Amid echoes of the words of past giants of volunteer service while also looking forward to a future of greater collaboration of clergy and laity in the Catholic Church, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala celebration Oct. 27 at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C.

In the past quarter century, IVC has emerged as a Jesuit volunteer corps for an older generation. It engages more than 600 adults aged 50 and older around the country in two days of service per week, 10 months per year in a variety of social service settings with non-profit organizations.

In addition to the service commitment, IVC corps members also engage in an Ignatian school of spirituality in which they delve deeper into their faith commitment through retreats, monthly meetings, one-on-one spiritual direction and journaling in the Jesuit style of discernment and finding God in all things.

Although IVC now engages seniors from Maine to southern California, the roots of the corps are found locally in the mid-Atlantic region. About 20 local Catholics have been involved in IVC service for 15 or more of its 25 years, including parishioners of such parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington as Holy Trinity in Georgetown, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Chevy Chase and the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda.

In serving as the master of ceremonies for the IVC’s 25th anniversary gala, Mark Shriver of Save the Children USA invoked the words of his late father Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps and longtime parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac. “Serve. Serve. Serve,” Shriver quoted his father as saying. “In the end, it will be the servants that will save us all.”

The program for the evening paid tribute to the two Jesuit priests who founded the organization after parents of Jesuit novices, including Kathleen and Mike Curtin of Blessed Sacrament Parish, expressed interest in such a service opportunity in the early 1990s. One of those Jesuits, Father Charlie Costello, passed away in 2004. The other, Father Jim Conroy, remains a longtime emeritus board member of the organization and was honored at the gala.

Addressing the 250 guests in attendance at Visitation, Father Conroy said the foundations of IVC are making the commitment to both listen and serve.

“People articulated a desire to grow closer to God through Jesus,” he said. “The ability to serve as Jesus did became the foundation of the IVC. Charlie and I studied the documents of Vatican II and the Society of Jesus. Those documents led us to the conclusion that the Church is universal and leadership comes through Baptism.”

Father Conroy spoke about the emergence of a robust third generation in his lifetime – a growing number of seniors blessed with a longer life, a secure income and a desire to serve. “This thing is set up [to succeed],” he concluded. “I have met the most incredible men and women in these 25 years. I am the one who has received. When we love, we experience love coming in return. The Church is changing. Leadership is needed, and it lies in communities like this one.”

Mary McGinnity, the former director of social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Gaithersburg, has served as the president and CEO of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps for more than a decade. “If Jim Conroy is the soul of IVC, Mary McGinnity is the heartbeat,” according to Mark Ruge, a lawyer at K&L Gates who is now the immediate past chair of the organization’s Board of Directors.

Mary McGinnity, the president and CEO of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, stands with Mark Shriver, the master of ceremonies for the group’s recent 25th anniversary celebration. (IVC photo/Bob Gambarelli)

McGinnity offered praise to IVC’s longest-serving service corps members and spiritual reflectors. The group included Julia and Tony Albrecht of Bethesda, long-married Holy Trinity parishioners and long-serving volunteers with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. McGinnity also spotlighted the gifts of time, talent, treasure and meeting space provided by such Jesuit institutions as Gonzaga College High School and Holy Trinity Parish locally.

As it looks to the next 25 years, IVC is actively engaging Jesuit colleges and universities around the country in its mission to help with recruitment while also providing those schools with inspiring stories of the good work being done by their alumni through community service.

It was announced during the evening that the university initiative will be called the Currie Alumni Partnership for Service (CAPS) in honor of the late Jesuit Father Charlie Currie of Georgetown who championed the efforts to achieve greater social justice in Latin America and for Latino immigrants to the United States in the years he spent as director of CIPRA (Center for Immigration Policy and Refugee Assistance) on campus. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-VA) led a toast during the gala in honor of Father Currie. Two of Currie’s nieces attended the dinner and were acknowledged.

Persons who are are retired or semi-retired who want to learn more about the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, can call Dan Kerns at 202-415-4411 or by e-mail at [email protected] .

(Mike Goggin is Director of the DC/ Metro Maryland region for the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. He is a 25 year parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Derwood. He can be reached at [email protected].)