-4 rule imposed by another retiree’s spouse– up by 8, out of the house by 9 and don’t come home until 4 ????.” IVC accomplishes 2/3rds.
Pope Francis said to our U.S. Congress: I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. Though I was standing on Fountain Square in the heart of Cincinnati listening to his speech, I knew that IVC volunteers were with him serving at Mass, the soup kitchen & other venues the Pope had visited. I couldn’t help but feel he was talking about the amazing Ignatian Volunteers he met. You are a storehouse of wisdom, sharing your stories & insights, & building this land!
Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”). As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor. Her favorite title is “grandma!”