This article was written by Rich Massaro, Regional Director of IVC Philadelphia/South Jersey.
Pope Francis is here sharing his joyful, genuine, infectious affection. When he returns to Rome, the people among us that he speaks most often about, people who are poor, will still be here and still need our help.
The Holy Father asks that we walk together and take care of one another. Embrace people we shun and avoid. Focus on people we overlook and ignore. Make room for people we shove aside and exclude.
For twenty years, Ignatian Volunteer Corps members have done just that, lay people following in the tradition of St. Ignatius and the Jesuits, including the Pope. Instead of creating new programs, IVC forms partnerships with established, proven, effective nonprofit agencies, faith based and secular. Our volunteers are people over 50 who bring a wealth of personal and professional experience to the people they serve. Volunteers are in agencies like Project HOME, West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, Delaware County Literacy Council, Holy Name of Camden Ministries, Robins’ Nest and many more.
Our partner agencies and IVC volunteers help feed, clothe, house, heal, comfort, educate and empower people with great potential and few resources. No one wants to give people what they refuse to earn and don’t deserve. IVC and our partners give people resources, skills and opportunities to meet their own needs, realize their potential, and even help others who are like they themselves once were.
It would be great to have thousands of IVC members but whether it’s Ignatian, or La Sallian, Franciscan, Episcopal, Baptist, Jewish or Muslim or secular – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we join hands and hearts with the people who need us. Those who live in deprivation, isolation, squalor, danger, neglect and exclusion can’t afford to wait for the rest of us to take care of all our needs and wants first. Everyone can do something. No one should do nothing.
Christ says that when we serve the least of our brothers and sisters we serve Him. Now is our chance and challenge to do that. Now is the chance for every person, believer or not, to realize her/his full humanity by embracing the full humanity of those who need our help. We’re not going to run out of poor people any time soon. If we work hard enough together, we can drastically reduce their number. IVC welcomes new members. If the Ignatian Volunteer Corps isn’t a good fit, find the organization, the agency, the opportunity that is.
Walk together and take care of one another. That’s where joyful, genuine, infectious affection comes from.