Engaging Prophetic Spirituality as an Ignatian Volunteer at Mary's Pence - Mary's Pence

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Engaging Prophetic Spirituality as an Ignatian Volunteer at Mary’s Pence

John Cherek joins Mary's Pence staff as part of Iganatian Volunteer Corps

Having worked in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis for forty-five years, retirement came easy for me in January 2019. How one uses or does not use one’s time becomes most apparent in the early months of retirement. In my first year of retirement, Linda, my wife of nearly fifty years, continued to work as a full-time mental health therapist. This provided me with ample time to reflect on what the future may hold as my self-identity subtly, almost without notice, shifted from being Director of The Catholic Cemeteries to the chief of home management services. That’s how I perceived it, anyway.

After Linda retired in January 2020 and after a month-long trip out West, arriving home just before the pandemic began, we had several conversations about what we were going to do with our time, both together and individually. Both of us were familiar with the Jesuits, as I had attended graduate school at Marquette University and Linda was a certified spiritual director in Ignatian Spirituality. After learning about the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) through a Marquette University-sponsored webinar, we decided to become members of the IVC, which we learned is a national organization chartered to provide service opportunities that are oriented to the promotion of social justice in the real world.

One of the key dimensions of the IVC program is service ministry within the context of spiritual formation. Our local IVC group meets twice monthly either to discuss a book related to social justice or to pray together. One of the books our group is discussing is “The Time is Now” by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB. Sr. Joan speaks of prophetic spirituality. “We must think beyond our own small world to the effects other issues are having on the local area and make a response to them,” she writes. “…prophetic spirituality requires us to think and study about causes as well as consequences.” Prophetic spirituality creates an awareness and an insight into the gospel that draws us to act, sometimes in ways that the normative world, perhaps even mainstream religion, conclude to be outside the boundaries of personal holiness and spiritual security.

So when the IVC invitation came to me to volunteer with Mary’s Pence, after initial hesitation, I discerned that the Spirit was calling me to act in a totally new way. I believe I possess many talents and skills learned in my working career to advance the mission of Mary’s Pence. I have developed a compassionate spirit following the death of my oldest daughter over twenty-seven years ago. Following her death, together with my wife, we established a ministry of consolation program in our parish and became leaders of the National Catholic Ministry to the Bereaved organization. Bringing hope to the bereaved has become a personal mission for both of us.

I now believe the Spirit is leading me in a direction that will move me beyond the comfort of my previous work experience and personal ministry to the actual practice of prophetic spirituality. Mary’s Pence is that place.

Mary’s Pence promotes the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching by engaging a world that marginalizes women, especially those living in poverty in North America and Central America. To achieve that mission, Mary’s Pence requires financial resources and prophetic support from the community. It is my hope, through my volunteer activity as part of the development team, that I can help Mary’s Pence meet its prophetic challenges.

In the words of Sr. Joan Chittister: “Nothing is going to change in the world, unless the situation with women in the world changes. You cannot simply dismiss one half of the human race.”


John Cherek joined Mary’s Pence as an Ignatian Volunteer in December. Beginning in January he will begin his work to help identify grant opportunities for funding of Mary’s Pence programs.

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