“Here I am in this middle-class, pretty affluent suburb. My problems have been what my children and I call ‘first-world problems.’ IVC put me into a different place, in community with women who I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It has transformed my life. Even though they’ve had struggles that I haven’t had, we’re so much the same. We’re all looking for purpose, to build better relationships, to feel God’s love. That has been my transformation.”
Jan O’Halloran is in her second year as an Ignatian Volunteer serving as Chicago Retreat Coordinator for the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP), an organization that provides spiritual retreats for men and women who are homeless, blending Ignatian spirituality and the 12-Step Recovery Program to give hope to retreatants.
Last year, Jan planned 6 overnight retreats and 6 follow-up retreats, coordinated weekly ongoing spiritual companionship in shelters, and coordinated the 30 volunteers who help with retreats, driving, and other logistics. This year, her responsibilities also include 10
one-day retreats in collaboration with Harmony, Hope and Healing, which uses music ministry with formerly homeless men and women in recovery.
“I have 22 retreats a year to plan. It’s busy. It’s so fulfilling. Really good. Transformational for me.”
Jan goes on many of the retreats, and when she doesn’t go, she is fully involved in the planning and helps drive the women to retreat centers.
Jan describes the change that she sees in the women before and after the weekends. “There’s so much growth that I see.”
“When I pick them up to take them there, they’re apprehensive. Some are nervous and chatty and some are fearful. On the way home in the car, they’re different. They talk about what they loved about it. They say they didn’t realize the presence of God in their lives and that he’d been there all along. That God had helped them get through some situations. I can see an incredible change in the ladies.”
“So many of the women don’t think they deserve God’s love because of mistakes that they’ve made. They’re going through life trying to get sober and live a clean life. They feel undeserving because of the way they’ve hurt others. They talk about having made ‘bad choices.’ They feel unlovable. At the retreats, it’s like a light bulb goes off—God always loves them and God has always been there no matter their past. This changes their outlook on life. It changes their goals—now they don’t want to just get sober but get sober with a purpose. To be more caring. To mend relationships with their families. They feel that they are loved and have always been loved. It changes them.”
“Friendships are made on retreats. Sparks ignite. They know God’s power in their lives. When they get back together for the follow-up retreats, they talk about the journey, and where they are now. They share about God’s presence with them and where they see Him.”
Jan joined IVC because, “I was looking for a place to feel needed. I was subbing at a suburban school and volunteering with lots of different things. My four kids are grown and doing well and don’t need my mothering. I was looking for something deeper and I prayed for 18 months. I found it with IVC. It’s been my transformation. It’s been wonderful in many ways.”