August 12, 2016 — As the Jesuit Volunteer Corps celebrates its 60th anniversary, its overriding goal has remained consistent: to “ruin you for life.” JVC’s motto, “Dare to change,” encourages volunteers to step outside of their comfort zones and live and serve in solidarity with those in the margins of society.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps aims to recruit young people who are passionate about engaging in service with disadvantaged communities, fostering faith in action. The program is built on four pillars: Ignatian spirituality, simplicity, community and social justice. Each year, young volunteers live by these guiding principles across 25 ministries, through 250 agencies, in 37 U.S. cities and 6 countries. Together, these Jesuit volunteers comprise the world’s largest full-time, lay Catholic volunteer program.
The JVC was established in 1956 by a small group of college students who began serving the native people of Alaska’s Copper Valley. By 1983, the program expanded overseas to form the Jesuit Volunteers International. Today, 300 young men and women from across the United States dedicate a year of their lives to serving others each year.
To gain insight into what has kept young adults signing up to “ruin their lives” for the past 60 years, PBS religion and ethics correspondent Deborah Potter traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to talk to a JVC community of young women about how the work has affected their lives.
One volunteer describes her year of service with JVC as “beautifully difficult.”
“I see the presence of God in all of my clients so profoundly. You’re told that [we] have Christ inside us, but I never actually saw it until I came here.”