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Ignatian Volunteers pair service with spiritual life

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SAN DIEGO — Service and spirituality go hand in hand in the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC).

The nonprofit service organization, which was founded on the East Coast in 1995 and has been active in the San Diego area since 2001, provides retired and semi-retired individuals with opportunities to serve the poor and marginalized.

But that’s not all.

“A lot of people can sign up to volunteer at an agency, and that’s fantastic and wonderful,” said Curran Gaughan, San Diego regional director of IVC, explaining what sets the organization apart. “What we want to do is provide some support to our service corps members who are out there serving in the community, to really help nourish their spiritual life and to provide them with a supportive community that will sustain them over time.”

So, in addition to their individual service assignments, IVC members in each of the 21 regions nationwide gather once a month as a group. At those gatherings, they attend Mass, engage in communal prayer, reflect on their service work, and discuss assigned reading materials.

“For someone who has the desire to serve, IVC has ample opportunities in a variety of work and is willing to support you in your volunteerism with a spiritual connection,” said Mike Trunzo, who began his service commitment last August at Cristo Rey San Diego High School, which offers a college-preparatory Catholic education exclusively to low-income students.

Trunzo serves as a volunteer associate for Cristo Rey San Diego’s Corporate Work Study Program. At the school, he has worked with students to help them develop a spirit of professionalism. Through the work study program, the centerpiece of Cristo Rey’s innovative educational model, students spend five days a month at a professional workplace and earn about half the cost of their education.

Trunzo praised the spiritual component of IVC, including the assigned readings, saying that the result is that one is “more fulfilled” in one’s service work.

IVC members also have the optional benefits of one-on-one meetings with a “spiritual reflector,” who helps them to recognize God’s presence in their service work, and an annual retreat.

The IVC was founded in 1995 by two Jesuit priests.

Prospective Ignatian Volunteers must be age 50 or older and able to commit to between eight and 16 hours of service each week for a period of 10 months. There are currently 20 IVC members in San Diego, where volunteers are placed with eight partner agencies, including Catholic Charities, Cristo Rey San Diego High School, Nativity Prep Academy, Our Lady’s School, and Birthline of San Diego County.

Gaughan said that IVC’s nonprofit partners have opportunities available for bilingual Ignatian Volunteers who are fluent in Spanish, and some are also seeking volunteers who can speak Haitian Creole.

Terrie Ventura Schlosser was volunteering with Catholic Charities’ Emergency Food Distribution Program when a friend told her about the IVC. After becoming an Ignatian Volunteer, her first assignment kept her with the food distribution program. But after about a year, she said, she was looking for “something a little more involved.” That led to her current assignment as the volunteer librarian at Nativity Prep Academy.

When she arrived on campus in August, the library was more idea than reality. She saw the room “that they were going to call the library,” as well as about 30 to 40 boxes of books. Through her efforts, she was able to transform this into the now finished school library.

“This was a lot of hard work, but this was a lot of hard work with a lot of love,” she said, reflecting on how the spiritual and service dimensions of IVC complement each other.

To learn more about the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, call (858) 822-9814 or email cgaughan@ivcusa.org.

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