St. Ignatius Parish photo
Jeanne McPherson (in yellow) and other volunteers serve supper.
St. Ignatius Parish photo
Jeanne McPherson (in yellow) and other volunteers serve supper.
For more than 25 years, volunteers at St. Ignatius Church and School have cooked and served meals on second Wednesdays at transitional housing shelters. The program, called the Transition Supper Project, involves adult volunteers and student helpers who serve those on the path from homelessness to housing.

Now, the parish ministry is undergoing a transition of its own.

Longtime volunteers are stepping back to let younger parishioners lead the program. Jeanne McPherson started helping with the program as lead server in 1998, recruiting volunteers to serve, shop and carry out other tasks. Since 2008, she has organized the entire operation. Lead cook for most of the program’s 25 years, Eileen Cox, is known for her chicken and coleslaw. Mary Ann Sorenson spent decades at Cox’s side as sous-chef, and has tapered off her involvement in recent years, as well.

Tina Auerbach is the staff liaison for the newly formed Outreach Commission at St. Ignatius. One ministry under the umbrella of the Outreach Commission is the Life, Peace and Justice ministry, which, under the leadership of Brooke Anderson, has taken on the suppers as one of its active social works.

“The commission structure allows for ideas to move from the ‘bottom up’ and not ‘top down,’ as sometimes happened in the past,” Auerbach said. “So, ideas and works come from the parishioners and flow through the commission to the pastoral staff and on to the parish council.”

Volunteers and staff members are gradually producing written descriptions of all ministries, their mission and structure, plans for continuity, budgets, goals and work descriptions for volunteers.

“This is beginning to have a wonderful effect on ministries and ministers at St. Ignatius,” said Auerbach. “There is an increase in volunteers really understanding the mission of their work, more opportunity to immerse the ministry in Ignatian spirituality and some satisfaction that ministries at St. Ignatius will have continuity and sustainability.”

As older volunteers transition out of activity ministry, the internal structure attracts younger volunteers, Auerbach said. The supper project is an example of this dynamic.

“Transitioning of volunteers is going smoothly and those who have been working in this ministry can begin to transition out or to other ministries with confidence that the [supper] ministry will continue,” Auerbach said. “Also, this gives new families and young adults concerned about social justice an opportunity to be contemplatives in action and pass this attitude of ministry on to others.”

 “The ministry clearly demonstrates caring for those in need and for the less fortunate in our society,” McPherson said.

Like many of the volunteers, McPherson said she felt called to the serve with the other volunteers in this group.

“I knew this was where God wanted me to be,” she said. Now McPherson will begin to explore other service opportunities as program’s new leadership takes over.

McPherson said she has enjoyed watching different generations from the parish work hand-in-hand. Parish students often help open cans of peaches or prepare the coleslaw.

The parish holds special collections to pay for groceries. PGE, employer of volunteer Marlea Barnes, also provided a grant.

As her time as coordinator comes to an end, McPherson reflects on parishioners’ many years of dedication and support for the ministry.

“The wonderful legacy of caring for those in need that [the justice and peace committee] created fully exists years later within St. Ignatius Church and School,” she said.