Early on a recent Monday, Ignatian Volunteer Corps member Mark Nelson, a parishioner at St. Bede the Venerable in La Ca√±ada, arrived for his morning assignments at Blessed Sacrament’s former convent-turned-social services center in Hollywood.The two-story center offering 12-step workshops and activities for homeless adults already had a group of people waiting to attend the day’s programs, including Nelson’s “Morning Mindset” at 7:30, his class on money management at 9, and a current events session at 10:30. Nelson, 59, a retired CPA, is among 27 men and women IVC members 50 years of age and over volunteering in or near the archdiocese at 14 different sites, including St. John's Regional Medical Center, Oxnard; Sylmar Juvenile Detention Center; OASIS, Camarillo; Blessed Sacrament Social Services Center, Hollywood; Catholic Charities, San Gabriel Region; Good Shepherd Shelter, Los Angeles; Center for Spiritual Development, Orange; and a number of Catholic schools in low-income areas. IVC volunteers commit to work two days a week during the school year in service to people who are materially poor. They meet together once a month, read a book every year (this year’s was “Tomorrow’s Catholic” by Michael Morwood) and share their reflections with a spiritual director. The purpose of all this spiritual introspection — based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola whose feast day is July 31 — is to help volunteers cultivate contemplation-in-action, finding God in all things.“We have a lot of retired people with valuable skills,” notes Nelson, who also volunteers at Good Shepherd Shelter in Los Angeles and Covenant House in Hollywood. “I’d love to see an army of IVC volunteers because they could do a lot of good.”Service and spirituality“There seems to be a hunger for what we’re offering: service and spiritual development,” said Anne Hansen, IVC regional director for Los Angeles whose office is located at Loyola Marymount University. IVC’s Southern California chapter began with three female volunteers in 2006 and has grown to its present roster of 17 women and 10 men. Hansen anticipates that five new volunteers will join IVC in the fall, based on inquiries she has received from parish bulletin announcements and word-of-mouth referrals.“I think people are drawn to IVC because it’s been developed for mature people age 50 and older,” said Hansen, noting the IVC started as a Jesuit ministry in Baltimore 16 years ago. “As you age, you look beyond the experiences you’ve been having. Many understand that their desire for a closer connection to God can take place when serving others.”This year, Hansen hopes to place more volunteers in inner city Catholic schools, adding to the ten already served by an IVC volunteer. “What a difference we could make!” she exclaimed.Hansen acknowledges that IVC is a big commitment. “It’s not something people take lightly,” she said. “I’m proud and very much in awe of the volunteers: they’re out there doing the work. Sometimes I drive home from the group meetings and wonder, ‘Could I do what they do?’”Reaction to their work by site administrators has been very positive, says Hansen. “Father Calin Tamiian (St. John’s Regional Medical Center supervisor of spiritual care) just loves IVC volunteers,” she noted. ‘It adds a richness’Barbara Adams, 71, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Assumption in Ventura, was on the hospital’s chaplaincy staff for 16 years before retiring in 2009 and returning as an IVC volunteer chaplain. “It was seamless,” said Adams. Although she and Hansen talked about other nonprofit agency site options, Adams elected to return to St. John’s where she ministers to a minimum of one dozen patients a day and their family members.When asked why she thinks the hospital appreciates IVC volunteer efforts — there is also an IVC volunteer working in the emergency room with patients’ families — Adams commented: “To have [an IVC volunteer] who is so focused, who does this from the Beatitudes, from a sense of service — not for a paycheck or glory — it adds a richness.”She is inspired by IVC’s model of service working with “the poor in spirit [and] the materially-poor population. What better way than to use the skills I have for those who are poor in various ways? It’s what we’re called to do.” She also likes IVC’s spiritual growth component, where participants meet together and also share their experiences individually with a spiritual director. “To have that call for accountability in your spiritual life is a gift. All of us get lazy,” noted Adams, who has been attracted by Jesuit spirituality since attending Marquette University, a Jesuit university in Milwaukee.Ken Gregorio, 61, a retired fundraiser for non-profits whose undergraduate studies were done at Jesuit-founded John Carroll University in Cleveland, said he was at a time in his life when he wanted to reconnect with Ignatian spirituality. He has volunteered at the Blessed Sacrament Social Services Center for two years and will start as a tutor at the parish school for two afternoons a week in the fall.“Being an IVC volunteer has added to my spiritual life,” said Gregorio. “My favorite part is getting together with the group. It connects us and makes us a corps, sharing significant experiences and trying to do some reflection.”Joanne Flynn, 67, a former IT consultant who started as an IVC volunteer at Verbum Dei High School last year creating on online admissions records database, said her experience two days a week at the school was so positive she is returning this year.“I had jobs that gave me satisfaction, but I didn’t really feel I was helping people,” said Flynn. “I wanted to do something I felt was giving back.”She added that she found IVC’s spiritual aspect very appealing, and the co-ed perspectives enlightening. “It’s great to have both women and men in the group,” said Flynn. “You see how much commonality there is among us; the thing that drives us is similar.”Spencer Downing, director of programs and operations at Blessed Sacrament Social Services Center, said he can count on IVC volunteers for their reliability in serving the homeless, many of whom struggle with addictions and mental health disorders.“IVC volunteers bring a wealth of experience, but just as important, they bring bedrock commitment,” said Downing. “They have this fundamental faith and it’s been enormously helpful.For information on IVC, currently planning a fundraiser at LMU on Oct. 21, contact Anne Hansen at (310) 338-2358; [email protected]; www.ivcusa.org. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0720/ivc/{/gallery}