Ignatian Volunteers at Manresa

Ignatian Volunteers at Manresa



Ignatian Volunteers at Manresa

“I had the experience but missed the meaning.”
—T.S. Eliot


Ignatian Volunteers at Manresa are men and women, age 50 and over, who share their skills, talents and life experiences with organizations that directly serve the poor or marginalized. Ignatian volunteers serve people in need, work for a more just society and grow deeper in Christian faith by reflecting and praying in the Ignatian tradition. Volunteers are guided through a reflection process based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. This process helps volunteers discover the deeper meaning of the work they do and see Christ more clearly as they labor among their brothers and sisters who are poor. Reflecting and praying in the Ignatian tradition — individually and communally — deepens the experience of service.


Ignatian Volunteers:

  • (1) work at a Detroit-area service agency that serves the poor and marginalized, and
  • (2) grow deeper in their Christian faith by reflecting and praying in the Ignatian tradition.

Volunteers work about twice a week at a service agency. Local service agencies where volunteers have worked include:

  • – Lighthouse
  • – The Oakland County Sheriff Department (as chaplains)
  • – University of Detroit Mercy Institute for Leadership and Service
  • – Pope Francis [Warming] Center
  • – Caritas Welcome Center
  • – Loyola High School
  • – Reggie McKenzie Foundation
  • – Crossroads
  • – Capuchin Youth Program
  • – Children’s Hospital
  • – All Saints Neighborhood Center
  • – Freedom House

During monthly meetings at Manresa (from September to June) volunteers pray and reflect on their service experiences. In addition, volunteers meet every month with a spiritual director and attend an overnight retreat.


If interested, contact Nick Sharkey.

“IVC Detroit”
by Nick Sharkey, Ignatian Volunteer


When I joined IVC I wanted to do something different with my life. I wanted to work directly with poor people. After many years of pursuing a demanding career and raising three children together with my wife, Janice, I was ready for a change.

I was influenced by several factors. When I was growing up my parents helped those who were less fortunate than our family in many different ways. My present suburban parish strongly encourages acts of social justice. For example, our church’s stained glass windows once belonged in an inner city church that had been closed; they are a constant reminder of those struggling with their lives in Detroit. While I was considering an early retirement offer from a large corporation, I attended Mass one Sunday morning. One of the hymns selected repeated the refrain, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” The combination of the pending retirement offer and the words from Matthew’s gospel inspired me. I was sure that I was being told that it was time for me to spend time with the poor.

This led me to IVC Detroit. In my first two placements I worked in administrative assignments for organizations that worked with the poor. They did important, meaningful work but it didn’t feel right for me. I told the Regional Director that I wanted to work directly with the poor. Finally, in the spring of my second year she called and said, “You said you want to work with the poor. I made an appointment for you to speak with the director of the Saints Peter and Paul Warming Center for poor people in downtown Detroit.” Today this has been renamed the Pope Francis Center.

After my first visit to Saints Peter and Paul I was reminded of the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” The smells had overwhelmed me — body odor, alcohol on the breath and toilet odors. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this work after all. I was learning the first lesson in working with the poor — sometimes it is messy and awkward. You must step out of your personal comfort zone. Soon I ignored the odors and focused on the smiling faces of those who walked through the door when we opened in the morning. I’m now in my fifth year at Saints Peter and Paul. I am having experiences every day that I will cherish forever. The most fulfilling part of my week is when I lead a Men’s Group for one hour every Monday. In a communal setting we pray the Ignatian Daily Examen together and the guests describe their deepest hopes and greatest fears. I’m experiencing a part of life that I never knew existed. This is what I wanted when I began IVC, but even more important — I’m convinced I’m doing what God wants me to do at this time in my life.

Last year when IVC members were reading Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution at one of our monthly city meetings we watched a videotape of Shane speaking to a group. He talked about a survey that had been taken of Christians and their attitudes about the poor. As I recall, he said those surveyed estimated that they thought Christ spent about 80 percent of his time on earth with the poor and the marginalized. When asked how much time they spent with the poor, it was 5 percent. The survey Shane described made me think about my recent IVC experiences. I’m far from spending 80 percent of my time with the poor, but through IVC I’m getting closer to following the example of Christ.

“The American Dream”
by Nick Sharkey, Ignatian Volunteer
from the Caritas Welcome Center Newsletter

According to the American Dream, you will lead a good life if you go to school, work hard at your job and respect authority. It is based on deferred gratification — that is, if you sacrifice today it will pay off in the long run.

For many people living at the same time and in the same nation as us, the American Dream is a myth. This is their world:

A few weeks ago a guest came into the Caritas Welcome Center and described how he had recently seen a homeless man tied to the bumper of a car and dragged through the streets. The message was: homeless people aren’t wanted in our neighborhood. One guest said he was 38 years old and not one person he grew up with is still alive. Another guest said that when he was growing up if someone was killed by a shotgun blast it was considered death by a “natural cause.” Other guests have said from their personal experiences they believe all elected officials, police officers and courts are corrupt.

Few of us are aware that we live in a world of parallel universes. In our universe we try to eat right, get exercise and regularly see doctors and dentists. In the other universe it doesn’t matter if you stay healthy because you’ll have a short life. In our universe, we teach our children that if they are in danger, they should find a police officer. In the other universe, children are taught to run away from police officers because they can’t be trusted.

Why does it matter if we know that in the early 21st century we live in a nation with parallel universes?

1. Understanding — it’s important that we know that “our life” is not the “only life.” Many people who live at the same time as we do have very different lives and views of life.

2. Tolerance — when we see people on a street corner smoking and drinking it is tempting to think, “don’t they know that they will die young?” Many people are convinced they will have a short life so it doesn’t matter if they stay healthy.

3. Compassion — this naturally follows from Understanding and Tolerance. With Compassion we can reflect on people who live a far different life than what we experience. It’s up to us how we put our Compassion into action.

Only after we go through these steps can we begin to relate to people who have no hope in the American Dream.