Our people are Manresa’s most important asset, each dedicated to help you each in his or her own way. Retreat directors and facilitators, both those on staff and especially trained volunteers provide spiritual guidance. A dedicated Board of Directors donate their time and talent to oversee the general policy and direction of the house. Administrative and front office staff members are among the first to welcome you, answer your questions, and keep the place running. Our maintenance team makes the running of this house possible, our housekeepers provide a comfortable and clean place for prayer, and our kitchen staff provide nourishment for the body, a treasured part of the Manresa experience. We are supported by our Lay Retreatants League, Companions, St. Ignatius Society and other benefactors and volunteers; and groups like the Ignatian Volunteers and El Rincón Ignaciano are among our special family members.
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Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM
Manresa Jesuit Retreat House
Rev. Peter Fennessy, SJ
Manresa Jesuit Community
Mr. Hughes Bakewell
Chief Operating Officer
Quest Diagnostics Health & Wellness, Novi, MI
Mr. John Bernia, Jr.
Chief Academic Officer
Warren Consolidated Schools
Mr. Bill Brazier
Regional Vice-President, Society of St. Vincent DePaul,
National Council, St. Louis MO (retired)
Board Member, Society of St. Vincent DePaul,
Archdiocesan Council of Detroit
Ms. Mary Cafferty (Vice Chair)
Senior Vice-President, Mutual of America (retired)
Fr. Peter Etzel, SJ
Associate Pastor, Gesu Church, Detroit
Fr. James Gartland, SJ
Pastor, St. Mary Student Parish, Ann Arbor
Ms. Mary Gresens, DLS
Professor, Author and Lecturer
Mr. Jim Guisinger
Raymond James & Associates
Mr. Johny Kello
Partner, Landmark Commercial and CEO MatchRX
The Northwestern Mutual Financial Network (retired)
Ms. Phyllis Peters Look, CPA
Director of Professional Standards
Deloitte & Touche (retired)
Mr. Keller McGaffey (Chair)
President and Owner
Interactive Training Systems, Inc.
Mr. Frank Migliazzo
Merrill Lynch – Private Banking & Investment Group
Rev. Theodore G. Munz, SJ
University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy
Mr. Sergio Pagés
Senior Vice President, CIO and Board Member
Ms. DiAnne Patterson Schultz
Public Policy Analyst, City Of Detroit /
Mediator, Neighborhood Reconciliation Center, Detroit, MI (retired)
Mr. Mike Timm
Director of Information Technology, Oakland County
Mr. Jim Wilson
Attorney, Partner Wilson & Rode PLLC
Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM
Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM is a Marist Sister born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. She entered the community in Detroit, Michigan following high school and attended Marygrove College and the University of Detroit, earning a Master’s in Education. She taught at St. Albert the Great elementary school in Dearborn Heights and served as Principal there before earning a Licentiate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome at its Institute of Psychology. She ministered in formation work for her community in Hull, Quebec, and Chicago, IL, where she also served as Pastoral Associate and Music Director at Our Lady of the Snows Parish and maintained a private practice in counseling and spiritual direction. She was a founding member and chair of the board of the Marist Volunteer Program, which placed college graduates in local communities of all branches of the Marist family for one year of community experience and ministry. She was named to the faculty of Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1996, where she taught pastoral counseling and served as Field Education Director and Formator for 12 years. Returning to her hometown, she ministered as Director of the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, which serves the poor and homeless of the area. She relocated back to this area in 2011, to Roseville, to serve as regional leader with the Marist Sisters of Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil, in addition to the US. In the past several years she has been ministering in counseling and spiritual direction as well as directing occasional weekend retreats at Manresa. For the past 20 years, she taught seminarians from all over the US about human and spiritual foundations of sexuality and celibacy with the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2021 she became the Executive Director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House.
Fr. Leo Cachat, SJ
Fr. Leo Cachat, SJ, was assigned to the Jesuit Province of Patna, India and began teaching in Nepal in 1961. He was ordained in 1966 and became principal of a K-12 school in Katmandu. He later studied with Anthony de Mello, SJ, and Bede Griffiths, OSB. In 1978 he founded Godavari Ashram (Center for Spiritual Development), and directed retreats there and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. In 1985 he set up a Jesuit formation house in Nepal and later became the regional superior. After several years in Myanmar, he returned to the USA and established the office of chaplain to the faculty and staff at University of Detroit High School. He has been at Manresa since 2007.
Fr. Fran Daly, SJ
Fr. Fran Daly, SJ, grew up in Chicago and entered the Society of Jesus at Milford, Ohio in 1959. He taught Latin and History at St. Xavier High School from 1966-69 and worked with the Sodality and Xavier’s Summer Enrichment Program mostly for African-American students. In June, 1972, after his theological studies in Chicago he was ordained and was missioned to the Jesuit novitiate in Berkley, Michigan as minister of the community. He worked closely with Frs. Howard Gray and Frank Houdek studying and directing the Spiritual Exercises, and also teaching Jesuit History. He served as Novice Director from 1977-1983 and during that time directed the 30-day Spiritual Exercise two or three times a year. He returned to Chicago in 1984 as rector of his alma mater, St. Ignatius College Prep, teaching Religious Studies to Juniors and doing Adult Faith Development with the faculty and staff. In 1990, he became Formation Director for the Chicago Province and in 1991 executive director to the Provincial. During those years he traveled around the United States and Europe visiting Jesuits in formation. In 1997, the Jesuit province began to sponsor an Ignatian Pilgrimage to Spain and Rome every other year for high school faculties and staff, and Fran was the docent for the first three trips which deepened his appreciation of the Ignatian heritage. From 1988-1991 and 2000-2011, he served as Tertian Director for the Chicago Province Two Summer Program in which he worked with Jesuits from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. In 1998, he returned to Cincinnati and served at St. Xavier High School as rector until August of 2005. In 2000, he became Director of Ignatian Formation for the Adult Community at St. Xavier High School, where he worked with Adult Faith programs and introduced new teachers for their first five years to the person and vision of St. Ignatius. In the summer of 2014, he became the Executive Director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House.
Fr. Peter Fennessy, SJ
Fr. Peter Fennessy, SJ, comes from Boston, and is now a member of the Midwest Jesuit Province. After missionary work in Jamaica, theological studies at Oxford University, and 26 years at John Carroll University in Cleveland as campus minister, vice president, and rector of the Jesuit community, he is serving his second term as superior of the Jesuit Community at Manresa. He gives individually directed and preached retreats at Manresa and elsewhere, is Coordinator of Individually Directed Retreats, and among other duties manages our book store. Since studying Theology and Art and Buddhist Aesthetics during a sabbatical year at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, he uses fine arts to illustrate his preached retreats.
Fr. Robert Flack, SJ
Fr. Robert Flack, SJ, was born in 1948 in Chicago. He attended the seminary system in the Chicago Archdiocese and was ordained at Mundelein Seminary in 1974, serving at several parishes of the Archdiocese before entering the Society of Jesus in 1983. He has a PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle). He taught sociology for two years at Xavier University in Cincinnati and urban studies for seven years in St. Louis University’s Department of Public Policy Studies. Fr. Flack has been trained as a spiritual director at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, PA. He served on the staff of the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Illinois, including several months as administrator. He has preached retreats at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Milford, OH, Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, and the Cenacle in Chicago. Before joining Manresa’s staff in 2019, he served as Director of Spiritual Life at St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago.
Fr. Steve Hurd, SJ
Fr. Steve Hurd, SJ, a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit Jesuit Province, came to Manresa to help out during Fr. Chamberlain’s recuperation, and since then is a full-time member of the staff. He had most recently been pastor of St. Agnes, St. Bridget, and St. Charles parishes on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Steve has been retreat master at the Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford, Ohio and at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL, of which he was also director.
Fr. Bob Ytsen, SJ
Fr. Bob Ytsen, SJ, has spent most of his apostolic career in secondary education, having taught English at three of the high schools in the Chicago Province: Saint Ignatius, Brebeuf, and Loyola Academy. Fr. Ytsen has directed various summer and student retreats and led summer service programs to Appalachia. British literature is his first love. He participated in the Oxbridge Program which provided the opportunity to study three summers at Cambridge and Oxford in England and at Trinity College in Dublin. Fr. Ytsen says he is excited to begin this new ministry at Manresa, confident that his background in Ignatian spirituality and history of the Jesuits, particularly in England, will enhance and support his commitment to retreat and spiritual direction.
Ms. Ann Dillon
Ms. Ann Dillon holds degrees in Education and Religious Studies and is a graduate of Manresa’s Ignatian Spirituality Internship Program. Her prior ministries include teaching middle school, serving on a public school board, giving liturgical leadership in her parish, and 16 years as Director of Mercy Association. She and her husband Mike have three sons and are now enjoying four wonderful grandchildren, all of whom live in the neighborhood. Ann focuses on the development of Ignatian lay leadership, especially with spiritual directors, guides for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and friends of Manresa. She partnered with Fr. Bernie Owens in leading the two-year Internship in Ignatian Spirituality, and partners now with Fr. Steve Hurd, SJ, in leading the Seminar on Ignatian Spirituality and the Internship in Spiritual Companionship. Ann is a trained spiritual director and guides retreatants through directed retreats and the Spiritual Exercises.
Mr. Steve Raymond
Mr. Steve Raymond, the Associate Director of Manresa and Acting Advancement Director, was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He taught middle school in Kalamazoo for a year and then joined the Peace Corps in 1973. Assigned for three years to Sierra Leone, West Africa, he taught math and health science and was a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader for a farmers’ rice-development program. After leaving the Peace Corps, he obtained a law degree from U of D Mercy and married his beautiful wife, Susan. Together they have two wonderful children, Sarah and Michael. Steve spent over 35 years practicing business transactional and litigation law 33 of those years in Bloomfield Hills with the law firm of May, Simpson & Strote, and then with with Butzel Long. He has been part of the Manresa community for many years, attending daily Mass here in our chapel, participating regularly in weekend retreats and volunteering in numerous capacities. He also completed the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life with Fr. Bernie Owens, SJ. Steve has served on several boards, including the Marian High School Board, the Robert E. Burke Trust Fund, Holy Name School SEED Foundation, the Light in the Darkness Prayer Ministry and multiple committees and councils at his parish, Holy Name in Birmingham.
Ms. Anne Smith
Ms. Anne Smith facilitates Manresa’s Women to Women prayer sessions. She has over 25 years’ experience leading prayer and faith sharing groups and has served as spiritual director on Manresa’s weekend retreats since completing Manresa’s Internship in Ignatian Spirituality program in 2011. Anne has helped teach other interns how to lead lectio divina and is part of the team offering this method of prayer to the Manresa community. In addition to her ministerial role, Anne serves as publications coordinator and editor of Manresa Matters and Manresa Memos.
Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM
Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM,is a Marist Sister born and raised in Wheeling, West Virginia. She entered the community in Detroit, Michigan following high school and attended Marygrove College and the University of Detroit, earning a Master’s in Education. She taught at St. Albert the Great elementary school in Dearborn Heights and served as Principal there before earning a Licentiate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome at its Institute of Psychology. She ministered in formation work for her community in Hull, Quebec, and Chicago, IL, where she also served as Pastoral Associate and Music Director at Our Lady of the Snows Parish and maintained a private practice in counseling and spiritual direction. She was a founding member and chair of the board of the Marist Volunteer Program, which placed college graduates in local communities of all branches of the Marist family for one year of community experience and ministry. She was named to the faculty of Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1996, where she taught pastoral counseling and served as Field Education Director and Formator for 12 years. Returning to her hometown, she ministered as Director of the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, which serves the poor and homeless of the area. She relocated back to this area in 2011, to Roseville, to serve as regional leader with the Marist Sisters of Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil, in addition to the US. In the past several years she has been ministering in counseling and spiritual direction as well as directing occasional weekend retreats at Manresa. For the past 20 years, she taught seminarians from all over the US about human and spiritual foundations of sexuality and celibacy with the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2021 she became the Executive Director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House.
Fr. Fran Daly, SJ
Sr. Kathleen Budesky, IHM
Sr. Kathleen Budesky, IHM was graduated from Mundelein College with a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies and Spirituality. Kathie has served in secondary schools both in religious studies departments and administration, most recently at Marian High School. She is currently a presenter and facilitator at Visitation North Spirituality Center in Bloomfield Hills, of which she is also the director.
Fr. Leo Cachat, SJ
Dcn. Brian Carroll
Dcn. Brian Carroll, is currently the parish deacon at St. Mark Catholic Church in Warren, MI and an adjunct spirituality instructor at Guest House, a residential Catholic addiction treatment center in Lake Orion, MI. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and raised in Glasgow, Scotland before coming to the US in 1967. He studied at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit before being ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1979. Dcn. Carroll has served as pastoral associate at St. Regis in Bloomfield Hills and Our Lady of LaSalette in Berkley. In addition to preaching at daily and weekend liturgies, his ministries have included: adult religious education (RCIA director); the Stephen Ministry program (director); pastoral counseling; ministry to the sick and shut-ins; marriage preparation; bereavement support and funeral services; and spiritual direction. Dcn. Carroll graduated from Manresa’s Internship in Ignatian Spirituality in 2007.
Fr. John Esper
Fr. John Esper has served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit since 1983. He holds a Master’s degree in Spirituality from Creighton University and has worked in the healing and deliverance ministry for nearly 20 years. For ten years he was spiritual director for college students at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he gained experience in the healing, inner healing and deliverance ministry. He has been pastor of St. Vincent Ferrer parish for the past 13 years, during which time he has offered Inner Healing retreats and workshops and continues to celebrate healing Masses.
Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ
Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ, of the Midwest Jesuit Province, is pastor of St Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati, OH. After graduating from Miami University in 1976, he taught high school and served in parish youth ministry for 12 years. He entered the Jesuits in 1989 and continued philosophy, classical language and theology studies at Jesuit universities in the US. Ordained in 2000, Fr. Pat worked for 13 years in Chicago at St. Ignatius College Prep, serving six years as Vocations Director for the Jesuits. Fr. Pat plays piano and guitar by ear and is an avid fan of the Beatles, John Denver and astronomy. His motto in life: “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”
Fr. Peter Fennessy, SJ
Fr. Robert Flack, SJ
Ms. Mildred Frank
Ms. Mildred Frank was involved in the Secondary School System for 37 years. She has been a spiritual director and a speaker at international conferences and seminars for many years. Mildred is a beloved presence and an inspiring voice in the recovery community. She gives back tirelessly and selflessly to the community that helped her. Mildred is a towering example of embracing and living recovery. For decades Mildred has spent 30 to 40 weekends a year sharing her message throughout Canada, the US and beyond. In her decades of speaking many tens of thousands have benefited from her message.
Fr. Si Hendry, SJ
Fr. Si Hendry, SJ teaches religious studies and philosophy, directs the Catholic Studies Program, and is the superior of the Jesuit Community at the University of Detroit Mercy. At Loyola University New Orleans he directed the university’s office of Mission and Identity. He holds a doctorate in Christian Spirituality and has led faculty, administrators, and staff through Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises at both universities. He has also worked with the Jesuit Volunteers Corps for almost three decades, directing a regional office, presenting workshops and retreats, and serving on its board of directors. He has a special interest in the connections between spirituality and social justice and in the societal dimensions of religious faith.
Fr. Steve Hurd, SJ
Ms. Rosemary Insley
Sr. Karen Jackson, CSC
Sr. Karen Jackson, CSC
“Through God’s grace via an Intervention orchestrated by my local religion community,” Sr. Karen wrote, “I have enjoyed continuous sobriety for over half of my life. This includes a minimum of two closed AA meetings per week and an identified sponsor and home group.” Sr. Karen’s recovery retreat ministry started in 1987 at a retreat center located on the grounds of the Holy Cross Motherhouse in South Bend, Indiana. For these 30-plus years, she has presented both men-only and women-only retreats, and co-ed retreats. She has developed a one-day retreat for women in AA/AL Anon over the past five years, which are held twice a year in Northbrook, Illinois, as well as in South Bend, Indiana. Her conferences are based on the Twelve Steps and are presented utilizing her personal experience, strength, and hope, and delivered with a lively sense of humor.
Her ministry experience has been teaching in elementary schools, addiction counseling and supervision responsibilities and, last, but by no means least, 13 years as an early childhood educator.
Ms. Mary McKeon
Mary McKeon, originally from Quincy, IL, is a 1969 graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. She taught school in the inner city there and then moved to Washington, DC, where she worked for the United States Senate. Mary and her late husband, David, have a daughter, Catherine, and three granchildren who are the joy of her life. Mary has spent over 20 years as a family caregiver as well as school, parish, and community volunteer. She served on the staff at Holy Name Church in Birmingham, and worked in adult and religious education, youth ministry, sacrament preparation, and the training of Eucharistic ministers. Mary is a commissioned intern of Manresa’s Ignatian Spirituality Program and a trained spiritual director. She is on the staff of Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois.
Fr. Jeff Putthoff, SJ
Fr. Jeff Putthoff, SJ, is a retreat leader and director of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and desires to help others connect to God. He is a gifted national speaker on trauma-informed care, organizational dynamics, youth formation, Ignatian spirituality and leadership. Currently he serves as the President of Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis, MO. Fr. Jeff has led over 30 directed retreats and 40 preached retreats nationally. He is interested in creating communities of healing, empowering young people, promoting brain health and finding God in all things. As a high school teacher, associate pastor, executive director and high school president, he has applied his unique experience in organizational dynamics, leadership, brain health and Ignatian spirituality to youth education and organizational life. Visit him on Facebook at fatherjeffputthoffsj.
Ms. DiAnne Patterson Schultz
DiAnne Patterson Schultz, a life-long Detroiter, is a 2003 graduate of Manresa’s Internship Program, a trained spiritual director, and has led people through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. She has experience in retreat facilitation and presenting spiritual workshops and days of reflection. DiAnne has degrees in Public Administration and Pastoral Ministry and is a trained mediator. She retired from the City of Detroit after 34 years and spent another nine years working in a Detroit non-profit mediation agency. DiAnne is currently an ESL tutor and board member at All Saints Literacy Center in Southwest Detroit. She is part of the Manresa Internship Supervision team, a member of Manresa’s Board and an active parishioner of Gesu Catholic Church in Detroit. DiAnne is widowed with three adult children and four adult stepchildren and is blessed with 12 grandchildren.
Mr. Terry Sullivan
Mr. Terry Sullivan is on a Guest House outreach team that visits dioceses to educate Church leaders about chemical dependency.
Fr. Tom Sweetser, SJ
Fr. Tom Sweetser, SJ is the founder and current director of the Parish Evaluation Project, established in 1973. He works with pastors, staffs and lay leaders through the Parish Leadership Retreat experience of spiritual growth, community-building and outreach. His most recent book, published in May, 2019, is called Can Francis Change the Church? How American Catholics Are Responding to His Leadership (Crossroad Publishing). He is a Jesuit priest of the Upper Midwest Province. His original home is Minneapolis, Minnesota, but he has spent 31 years in Chicago, where he became a diehard Cubs fan. He now resides at the Arrupe Jesuit Community near Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Ms. Debbie Tourville
Debbie Tourville graduated from Manresa’s Internship in Ignatian Spirituality as a spiritual director in 2008 and guides the Spiritual Exercises. Debbie studied Psychology through California Southern University School of Behavioral Science and continues her studies in Pastoral Counseling. She is the Business Manager and Pastoral Minister at St. Vincent Ferrer parish and lives in the Metro Detroit area with her husband Greg. She has been giving healing retreats with Fr. John Esper since 2009.
Fr. Joe Wagner, SJ
Fr. Joe Wagner, SJ, was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, an only child and a spoiled only grandchild. He graduated with a degree in Mathematics from MIT. Following a Master’s in Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1988. Always a bit slow, he needed more schooling, so he completed his theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology Berkeley, and remained in the Bay Area to complete a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education at the University of California, Berkeley.
In the middle of those years, he was ordained a priest in 1998. After thirteen years on the Mathematics faculty at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, he decided he had his fill of academia and wanted pastoral ministry to be a bigger part of his life. In 2016 he arrived at St. Mary Student Parish where he has happily found a new home.
Fr. Bob Ytsen, SJ
Sr. Linda Sevcik, SM
Mr. Steve Raymond
Associate Director and Acting Advancement Director
Mr. Tim Neis
Ms. Ruth Ann Stevens
Business Manager/all meeting facility inquiries
Ms. Anne Smith
Ms. Ann Dillon
Director of Ignatian Formation
Ms. Jenny Chapman
Secretary and Receptionist
Ms. Karen Pick
Karen is on hand to welcome retreatants on their arrival
and handles some housekeeping duties.
Ms. Kristine Strickland
Leader of Housekeeping
Ms. Cheryl Booker
Ms. Dee Dee Oddo
Mr. Peter Luyckx
Maintenance and Grounds
Mr. David Morgan
Maintenance and Grounds
Mr. Paul Seibold
Ms. Rhonda Brown
Leader of Food Services
Ms. Violet A. Mercado
Ignatian Volunteers at Manresa
“I had the experience but missed the meaning.”
WHO WE ARE
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.
WHAT WE DO
- (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.
YOUR MOST IMPORTANT WORK MAY BEGIN AFTER YOU RETIRE
If interested, contact Nick Sharkey.
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.