“Ordinary people doing extraordinary things” is how Tom Chabolla, president of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, describes the young women and men in the organization he runs.
“They are people who have the courage to change while changing the world,” he told more than 100 people who heard him speak Tuesday at a gathering of the Jesuit Friends & Alumni Network of Detroit at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Currently the JVC is engaged in 16 types of service in 40 communities with 175 agencies in six countries across the world. The volunteers give a year of their lives — sometimes two — working in ministry, community development and education, providing healthcare, hunger relief, legal services, immigration and refugee services and more. All while living in the communities they serve with other volunteers, all of whom live on $100 a month.
“This is not what this society expects of our college graduates,” Chabolla said. The work is hard and sometimes may feel unrewarding, but the vast majority of JVC members say they would do it all over again if they could.
One of those volunteers is Billy Myers, who is an associate university minister working at Detroit Mercy’s University Ministry.
“The decision to join JVC was not difficult,” he told the crowd. “I believe in a faith that does justice, it’s at the intersection of my skills, my work and my faith,” he said. He works also with La Casa Guadalupana, whose mission is to improve the lives of Hispanic community in southwest Detroit.
“My heart has been broken open,” he said, “and I’ve been disheartened” by the way immigrants he works with are being treated by policies. He believes that helping those in need is helping the entire community: “Our liberation is bound together.”
Other Jesuit volunteers work in education in Detroit. They are regular guests of the Jesuit community at Detroit Mercy.
“The goal of JVC is to form great-souled people,” Chabolla said. Because that’s how you can change the world.
The next JFAN Detroit event will be on May 20 at the Detroit Athletic Club when Joseph Daoust, S.J. and William White of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, will speak on the cause for canonization of Black Elk. For more information on JFAN Detroit, visit the group’s Facebook page here.
For more information on the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, visit jesuitvolunteers.org.