Kathleen Burgess has established
the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in
Albany for people 50 and over.
Kathleen Burgess has established the Ignatian Volunteer Corps in Albany for people 50 and over.

Before heading to law school, Kathleen Burgess volunteered for Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), something that wasn’t unusual for students at Holy Cross, a Jesuit university.

“I had this desire, that was probably just rooted in faith and by example from my parents about how to serve those in need,” Burgess said.
Fast forward to August 2019 and Burgess has established a new volunteer mission: Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC).

Ignatian Volunteer Corps is a program for women and men ages 50 and older, who will be matched with an organization that assists poor families and individuals, and is guided by a reflection process based on the spiritual experiences of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

On July 5, the National Ignatian Volunteer board approved the program coming to Albany.

Getting the approval to bring the program to the Capitol Region is a culmination of a lot of hard work. Burgess had to establish a five-person committee, an advisory board, a feasibility study, a recruitment plan for potential volunteers, 10-to-12 organizations committed to hiring volunteers and raise $45,000 to get things rolling. The feasibility study was approved, volunteers and organization secured, along with all the fundraising money needed.

Not only does IVC provide volunteers with an opportunity to use their professional gifts and talents to help those in need, it enables them to live out their faith. Despite Albany not having an active Jesuit presence, Burgess said spiritual reflection is a key part of the IVC program. A spiritual reflector — a lay person, Jesuit or other religious — provides volunteers an opportunity to have a private conversation linking their work to their faith.

The group’s goal is to have volunteers matched with employees by September to start the 10-month program. While volunteers must commit to one to two days per week, with eight hours per day, the responsibility shouldn’t feel like a burden, Burgess said. 

“The individuals interested in volunteering and the organizations ... want this to be a source of joy, we don’t want anyone to say ‘Ugh, why did I ever sign up for this?’” Burgess said,  “We want there to be a good match.” 

The matching process, taking place over the summer, compares the interests and skills of volunteers with the needs of organizations such as Catholic Charities, Unity House in Troy, Family Promise, St. Paul’s Shelter in Rensselaer, CAPTAIN Saratoga, and St. Peter’s Health Partners. Next, the volunteer will meet with the organization to determine if it’s a good match, which Burgess calls “a dance with the Holy Spirit.” The participating organizations pay $1,500 for one day a week for 10 months and $2,500 for two days for 10 months. 

“That’s where I think it’ll be a bit of a dance, we’ll have to see who fits where,” she added. 

Burgess added there’s a true spiritual faith aspect to being a volunteer.

Aside from having a spiritual reflector, volunteers will meet once a month as a group to discuss common reading material and to reflect on how God is a part of their volunteer work. Not only are they fulfilling an organization’s need, Burgess said, but they’re also nourishing their own faith community, fueling their drive to continue volunteering.

“That’s really the essence in Ignatian spirituality — where is God in these circumstances I’m in right now?” Burgess said, “That’s what makes this different than other volunteer opportunities.”

If interested in becoming a volunteer for IVC, or supporting the organization in any way, email Kathleen Burgess at [email protected] to receive updates and announcements via the “Friends of IVC” email list.