When Brian Cahill and his wife settled in St. Louis three years ago around the time of his retirement, he was looking for ways to volunteer in the community.
Cahill had a background in business but wanted to do something with education. He enjoyed coaching his kids’ sports teams when they were younger (“I always liked working with kids,” he said) and especially wanted to help those who needed an extra boost with their schoolwork.
His answer came in the form of an announcement in the bulletin at his parish, Christ Prince of Peace in Manchester. The Ignatian Volunteer Corps was seeking help in providing direct service to others in need in the community.
Cahill found the perfect fit. The program, which is rooted in Ignatian spirituality, gives semi-retired and retired women and men an opportunity to serve others, pray and reflect together as a small community and grow spiritually.
Volunteers meet monthly (except for the summer months) for prayer, conversation and reflection in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality. Each volunteer also meets with a spiritual reflector to talk about their service experiences in light of their faith.
Cahill taught financial literacy to students at St. Frances Cabrini Academy when he first started volunteering. More recently, he’s been tutoring students in math and serves on the board at the Catholic elementary school in south St. Louis.
“Some kids have slipped because of the effects of the pandemic,” he said.
He also volunteers with the Criminal Justice Ministry, coordinating new clothing donations, which are sent to men who are soon to be released from prison. “It’s something to give them a fresh start, especially if they don’t have anything or access to family who can get them clothing,” he said. “Otherwise they’d go out with what they came in with.”
Cahill said he appreciates the spiritual component of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and said it’s helped him to grow in his Catholic faith. The group meets monthly to talk about their volunteer work and how it relates to their spiritual growth. “A lot of it is about how we see Jesus in the people we work with,” he said.
Through the Criminal Justice Ministry, Cahill said he’s opened his eyes to the realities of people who are incarcerated, especially those who are preparing to be released from prison in the coming months.
“They’re in a period of apprehension, going back into society and the world,” he said. “They’re thinking, how are they going to survive? The goal is to get out, and they know they need to get back and find a job and be productive. They’re pretty positive that they can be productive, if they get the opportunity.”
>> Ignatian Volunteer Corps
The Ignatian Volunteer Corps offers semi-retired and retired women and men an opportunity to serve others, pray and reflect together as a small community and grow spiritually. Using their talents and professional life experiences, volunteers commit to serve one or two days a week.
There are nearly 40 volunteers who are contributing eight to 16 hours of service a week at 20 partner agencies and schools in the St. Louis area.
Volunteers meet monthly as a community for prayer, conversation and reflection in the tradition of Ignatian spirituality. Each volunteer also meets monthly with a spiritual reflector to talk about their service experiences in light of their faith.
To learn more about the program, contact regional director Sister Amy Diesen, OSF, at (314) 361-7765, ext. 147; or email [email protected]