Story and Photo By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
The Jesuit philosophy of serving others can be seen in action through the nonprofit Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) for retirees.
The corps, now 25 years old, under the umbrella of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, expanded in July into New Orleans, said Lisa LaFleur Schillace, regional director, Ignatian Volunteer Corps New Orleans and a Loyola University New Orleans alumna.
Currently, 12 volunteer members – ages 62 to 88 – work eight to 16 hours weekly from September to June at various local Catholic and non-Catholic nonprofits that serve those in need.
The inaugural group kicked off their year of service with an orientation and opening retreat Sept. 19 at Corpus Christi-Epiphany Church in New Orleans, although a few started their volunteering in August.
Service sites for 2019-20 include Arc of Greater New Orleans, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Eden House, YMCA, Project Lazarus, Raphael Village, St. Jude Community Center, Jesuit Social Research Institute and Loyola University’s Iggy’s Cupboard, Schillace mentioned.
Frank Resignola, a retired school teacher, principal and former assistant registrar and computer center liaison at Tulane University, was matched as a stock boy and student confidante at Loyola University’s new Iggy’s Cupboard, a food pantry for students and faculty that was established in 2018.
Retired for the past six years, he had time to think about the next chapter of his life and sought ways to strengthen his Catholic faith and example of volunteerism he witnessed from his mother and father in Morgan City, Louisiana.
Resignola said a bulletin announcement he saw while attending Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church downtown mentioned the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, and it attracted his interest.
Through Immaculate Conception, Resignola was familiar with the Jesuit ideal of “serviam” and volunteered at Jesuit High School’s development office on advice from the former Immaculate Conception pastor, Jesuit Father Frank Reale. He also volunteered at the Harry Tompson Center for the homeless, established by the former Jesuit pastor of Immaculate Conception.
“I think it was a spiritual director, (Jesuit) Father John Brown, who said, ‘When you serve others, you serve yourself,’” Resignola said. “I think that is true. It’s rewarding to work, to serve. It’s a different time of your life; a second journey. You get to remake yourself. IVC provides you with a community of others in the same station in life. And, it’s satisfying to be able to serve others.”
The beauty of the corps is retired individuals get to volunteer in a field of their interests, socialize monthly with like-minded individuals to share successes and challenges of their volunteer opportunities and also have monthly individual spiritual reflection with religious professionals trained in Ignatian spirituality “to help process spiritual experiences and find God in all things and people,” said Schillace, who led the organizing committee and became IVC’s first New Orleans director July 1. She cantors at Immaculate Conception Church on Baronne Street.
Schillace said volunteers all express how they have been blessed in life and want to give back to the community.
By volunteering, Laura Comiskey Broders has been made aware of the difficulties people have just to get through life; things she takes for granted. Broders, who is a board-certified chaplain, a former attorney, has a master’s degree in pastoral studies from the Loyola Institute for Ministry, is a quilter and fiber artist. She was matched to Lazarus House as activities director (incorporating her hobbies) and driver of clients to offsite appointments in an eight-passenger van.
“This is week eight. I’m still not sure I offer a lot,” Broders said. “Yet, if picking up people and driving them frees the staff to do housing, placement, medical health assistance, answer questions and other things, then, yes, I am doing something. You may not be putting out big fires, but it’s humbling to help people get what they need.”
Broders grew up in a family where service was important and has been involved in many nonprofits over the years. She said volunteering gives her value.
“I feel called to make somebody else’s life a little easier,” Broders said. “I’m not there to fix or to save but just be human and offer what I can.”
Schillace has been impressed with the inaugural volunteers, who come from many different backgrounds but who possess the commonality of being social justice minded and having concern for those in need. She knows IVC has mutual benefits for those who are retired and the nonprofits.
IVC volunteers don’t have to be Catholic, but most are. Volunteers commit for one year, but the national average is seven years, she said.
“We recognize as an organization that staying mentally and physically active contributes to a longer life and better quality of life as one is aging,” Schillace said.
Due to the strong Catholic faith in Louisiana, Schillace hopes to establish IVC subcommittees statewide, including on the northshore.
“We have such a strong Catholic community in south Louisiana that we might open subcommittees in Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux and on the northshore, and have monthly meetings there and meet annually as a state group,” she said.
Volunteer applications are welcome at any time; new volunteers will be matched to service sites on a case-by-case basis throughout the program year. For more information, go to ivcusa.org/neworleans or call Schillace at 264-3438.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org