by Catherine Albornoz
As we embark on a new year of service in September, we recognize all those in the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and our partners in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, with our shared mission of service and spirituality, at different stages of life. This story, of a mother who was inspired to service by her daughter’s JVC experience, was originally published in May 2014.
“My daughter Erin inspired me to get involved with what I’m doing now,” says Julie Bishop, an Ignatian Volunteer in San Diego. “When she started with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college, it was difficult for me to think of her living in the inner city environment. I worried about her. We had a lot of conversations about it. But I’ve seen how she’s been very motivated by her work with the poor and marginalized.”
“When I retired from teaching, I thought maybe there was a way I could do this. My interactions with my daughter helped spark me. I give Erin credit for that,” says her mother.
Julie joined IVC in 2008 and says of her service, “It’s the best day of my week. I’m just having such a good time. I love it.”
Julie Bishop and her daughter Erin’s service experiences vary geographically and in the populations they serve. But what they share with IVC and JVC is a common experience of service and reflection in the Jesuit tradition. They value it greatly and have this shared mother–daughter bond.
“We’ve had some really good conversations and discussions about our experiences,” says Julie.
When asked about the origins of her passion for service, Erin says, “I want to give credit to my mom. Service was part of my family and who we are and what we did growing up. All those values I got super into in college were because they were in me as a child.”
Erin Bishop was a Jesuit Volunteer from 2003 to 2004 in Camden, NJ at the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice. “The title on my first business card ever said Immigration Advocate. With a staff of just three people, we counseled between 10 and 60 immigrants daily. We spoke a lot about what rights they had in the US as people, even if they weren’t citizens. I learned a ton about immigration law.”
“My mother was fearful of me living in Camden. It has among the highest poverty rates and is the most violent city in the nation. She had her concerns. But she was very brave and came and visited me there,” says Erin.
After living in Camden, Erin joined the JVC staff. She then got her Master’s Degree at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkley. Erin now works in Campus Ministry at the University of San Diego.
“When I was a student at Santa Clara University, I had all these little experiences. I did service learning, I delivered meals to homebound people, I went on a mission trip. What I wanted was to throw myself in in a full-time way after graduation. My JVC time helped me realize this could be my vocation and I could do this as a career. And it helped me practice not getting paid much,” laughs Julie.
“In my work now, prayer and retreats are part of what we do. God’s justice on earth is what we talk about. It’s how we roll.”
Erin says, “I absolutely rely on Ignatian Spirituality. There’s a hunger for that charism in the young people who I work with. It is beautiful in its own tradition, and I can live out these values in the non-Jesuit world where I work.”
“When I worked at the JVC offices in Baltimore, the IVC office was just downstairs. I always thought, ‘How cool is it that people at this life stage would have the strong desire to serve and reflect?’. When my mom told me that she was going to become an Ignatian Volunteer, I was so excited! I told all my friends. It’s so neat to share that experience.”
“I’m so happy at Nativity Prep! Others in our San Diego IVC community tell me, ‘If you’re joyful there, it’s where you should be’,” says Julie.
Julie Bishop has served at Nativity Prep for six years. This Jesuit school provides an intensive, extended-year, extended-day middle school education for students who will be the first in their families to go to college. The program relies on Volunteers as donors, mentors, tutors, coaches, and teachers for specialty subjects. Julie is Nativity Prep’s Volunteer Coordinator.
She also uses her skills from a professional career as a middle school teacher to run a writing program for each grade—teaching grammar, sentence structure, and essay writing. She helps in the office as secretary when needed.
“It’s a wonderful day; the best day of my week. Our students are really great. They know what is expected and work hard.”
Julie goes over and above and has developed strong relationships with students. She tells the story of one young man who was very bright but wasn’t performing. “I tutored him and could see how smart he was. I later found out that he had an incredibly difficult home situation. His father had died, his brother was shot and died, and his mother had cancer”, says Julie. Julie and other Nativity Prep staff helped him access other support services. When his mother passed away, Julie attended the funeral along with others from the school. “In his eulogy, he said, ‘My real family is here—the people from Nativity Prep.’ Afterwards he gave all of us hugs.” After a number of setbacks, he’s on track to graduate and plans to go to college. Nativity Prep’s graduate support program will follow him and continue to offer support.
“It’s so impressive to see the depth of people I’ve met through IVC. They are very accomplished professionally and spiritually. Some have been in service for so many years. They share such amazing insights into how their service sites have enriched them. How interactions with the poor have served them. It’s amazing!”
“I didn’t know much about Ignatian Spirituality until I joined IVC. I went to the opening day of reflection and came away thinking, ‘Why didn’t I know about this before?’ It’s so practical for everyday life. I wish I had known more about it years ago to discern so many decisions as I was raising my children. The tools given in Ignatian Spirituality are so helpful and it’s been a real blessing.”