Jesuit Volunteer Corps East to Celebrate 25th Year

Jesuit Volunteer Corps East to Celebrate 25th Year

By Kathleen Sullivan
Staff Writer

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps East, some 100 Jesuits and former Jesuit Volunteers will gather at Boston College June 16-18 to explore the service program's influence on spirituality, personal values, vocational direction and career choices.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Boston College and JVC East, "The Movement of Grace: A JVC-Jesuit Forum on the JVC Experience and Future Directions," will feature keynote addresses by Center for Ignatian Spirituality Director Howard Gray, SJ and Gasson Professor John Staudenmaier, SJ. Jesuits and past volunteers will discuss the program's impact on the Church and the world, and on their own personal and spiritual development as well. Forum participants also will assess the findings of surveys on JVC spirituality and the connection between the JVC experience and career choice.

"We are hoping this conference will be a forum for spontaneous dialogue and honesty and inspiration," said Fr. Gray. "We want the former volunteers to unpack the dreams that inspired them to join JVC and think about re-expressing those dreams in the context of their lives today."

JVC is founded on four components: spirituality, social justice, community, and simple lifestyle. US volunteers must fulfill a one-year commitment to teach or engage in social services work among the poor, for which they receive room, board and a small monthly stipend. JVC East has had nearly 1,600 participants, including 95 Boston College graduates, since its inception; nationwide, the JVC program has had approximately 9,000 participants.

"This is the first time in JVC East history that we have formally set aside time for purposeful reflection of the JVC experience," said JVC East Executive Director Kathleen Haser. "We anticipate a lot of reflection and learning. We are especially excited about the two survey results that will be presented. While there is much anecdotal evidence of the influence of JVC, this is the first time we have had professional comprehensive research data."

Human Resources Consultant for Ignatian Spirituality Skipp Conlan, SJ, will participate in a group discussion on June 16 concerning the creation of JVC East. Fr. Conlan, who was director of social ministry for the Society of Jesus New England Province at the time, served on the JVC East founding board of directors.

"Those were heady times," Fr. Conlan recalled in a recent interview. "We were exploring the sense of volunteerism as a means of Christian identity. We had a need to integrate social justice and spirituality and there was the challenge to live a simple life."

In his keynote address at noon on June 17, Fr. Staudenmaier will explore the Ignatian elements of the JVC experience and, using the Spiritual Exercises as a guide, will lead the audience through a set of questions to help them reflect on their experiences.

"This major event of JVC East's anniversary year is more than just a way to keep former Jesuit Volunteers in touch with one another," said Fr. Staudenmaier. "It is a continuing adult education session for them. These volunteers are a great resource for the American church."

Later that afternoon, Fr. Gray will discuss the notion of companionship and mission within the Church, especially as it relates to the role of the laity as stated in the decree "Cooperation with the Laity in Mission" from the Society of Jesus' General Congregation 34.

Saturday's events also will include a presentation by Rev. Thomas Gaunt, SJ, of the Maryland Province on the results of his survey on the relationship between JVC experience and career choice among JVC East volunteers. Rev. Simon Hendry, SJ, of the New Orleans Province, will discuss his research on former Jesuit Volunteers and spirituality.


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