PORTLAND — All are welcome to gather online for a free information session on the Ignatian Volunteer Corps that will be offered on Thursday, June 9, from noon to 1 p.m. More information and a link to register for the session can be found here: www.ivcusa.org/become-a-volunteer/info-session. The Zoom link to join the session will be sent to participants on June 8.

IVC is a national program that provides people over the age of 50 with ways to serve those in need in their communities and opportunities to grow in their faith. The program matches seasoned professionals with charities and nonprofits seeking skilled volunteer services. The Portland chapter was launched in the summer of 2019 under the guidance of Katherine Crosson.

“By living as women and men for others, we are working together toward a more just and equitable community,” said Katherine.“We sustain the members of our corps with monthly support meetings, occasional retreats, and opportunities for one-on-one reflection in the Ignatian tradition.”

Fr. Paul Sullivan, S.J., pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Portland and a member of IVC Portland’s Regional Advisory Council, says there is also a familiarity with Ignatian spirituality here due to the presence of Maine’s Jesuit community, Cheverus High School, and groups of alumni from Jesuit colleges and universities. Plus, in Maine, he says even small groups can make a difference.

“There is what I call the multiplier effect: a small effort can put out a lot of ripples,” he said. “Kathy’s goal is to create matches that best use a volunteer’s gifts and talents to fill a need. It’s not just the giving of time but the skills that go with it. These are people who bring quite a lot of life and professional experience with them.”

IVC service corps members are asked to commit to serve one or two days a week for ten months of the year after being carefully placed in roles that allow them to share their skills and life experience. When David Hilleary moved to Maine after retiring from a successful career in banking and business, he was looking for a way to get to know his community and to contribute to it. He was paired with PSL Services/STRIVE, a South Portland-based nonprofit that helps people with emotional and intellectual disabilities become active members of the community. David says one of his sons has some intellectual disabilities, so the program caught his eye.

“I liked how they envisioned using my skills. It just seemed like a very good fit for me,” he said.

David originally spent one day working with clients and another day writing grants. Although the pandemic got in the way of the former, he was highly successful at the latter.

“In the year and a half I did that, we raised over $150,000 that got matched, so that was extremely satisfying. I’m also able to see how that money is being put to good use,”

Grant writing has been the focus for Barbara Hoppin, a retired educator whose positions included principal of schools on Peaks and Cliff Island. Barbara volunteers at St. Brigid School in Portland, while her husband, Chris, who served in the military and has a background in public relations and communications, is helping with marketing at Catholic Charities Maine.

“We both chose something that tied in with what we had done for our careers. Writing grants, that is something that I did as an educator, and Chris, certainly, writing is his forte,” said Barbara.

Maryann Murray offers her time and talent at Portland Adult Education, which serves all populations in need, particularly immigrants who account for almost half of the current enrollment.

“With the pandemic, all our classes moved online. What the center needed most from me was help in continuing to communicate with everyone they touch: students, staff, donors, and others,” said Maryann. “While I am not working directly teaching immigrants, I am helping to facilitate what they need to continue learning. I’ve gotten to hear some of their stories and am amazed and humbled by their gratitude and positive attitudes. I’m grateful to IVC for providing me with a supportive, spiritual community and for this service opportunity that has deepened my awareness and expanded my heart.”

Once a month, the Ignatian Service Corps members get together, in person or virtually, to share and reflect on the spirituality of the work they are doing. IVC members also have the opportunity to meet monthly with a spiritual reflector to help them explore how and where they see God in their ministry.

“For some, it’s a reinforcement of something they have already experienced. For others, it’s really a new opening to another spiritual aspect,” said Fr. Sullivan.

“Spiritual reflection is the process of discerning where God is present or how to find meaning in your service,” said Katherine. “Members gain from a spiritual awakening in the program.”

That spiritual reflection often leads to an increase in volunteer hours and a sense of ownership in the mission of the organizations. Today, 80% of service corps members around the country have continued with their organizations for five years or longer. A typical volunteer saves his or her organization an average of $15,123 annually.

“Through this program, IVC service corps members enter into a community of support that sustains their service and encourages personal reflection on where God is calling them through their work in IVC and beyond,” said Katherine. “People have been open and receptive, and the social service agencies have just been thrilled with the work of the volunteers. It’s been wonderful.”

To learn more, feel free to contact Katherine at 207-808-8029 or visit www.ivcusa.org/Portland.