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Local retirees start Jesuit Volunteer EnCorps in Spokane

Plans are underway to start a Spokane Jesuit Volunteer (JV) EnCorps for individuals 50 and older to engage in transformative experiences of intentional service that combine service, community and spiritual formation.

Kevin Pratt and Bob Stirling are on the team developing the program.

Currently, there are programs in Seattle, Portland, and Bend, Ore.  Like them, the Spokane group will employ the years of experience of older adults in the community on behalf of social and ecological justice, said Karen Beal, program manager in Portland.

The team that is forming the Spokane program includes retirees who are volunteers. 

• Kevin Pratt, the core team leader, recently retired as director of career development and alumni mentoring at Gonzaga University. 

• Bob Stirling worked in child welfare and was later on the faculty at Eastern Washington University’s School of Social Work until retiring in June 2015. 

• Bev Austin retired eight years ago.  She was a counselor and teacher for 20 years at Gonzaga Prep, and coordinated service learning at a Jesuit high school in Indianapolis, where she also did adult spiritual formation. 

• Vic Forni, once a Jesuit volunteer, retired several years ago as the CEO of United Way. 

JV EnCorps members commit to 10 months of part-time service from September through June in local organizations.  They meet monthly to explore Jesuit Volunteer values of community, simple living, spirituality, and social and ecological justice. 

Grounded in the Catholic Ignatian tradition, JV EnCorps welcomes people from all faiths. 

“We partner with many local nonprofits to provide JV EnCorps members with fulfilling opportunities to serve their Spokane neighbors,” said Karen.

JVC Northwest celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.  It started in 1956 in Copper Valley, Alaska. JVC Northwest now engages 150 Jesuit volunteers and 70 JV EnCorps volunteers in the Pacific Northwest in volunteer service in solidarity with persons living on the margins of society. 

“With two Jesuit Volunteer communities already in Spokane, JVC Northwest fills a social justice role here.  As JVC Northwest’s program for older adults, JV EnCorps will add to this work,” she said.

Kevin and Bob are both 1971 graduates of Rogers High School and attend St. Aloysius parish.

After retiring last summer, Kevin wanted to be engaged in the community.  He had encouraged Gonzaga graduates to consider JVC Northwest opportunities to live values, have an impact and be spiritually nourished.

“Part of my value as a Catholic is concern for those on the margins of society, those with the greatest needs and least resources,” Kevin said.  “I want to do the community service piece and be in community with people discussing issues and how we as individuals, communities, governments, churches and organizations can address issues of social justice.”

The JV EnCorps will be an opportunity for him to reflect on complicated issues and frustrations about finding solutions,” said Kevin, who worked for 35 years with students to help them find purpose and meaning, and find ways to make a difference through their careers, rather than just having jobs to earn money.

For older people who have not been in ministry, JV EnCorps is a way to align their work and lifestyles with their values during their retirement, he said.

Kevin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1976 at the University of Texas in Austin, a master’s in education counseling at Whitworth in 1982 and a master’s in human resource management at Gonzaga in 1987, counseled students to help them discern how to use their gifts in meaningful ways.

“Too many people just go through the motions to make money,” he said.

Kevin stays connected to the Catholic Church, despite issues and disappointments over the years, because “the church is a powerful resource.”  He is drawn to the Jesuits’ spirit of inclusiveness and commitment to social justice, “finding God in all people and things, in both simple and profound ways, and engaging with contemplation in action.”

At this stage of life, Kevin said he has more questions than answers.

Bob is interested in seeking volunteer opportunities for participants as his role in organizing the JV EnCorps.  He has volunteered for Catholic Charities for many years and knows about opportunities in the community.

In 1977, Bob, who grew up in Chewelah and moved to Hillyard in 1960, worked with VISTA in Colville to help start a day care and a community drama group.

In 1980, he earned a degree in applied psychology at Eastern Washington University and in 1996, a master’s of social work.

He served as a community educator in the Peace Corps in the Solomon Islands from 1984 to 1987, helping start children’s programs and challenging clear-cutting of rainforests.

Experiencing culture shock when he returned to the United States, he was a Peace Corps recruiter in Detroit until 1988. Then he returned to Spokane to work with immigrants and refugees at the Headstart and Institute of Extended Learning programs on N. Monroe.

After his 1996 degree, he worked on child welfare, then as faculty field instructor at EWU and in recruiting students to study social work.  His spiritual journey has led him to be involved with St. Patrick’s, St. Ann’s and St. Aloysius parishes.

“My faith inspires me to serve and to give back,” he said. “JV EnCorps is a way to do that.”

Bev’s undergraduate degree from Gonzaga was in sociology.  She earned a master’s in social work at Eastern Washington University in 1985 and also has post-graduate religious studies and spirituality work there. 

Her experience as a spiritual director and retreat facilitator will be useful as she serves as facilitator of monthly sharing and reflection sessions of the volunteers, helping them relate their volunteering with the program principles and their own faith.

Since returning to Spokane three years ago, she has been volunteering.

“I’m involved because the program combines Jesuit education, Ignatian spirituality and my love for community service,” Bev said. 

Vic first came to Spokane in 1973 as a Jesuit volunteer teaching at Immaculate Heart School in DeSmet on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation for a year.  He met his wife, Jon, who was also teaching there. 

The next year he was a Jesuit volunteer with Catholic Charities, assisting with Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs.  He had completed a bachelor’s degree in humanities at Providence College before becoming a Jesuit volunteer.

He then worked 10 years with Catholic Charities and 25 with United Way before retiring 10 years ago to care for his mother-in-law, who lived to be 99 and died in 2012.  Since then, he has continued volunteering with the Council on Accreditation, which accredits nonprofit agencies.

“I’m on the organizing team for JV EnCorps because I’m committed to JV Northwest values—simple living, social and ecological justice, community and spirituality,” Vic said, noting there were four Jesuit Volunteers in Spokane when he first came, and there are now 12 to 15 a year.

The Spokane team seeks to recruit 10 volunteers by Aug. 15.  The program begins in September.

Volunteers will serve five to 10 hours a week with Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, food banks and other agencies.

For information, call 251-3262, email or visit

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