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placeholder July 10, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA

Feeding the hungry is a service provided by Ignatian Companions.

Companions answer the call
to direct service with the poor
Companions in Ignatian Service & Spirituality

What: Recruiting for
2017-18 cohort

Apply: ignatiancompanions.org
Suggested deadline: Aug. 7

For more: Information nights are planned. Contact Marco Matute, program coordinator, 415-487-8560, ext. 224, marco@saintagnessf.com

Some of the places East Bay Companions serve:

• Next Step Learning Center, preparing adults to take the GED

•Order of Malta Clinic, providing medical services for uninsured individuals

•St. Mary's Center, serving homeless seniors

•Loaves and Fishes Programs, feeding homeless and low-income individuals

•St. Vincent de Paul Society, providing direct assistance to anyone in need

•Care Through Touch Institute, providing massage therapy in the Tenderloin

• San Quentin and Santa Rita prisons, ministering to the incarcerated

•MISSSEY, mentoring young victims of commercial sex trafficking


Mature people who have the "desire to deepen their spiritual life and connect service and spirituality" are being invited to journey with like-minded individuals through Companions in Ignatian Service and Spirituality.

Among those who have answered this call is Rita Mitchell, a parishioner at Corpus Christi in Piedmont and St. Perpetua in Lafayette, who joined the first year Companions was offered at Santa Clara University's Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.

It had been originally thought that retirement would be the entry point for Companions but many of the participants are working, as Mitchell is, or semi-retired. The program begins with a 10-month program of monthly meetings, bookended by retreats.

The East Bay cohort will begin in August; applications are being accepted, with a preferred deadline of Aug. 7. The opening retreat is Aug. 26.

For Mitchell, that's Tuesdays as the receptionist at St. Mary's Center in Oakland, which serves homeless seniors. She greets clients and makes their wait for their visits with social workers more hospitable. One client, she said, likes to do crossword puzzles. They sometimes collaborate on them.

Additional service at Oakland-based MISSEY includes mentoring a young woman victim of sex trafficking.

"That has been a very rewarding four years, seeing her though all kinds of trauma, walking with her," Mitchell said.

"I've learned so much about her life and her world, and she has learned much about mine."

Mitchell has worked with Loaves and Fishes, which feeds the poor at Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Hall in Berkeley; and tutored students at the now-closed St. Martin de Porres School in Oakland.

The service begins early in the program." We talk to people in the beginning of the first year about possibilities," Mitchell said.

Companions, Mitchell said, "Is all about community and supporting one another in our spirituality and our service."

The readings and monthly Saturday meetings are supplemented by monthly meetings by each participant and a spiritual director of her or his choice.

Spiritual direction is an integral part of the program, said Jim Briggs, who was among its founders.

Briggs was reading a Jesuit magazine about the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, for retired or semi-retired people. That organization is based on the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which provides service and spirituality for young people fresh out of college.

"It attracted me," he said. "There were chapters in San Diego, Los Angles but not the Bay Area."

An administrator at Santa Clara University at the time, they gathered a group of people to explore the idea of opening a chapter in the Bay Area.

They found the idea of the program was not right for them.

At the suggestion of Mark Potter, director of social ministries of the California province, Briggs said the group decided to start its own program "that integrates service and spirituality."

"Spirituality motivates service," Briggs said. "Service enlightens and enriches spirituality."

The first year of the program, almost 10 years ago, proved so successful that a second year was added.

Mitchell said her cohort — "we started with eight and still have eight" — that began eight years ago continues to meet. The Jesuit School must be a buzzing place on Saturdays when each cohort has a separate meeting, then joins the others for Mass and lunch.

Applications are available online, and can be completed online or on paper. There is a $500 contribution, payable over the course of the first year, for materials and instruction. Financial assistance is available. Contact Marco Matute, program coordinator, at 415-487-8560, ext. 224, or marco@saintagnessf.com for additional information.

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